In 1959, director William Castle released an extremely low-budget horror movie titled House on Haunted Hill. This film is about a playboy millionaire named Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) who bribes five people to stay in a haunted house. Explanations cannot be given after several guests are attacked and Loren’s wife is found dead.
House on Haunted Hill is, in general, extremely hokey. The story is not very well developed and Castle’s trademark gimmicks are simply too much. This movie, however, has remained a favorite with film buffs and horror fans because of Price’s performance and because the creepy atmosphere which exists only because of the production’s low-budget.
Alfred Hitchcock agreed that the film would not have been as good if Castle had had more money. Both directors had previously been influenced by the French horror film Les Diaboliques and it is thought that Castle was an admirer of Hitchcock. Hitchcock imitated the former’s low-budget style in his 1960 film Psycho. It should be noted that Hitchcock did not copy the storyline or any cinematic elements from House on Haunted Hill.
After Psycho, Castle began imitating and, occasionally, outright stealing Hitchcock’s ideas with a frequency that leads one to wonder if he was motivated by admiration or simply by jealously.
In 1961, Castle directed Homicidal, a film about a cute blond named Miriam (Patricia Breslin) who is terrorized by a knife-wielding female. By the end of the movie, it is discovered that the girl is actually Miriam’s transvestite brother who had previously undergone a sex-change operation in order to please their emotionally distant father.
In 1965, Castle virtually stole Psycho’s famous “Shower Scene”, lock, stock, and barrel, and used it in his film I Saw What You Did. This film is about two unsupervised teenage girls who spend in evening making phony calls. One of their favorite pranks is to mysteriously say “I saw what you did…and I know who you are!” It seems like a good joke until they dial up Steve Marak (John Ireland), a mental case who has just murdered his wife.
The crime is committed when Steve pulls Mrs. Marak into the shower with him and then violently stabs her to death. The scene is complete with dramatic music and lots of chocolate syrup blood pouring down the drain.
Steve then smuggles his wife’s body out of the house in a way similar to how Raymond Burr’s character disposed of the body of his murdered wife in Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller The Rear Window.
Imitation is, indeed, the highest form of flattery. However, is stealing another director’s ideas really such a nice thing to do?