Fantasy / Horror

IMDb Rating 5.7 10 523


Downloaded times
February 12, 2021



Don Calfa as Einstein
Larry Bishop as Napoleon
Marcel Marceau as Malcolm Shanks / Old Walker
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
859.27 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
93 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.56 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
93 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Sturgeon54 7 / 10 / 10

Yes, it's Strange, but it's also Good.

Here is a film I had wanted to see for some time and finally tracked down a low-quality bootleg video of. I am quite a fan of unusual films like this, although unlike the works of David Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky, the weirdness of this film comes naturally from the storyline and not from any intentional strangeness just for the sake of strangeness. William Castle has created a neat, compact, self-contained movie universe here, with the setting being an odd juxtaposition between a dark Gothic castle and sunny Northern California. I couldn't help but be reminded of Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands", another modern fairy tale about a mad but gentle genius and his near-mute misfit assistant in a dark old castle surrounded by a sunny '50s style suburbia. In fact, call me crazy, but I will bet that Burton has seen this film before and was possibly inspired by it while making his own film. There are other similarities to that film: the genius dies leaving the misfit to fend for himself in the outside world, the villains are in a motorcycle gang, the misfit falls for a local blond teenage girl, and he also performs his "magic" for children in a school classroom. Also like the films of Burton, there is a mixture of visual motifs from the past and present, including silent-movie style story-cards, Alex North's heady music score, and a motorcycle gang. Sadly missing, though, is a highly compelling storyline, but in this case style over substance is not such a bad thing. This film is hard to classify, as it is not completely horror, modern fairy tale, or art film. I think it would be best to classify it as an experimental curio - one of those films like "Eraserhead", Jacques Tati's "Playtime", "Cabinet of Dr. Caligaryi", or "El Topo", which have no conventional film equivalent yet continue to garner a following from a small group of adventurous filmgoers. If you are attracted to films such as these, you will not be disappointed with "Shanks."

Reviewed by adriangr 7 / 10 / 10


This must surely be one of the most neglected fantasy films of all time. By all accounts a flop at the time of it's release, it has become the hardest to see of all William Castle's movies. It's also in colour, which is another rarity from this director. French mime/actor Marcel Marceau plays the title role of Malcolm Shanks, a deaf mute puppeteer who scratches out a living putting on shows for children, while bearing the brunt of a miserable home life with his money grabbing brother and sister-in-law, who take all the money he earns for themselves. One day, an elderly professor (also played by Marceau in a dual role) sees his puppet show and offers Shanks a job - to come to his home to assist him is some experiments involving the artificial stimulation of dead animals via electricity, or something...why or how it actually works is not expanded on, but it involves small implants being attached to the muscles and these are then activated by means of a small control box. Due to his background with puppets, Shanks proves to be very adept at controlling the movement of his first animals (a dead frog, and later a rooster). However things take an unexpected turn when he turns up for work one day only to find the professor dead in his armchair, seemingly from natural causes. Shanks has all but been hounded out of his own home by his cruel relatives, and he realises that desperate measures are needed to avoid going back there...and so the professor becomes the first human subject for re-animation. What follows is the beginning of a macabre and dreamlike fantasy. The "awakening" of the dead professor is one of the most ghoulish things I have ever seen. Marceau is famous as a physical performer, and his depiction of a dead body being artificially roused into movement is very skillful. With a shock of white hair, sunken face and glazed white eyeballs, the professor's body jerks up off the ground and begins to wobble around the laboratory, as Shanks perfects his manipulation of the control box. It isn't long before he feels confident enough to take his new puppet on a stroll into the streets outside, and this is the start of an escalation of events that you really need to watch to get the full enjoyment out of. This is almost a silent movie for much of it's running time, with long scenes involving no dialogue whatsoever, but the film is so effective in holding your attention that you will barely even notice the fact that nobody is talking. Shanks himself never speaks at all, but the support character all talk naturally when required - except for when they are dead of course! And some rather charming silent movie-style subtitle boards on the screen fill in any required exposition. The acting in this film is amazing, I suspect that Marceau is not the only performer to have a background in mime or theatre, as when he has to animate other dead characters, the movements are always effectively creepy. If I have any criticism, it would be that Castle - as he has often done before - stays shy of making the film as truly horrific as it could have been. He never exploits the "yuk" factor of the dead bodies, and there is no allusion to bloodshed or decomposition at any time. William Castle is an oddity among horror directors in that he always puts on the brakes before his subject matter goes to deep into unpleasant territory, whereas others would gleefully revel in the more gruesome aspects of a story like this, Castle seems to prefer to keep things suitable for family viewing! Plus, the movie even ends with a tacked on "it's only make-believe" epilogue that completely squashes the very dark ending of the real's something he has done before, and it seems a shame that the films of William Castle are often sabotaged from being truly horror by the directors very own sensibilities. That notwithstanding, I would call "Shanks" a success, as it holds your attention constantly throughout. If any one thinks Marcel Marceau's talents end with a white made-up face and leotard, they should see him in this...he is perfect for the part, effective in bringing his whole character to life without speaking a single word. The film is a true oddity, but almost impossible to classify. Ultimately, it's just a unique and bewildering experience, and I think everyone should see it.

