|I SAW WHAT
YOU DID (82 mins) $24.99
|1968 Anchor Bay
|Video: Widescreen (1.78.1)
|Audio: Dolby Digital Mono 1.0
|Chapter Stops: 20
|Packaging: Keep Case
Directed by William Castle
William P McGivern
Music by Van
Cinematography by Joe
Art Direction by Anthony Pratt
Starring Joan Crawford, John
Ireland, Leif Erickson, Sarah Lane, Andy Garret, Sharyl Locke,
Douglas Evans, Barbara Wilkins.
Joan Crawford’s career has been one of ups and
downs. Obviously, she’ll always be fondly remembered for her early
films, but in the 1960’s she was taking practically any role that came
her way, including royally bad stuff like TROG. That’s when gimmick-meister
William Castle (known more for his ad campaigns than the actual quality
of his pictures) ingeniously casted Crawford in STRAIGHT JACKET (1964).
Her portrayal in that film was way over-the-top, and a perfect way to
cap off her career. The combination of Castle’s skills and Crawford’s
performance proved very profitable for Columbia Pictures. A few years
later, when Castle was determined to bring Ursula Curtis’ novel, I SAW
WHAT YOU DID to the big screen, Castle again turned to Crawford to
headline the film version. However, unlike STRAIGHT JACKET, Crawford
does not take center stage in I SAW WHAT YOU DID. This Universal film
delivered the usual corny Castle goods, but failed to garner a
successful box office. I SAW WHAT YOU DID remained an unseen cult item
in the home video underground, until Anchor Bay licensed the film from
Universal for a widescreen DVD release in 1999.
Two teens, Libby (Andi Garrett) and Kit (Sarah
Lane) want to have an overnight sleepover together while Libby’s
parents are out of town on business. Their parents have hired a
baby-sitter to watch Libby and their younger daughter, Tess (Sharyl
Locke). But the baby-sitter calls in sick at the last minute. Rather
than cancel the business engagement, Libby’s father says she is now
old enough and responsible enough to baby-sit her sister, Tess. Kit’s
father drops her off at Libby’s house, but will return later to pick
her up. Libby’s parents leave and the first thing these immature girls
do is made crank phone calls. They randomly pick mens’ names from the
phone book, and when their wives answer, they speak in deep female
voices suggesting their husbands are cheating on them. After several
hours of this the girls get bored, and take the activity to a new level.
They call people randomly, and say, "I saw what you did. I know who
you are." Most people just hang up. Except for Steve Marak (John
Ireland). You see, he has a guilty conscience because he just killed his
Steve has also had an affair with his lovestruck
neighbor Amy (Joan Crawford). With Steve’s wife out of the picture,
Amy is ready to move in and corral the object of her affections, Steve.
While Amy is in the process of seducing Steve, he receives a random
phone call from those trouble making girls, Libby and Kit. Libby says,
"I saw what you did. I know who you are." into the receiver,
and a paranoid Steve immediately thinks that this person knows he killed
his wife. Steve starts to come on to her, and when asked for a name,
Libby responds with "Suzette". Steve begs her to meet him
someplace, but she refuses. After they hang up, the lonely Libby is
intrigued with what this guy has to say. She talks Kit and her sister
Kit into joining her in a trip to Steve’s house--just to check out
where he lives and hopefully get a look at him. Using their parents car,
the trio easily find Steve’s house. Against Kit’s wishes, Libby gets
out and looks in the windows of Steve’s apartment, where he sees her.
He grabs a knife and advances to kill her, but a jealous Amy shows up
thinking that this teenage girl is her rival for Steve’s affections.
She forces Libby back into the car, then grabs the car registration from
the dash board. The frightened girls head for home, unaware that Amy
gives the registration to Steve. He now knows the address of Libby’s
house. Steve fires up his car and begins the trek to the girl’s home.
They must fend off the threat of the murderer in order to survive the
I SAW WHAT YOU DID is loaded with the same cheesy
thrills and sense of fun that William Castle is famous for. Castle
easily manipulates the audience (ala Hitchcock) by controlling the
suspense level. Most of the tension is sustained though timing, since
the movie takes place in real-time (during the course of one night).
