MACABRE (1958) Reviews and overview

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Macabre is a 1958 American horror mystery thriller film produced and directed by William Castle (Strait-Jacket; Mr. Sardonicus; House on Haunted Hill) from a screenplay by Robb White (Homicidal; 13 Ghosts; The Tingler) based on the novel The Marble Forest by Theo Durrant, a pseudonym for the group of twelve authors who each contributed one chapter.


Macabre involved one of Castle’s first forays into using the promotional gimmicks that later made him famous. For the US Allied Artists release, a certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London was given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film.

William Castle driving a hearse to the premiere

Main cast:

William Prince (The Stepford Wives); Inner Sanctum: ‘The Hands), Jim Backus (Kolchak: The Night Stalker), Christine White, Jacqueline Scott (Empire of the Ants; Duel) Susan Morrow.

“Ladies and gentlemen, for the next hour and fifteen minutes, you will be shown things so terrifying that the management of this theater is deeply concerned for your welfare.”


Doctor Rod Barrett’s (William Prince) young daughter has been kidnapped by a mysterious maniac who has buried her alive “in a large coffin”.


The doctor has five hours in which to find and rescue her before her air runs out and she suffocates. The maniacal killer apparently also murdered Barrett’s wife and her sister…


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Macabre is a film that kind of falls in the middle-ground between corn and truly Tingler-summoning thriller. It walks the line between the two ends of the spectrum, teetering slightly closer to the “thrills” side than to the pool of queso dip. That being said, it’s a consistently entertaining film.” Lindsey D., The Motion Pictures

“This is gloomy, serious stuff following shady and mostly unsympathetic characters around dreary locations like funeral parlors, dark forests and a foggy, rainy cemetery, where our protagonists climb in and out of graves and explore tombs. There’s an expressive noir-ish/shadowy feel to Carl E. Guthrie’s cinematography and a sparse score from Les Baxter.” Bloody Pit of Horror


“The closing credits beg viewers not to give away the surprise ending, which certainly does come as a shock, but the lead-in to that conclusion mostly falls flat, with Barrett and Polly wandering around town and poking half-heartedly at various sites where the missing child might be interred. and their efforts lack any sense of urgency.” Jennifer Garlen, Virtual Virago


” … the atmosphere is considerably thinned by a series of flashbacks laboriously explaining why various other members of the cast have been hating the doctor, followed by a crude doubletake (borrowed from H.G. Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques, 1955)…” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Genuine but unsuccessful attempt to film a horror comic; incredibly stodgy writing, acting and direction put the lid on it.” Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Film Guide









Cast and characters:

  • William Prince as Rodney Barrett
  • Jim Backus as Jim Tyloe, the town police chief
  • Christine White as Nancy Wetherby
  • Jacqueline Scott as Polly Baron, Barrett’s assistant
  • Susan Morrow as Sylvia Stevens
  • Jonathan Kidd as Ed Quigley
  • Philip Tonge as Jode Wetherby
  • Dorothy Morris as Alice Barrett
  • Howard Hoffman as Hummel
  • Ellen Corby as Miss Kushins
  • Linda Guderman as Marge Barrett
  • Voltaire Perkins as Preacher

Filming locations:

Chino, California

Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

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