Shanks (1974)

SHANKS (1974)
Article 3427 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-22-2010
Posting Date: 1-1-2011
Directed by William Castle
Featuring Marcel Marceau, Tsilla Chelton, Philippe Clay
Country: USA
What it is: Very strange horror fantasy

A mute puppeteer is hired as an assistant to a scientist who has learned how to animate the dead. When the scientist dies, and the puppeteer finds himself at the mercy of his own abusive family, he uses his new knowledge and his puppetry skills to regain control of his life.

This was William Castle’s last directorial effort (though he would go on to produce BUG), and he couldn’t have gone out on a stranger note. The movie is an intriguing but uneven mixture of horror, fantasy, fairy tale, mime and silent movie pastiche; in fact, the silent movie influence is so strong that it’s quite jarring whenever a character speaks. Marceau not only plays two roles, but he served as choreographer as well; the humans who become living puppets have obviously been trained well. The novelty value of this one is enormous, and the casting of Marceau is obviously much more than a gimmick. However, the movie doesn’t quite capture that fairy tale quality that it aspires to, and the direction isn’t quite strong enough to bring some of the duller sequences to life. Still, there’s nothing else like it out there, and is worth catching at least once.

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