Castle’s tongue-in-cheek humor catches the viewer unaware, then
follows it up with a few well-placed shock sequences. Castle even
reinvents the ol’ murder in the shower scene, that is guaranteed to
surprise first-timers. He also demonstrates an inventive visual style
that would end up being copied in 1970’s Euro-thrillers. Castle
creates some truly atmospheric backgrounds for the narrative to unfold
in. For example, the conclusion takes place bathed in the swirling mists
and fog. He masterfully presents these visuals with stark black &
white photography. Can you imagine a Castle film in color? We can’t.
The film is not perfect, though. The climax is too
quickly and cleanly resolved. The story focuses on these people
throughout the entire movie, and instead of a tidy ending that changes
the lives of the characters and wraps up loose endings, we have a bland
and unsatisfying conclusion. Another problem at times is the dialog is
too syrupy. I don’t mean the exposition is too caught up in 1960s
lingo (which it is), but I can’t imagine anyone in real-life spewing
lines like this. Listen to Libby and Kit’s chatter and you’ll see
what I mean. Even Joan Crawford’s lovestruck character can’t help
but revel in turgid dialog. The parents in I SAW WHAT YOU DID are even
more inept than the immature teenagers. The narrative is too gimmicky
and clumsy at times--only William Castle would use peanut butter and
jelly stains as a plot device. Joan Crawford delivers another
interesting over the top performance, yet nowhere as off kilter as in
STRAIGHT JACKET. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t do a whole lot with
her character, except for a highly notable death sequence. John Ireland
is great as the paranoid killer, Steve. Andi Garrett and Sarah Lane are
capable enough, but the script has them doing such groaningly stupid
things, that the audience has no sympathy for them. Young Sharyl Locke
steals the show, though as Libby’s precocious sister, Tess.
I SAW WHAT YOU DID was never released on
video, and perhaps that is the reason this transfer is so well
preserved. Anchor Bay presents the film in the original 1.78.1 ratio (no
16x9 enhancement). The DVD was mastered from a pristine Universal print.
There are no scratches or blemishes in the picture. The image is sharp
with balanced black & white contrast and perfectly calibrated black
levels. The resulting transfer has a polished luster that is unnaturally
clear. The only fly in the ointment is the high amount of grain. Joe
Biroc’s cinematography showcases William Castle’s macabre visuals,
with lots of well-lit fog and mists (the only thing missing is a
graveyard scene). Even in the interior soundstages, Castle properly
establishes the mood by controlling the balance of black & white
like an experienced painter. A superior visual effort from Anchor Bay.
The soundtrack is only Dolby Digital Mono 1.0.
But this is a superior mono mix that exhibits a wide range of frequencies.
Despite the age of I SAW WHAT YOU DID, there is no hiss, drop-outs, or
background noise on the soundtrack. Even at high volume levels, the track does
not distort. The audio effects sound great, including breaking glass, barking
dogs, footsteps, and car engines. I SAW WHAT YOU DID is a dialog driven film,
and the dialog is clear and natural. Van Alexander’s score hearkens back to
films like THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and THE TINGLER (with a touch of THE
MUNSTERS thrown in)--classic Willaim Castle themes that sound good in the mix.
The music, sound effects, and dialog are perfectly synchronized.
From the Special Features menu, you can
access talent bios for William Castle and Joan Crawford. There is an
excellent teaser trailer which features William Castle himself hyping
the production as only he can (WS, DD 1.0, 1:19). Then there is the
theatrical trailer (WS, DD 1.0, 1:25). Both trailers are in fairly good
I SAW WHAT YOU DID is a cheesy B-movie that
William Castle fans should see. Castle piles on campy black humor while
producing some strong atmosphere and dread that only a black & white film
can convey. I SAW WHAT YOU DID can’t match the intensity of THE TINGLER or
STRAIT JACKET, but is a fun film with some gripping moments. Kids who have
problems making crank phone calls should be tied down and forced to watch this.
Even though the transfer is not enhanced for 16x9 televisions, Anchor Bay’s
transfer is very good. The menus and packaging also do justice to the Castle
Rating (out of 5):
- Phil Chandler
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