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 polish 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 and 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.
In 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).