William Castle is renowned amongst hor­ror-friend­ly film buffs for the pro­mo­tion­al gim­micks that were attached to films like House On Haunted Hill and The Tingler.  However, look past all the “Percepto” and “Emergo” bal­ly­hoo and you’ll find a skill­ful direc­tor of com­mer­cial fare, some­one who brought a stu­dio-honed sense of ISWYD-blupol­ish to his quick­ie shock­ers.  For proof, con­sid­er I Know What You Did.  It’s a fun lit­tle quick­ie that finds Castle tak­ing his obses­sion with Psycho and trans­form­ing it into some­thing “pop” enough for the mid­dle school audi­ence.

I Saw What You Did focus­es on the hijinks of a pair of bored teenagers and how they lead to a brush with homi­ci­dal dan­ger.  Libby (Andi Garrett) is stuck at home babysit­ting kid sis­ter Tess (Sharyl Locke) when her friend Kit (Sarah Lane) comes to vis­it for the evening.  The two quick­ly get up to Libby’s favorite type of mis­chief, mak­ing prank calls. However, they inspire trou­ble they weren’t bar­gain­ing for when they call Steve Marak (John Ireland) and say the title phrase.  He just mur­dered his girl­friend and takes their threat at face val­ue, becom­ing des­per­ate to find and silence them.  Further com­pli­ca­tion is pro­vid­ed by Steve’s lovelorn neigh­bor, Amy (Joan Crawford!).

The result­ing film isn’t as intense as oth­er Psycho-derived Castle thrillers like Homicidal and Strait-Jacket but it does provide an inter­est­ing vari­a­tion on the form, one aimed at kids in their ear­ly teens.  The script by t.v. vet William P. McGivern, adapt­ed from the Ursula Curtiss nov­el, deliv­ers the cheap thrills but soft-ped­als them ISWYD-01and but­tress­es the shocks with a “par­ents know best” the­me.  Even when the hero­ines are up to mis­chief, they still have the aura of good kids who made a mis­take — and Garrett and Lane give appro­pri­ate­ly squeaky-clean per­for­mances that fit the pro­file.

Castle’s direc­tion is inter­est­ing: he plays the domes­tic kid dra­ma mate­ri­al like an ear­ly ‘60s sit­com but takes delight in inter­rupt­ing that feel with the Steve Marak plot­line, which has a noirish mood (there’s great B&W pho­tog­ra­phy by Joseph Biroc) and an under­tone of sleaze.  Ireland is fun to watch as the edgy, impul­sive killer, mix­ing a sense of coiled ten­sion with an icy dis­po­si­tion, and Crawford steals a few sce­nes as a wom­an is as resource­ful as she is hun­gry for love.  Castle also man­ages one of the more amus­ing riffs on the Psycho show­er scene that you’ll see in a movie from this era.

ISWYD-02In short, I Saw What You Did is a tidy lit­tle pro­gram­mer — run­ning time: 82 min­utes — that shows Castle doing his most “broad appeal” ver­sion of the psy­cho thriller.   Students of the direc­tor and any­one who enjoys teen-friend­ly hor­ror will have fun with it.

Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory recent­ly picked this up for blu-ray release and has deliv­ered a nice lit­tle disc of it.  The trans­fer does well by the slick black and white pho­tog­ra­phy, real­ly bring­ing out the details and giv­ing depth to the more shad­owy sce­nes.  The loss­less mono audio offers a faith­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the film’s vin­tage mix.  An ani­mat­ed image gallery deliv­ers plen­ty of press and pro­mo mate­ri­al and two trail­ers are includ­ed (the most fun one fea­tures Castle onscreen doing some of his trade­mark hoopla to pro­mote the film).