Reviewed by Bunuel1976 7 / 10 / 10

SHANKS (William Castle, 1974) ***

Producer-director William Castle may have too often been dismissed in critical circles as a Grade Z Hitchcock or for having been little more than a gimmick-laden showman during his peak years, but nobody could have sensibly predicted that he would eventually be saving his greatest trick for last; in fact, SHANKS was Castle's directorial swan-song and it might well be his best film as well! The artform of the mime is one that, understandably perhaps, hasn't been treated much on the silver screen (in this way, it elicits comparison with the classic ballet-oriented THE RED SHOES [1948] – which, similarly, adopted a stylized look throughout mixed with an adroit sense of the macabre); the most famous example is, of course, Jean-Louis Barrault's unforgettable Baptiste in Marcel Carne's LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (1945) and Marcel Marceau (who has died fairly recently) can be said to be the only mime artist that is renowned worldwide. Consequently, it comes as little surprise to see him feature in a couple of cult movies over the years – Roger Vadim's BARBARELLA (1968) and Mel Brooks' all-star comedy SILENT MOVIE (1976), where his presence extended to just a cameo in which, ironically, he utters the only word of dialogue in the whole movie! SHANKS is another thing entirely: Marceau not only has a dual role and does the choreography but, for the most part, is virtually the whole show. As on-screen support, he has three talented actors – Tsilla Chelton and Philippe Clay (who are very adept at miming themselves) – and the young Cindy Eilbacher. The film was produced by Steven North, son of composer Alex who received another Oscar nomination (his twelfth) for his brilliantly inventive score – by turns playful, poignant and brooding – which, in a film like this, with very little dialogue and the intermittent use of intertitles, is as important as the on-screen characters themselves. Castle (who even has an amusing, unbilled cameo as a storekeeper) also employed other renowned Hollywood veterans behind the camera here, namely cinematographer Joseph Biroc (their third collaboration) and production designer Boris Leven. The film itself has rightly been described as one of the strangest ever made (the subtitle "A Grim Fairy Tale" is most apt!): it deals with a deaf-mute puppeteer (Marceau, naturally) who, abused by his harridan sister and her boozing partner, takes comfort in his friendship with a little girl he meets at the fair and an eccentric dying scientist (also Marceau, made up to look almost Caligari-like) who experiments with reanimating dead bodies (most notably a frog) via two portable electronic devices. After the scientist dies and is buried, the puppeteer takes possession of the re-animating devices himself and, inevitably, they come in handy when his relatives die (one he kills himself in self-defense at the scientist's mansion with the help of a re-animated rooster and the other – when beside herself at Marceau's lateness – is mowed down by a speeding car outside their house in the middle of the night!); he takes them shopping and has them wait on him and perform tricks when he invites the girl to the doctor's mansion! Their idyllic tryst is short-lived, however, when a gang of bikers burst in on them to treat a wounded member of their party… Watching SHANKS (which is the puppeteer's surname, by the way) right after Robert Hartford-Davis' CORRUPTION (1968), I couldn't help but be reminded of that film's analogous last segment (right down to the 'dreamy' coda); here, however, Castle has a trump card up his sleeve when a biker steals one of the doctor's electronic devices and fools around with the zombified 'servants' – the puppeteer, on the other hand, re-animates the scientist who, together with the servants now back in his control, beat up the gang. The narrative seems simple enough on paper, but the film is very much a unique experience (albeit an acquired taste, given the occasional longueurs brought on by its deliberate pace) – amusing, surreal, weird and disturbing. Certainly among the highlights is the puppeteer's re-animation of the scientist – whose movements made me think of a Jekyll/Hyde transformation as performed by Jimmy Cagney!! Unfortunately, the print quality left much to be desired: it seemed like a tenth-generation VHS copy, with the detail all soft and fuzzy and the picture excessively dark to boot; being a Paramount film, one hopes that Legend Films – or, better still, Criterion – will eventually get the opportunity to give this bizarre gem a decent release and, consequently, the exposure it greatly deserves…since Paramount themselves seem unwilling to do anything with it!

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