Friday, October 28, 2016

I Saw What You Did

Ah the good ol' days, when you could prank call random folks and say things like "Is your refrigerator running? You better go catch it!" and the like.  Long before caller ID and cell phones, crankers and heavy breathers could indulge their hobby with little fear of anyone tracing the call.  I, um, did a few myself back in the day.  I was a victim of a few, too.  But even long before that showman William Castle gave the world I SAW WHAT YOU DID, another thriller that implements a telephone as a transducer of fear and murder.  Hitchcock had DIAL M FOR MURDER in '54.  Castle goes for a more campy approach.  Just like in his other films.

For this 1965 movie, there were no in theater gimmicks, such as vibrating devices known as "Percepto!"s that were installed in seats during THE TINGLER.  I SAW WHAT YOU DID takes place over the course of one evening as teenage friends Libby (Andi Garrett) and Kit (Sara Lane) place a series of mischievous calls to people randomly selected from the white pages.  Some are corny jokes, others are inquiries for dates, especially if the intended's significant other answers the phone.  Eventually, the girls settle on "I saw what you did, and I know who you are" for their victims. Guess what? One guy they call named Steve (John Ireland) just murdered his wife.  Oh, dear.

What a great set up! The possibilities! Do Castle and screenwriter William P. McGivern follow up on this premise? Eh... somewhat. When I first learned about this film I began to conjure some wild scenarios, picturing this guy stalking his way towards the girls.  You have to admit that the time idea is ripe for some creative plotting, opportunities to scare the shinola out of the viewer.  It doesn't really develop satisfactorily.  I did not find I SAW WHAT YOU DID the least bit scary, even though there are a few good jump out of nowhere surprises.  The film's real strength (besides its main idea) is Joseph F. Biroc's beautiful B & W cinematography, which looked stunning on Blu-ray.  Some borderline creepy atmosphere can also be found.

But the less than stellar script, based on Out of the Dark by Ursula Curtiss and a supremely silly score by Van Alexander and Jerry Kelly really work against the film.  Castle never really sustains a suspenseful vibe; his tone shifts abruptly from goofy comedy to more straight faced horror. The shower murder (an obvious nod to Hitchcock) is surprisingly brutal, and Joan Crawford, playing Steve's next door neighbor/unwanted mistress, is effective in her small role.  The girls are cute, if not exactly graduates of the Stella Adler school.

I SAW WHAT YOU DID also quite unfortunately resembles what you might call a dark episode of The Brady Bunch, right down to the performance of Libby's younger sister Tess (Sharyl Locke), whose voice sounds like that of Cindy Brady, and an unbelievably corny final line of dialogue.

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