Shanks - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shanks Reviews

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November 3, 2016
I have mixed feelings about Shanks. It was quite innovative and quite daring to have a movie centered around so many non-speaking mimes.

Marcel Marceau plays the titular characters who is a mime and makes human dolls out of corpses using electronics wizardry.

Marceau is really quite wonderful. His expressions are creepy and off-putting, yet there is a childish playfulness to it.

The characters of the brother and sister were really good, and they were amazing as the reanimated doll corpses. They really looked and moved like a marionette would!

The bikers however, were extremely bad. From their really bad dialog and acting they didn't even feel like real people.

So there were some major faults in this film, but so many wonderful parts and subtle comedic moments.
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2013
After apprenticing to a reclusive scientist, a deaf-mute puppeteer learns how to move corpses using electrodes operated by remote control. William Castle (!) directs Marcel Marceau (!) in this "grim fairy tale" mixing black comedy with pantomime slapstick and silent film aesthetics with an exploitation movie plot to create a movie like nothing else out there.
½ August 22, 2013
Odd, intriguing, grotesque, and sometimes tedious--Castle's uneven final film!!
March 2, 2013
Shanks (William Castle, 1974)

I'm normally a big fan of William Castle and his one-trick-pony movies. The Tingler is one of the great guilty pleasures of filmdom. Dr. Sardonicus should have been called Dr. Hystericus. 13 Ghosts is one of the great haunted-house pictures of all time, and I can't even tell you what's so great about Homicidal because it'll give the game away, but trust me on this one. Short answer, as far as I'm concerned, Bill Castle's reputation as a B-film schlockmeister is pretty much undeserved; a number of his movies deserve the same A-list status that some of Hitch's more minor films got. Shanks, Castle's final directorial effort, is not one of those films.

This is the story of Malcolm Shanks (celebrated mime Marcel Marceau), whose only friend in the world is Old Walker (also played by Marceau), a mad scientist who has invented a way to reanimate and control the dead thanks to a machine he's built. When Walker keels over, Shanks learns to use the machine by experimenting on him. From there, he realizes that he can use the dead to make the living bend to his will...or to eliminate them when they get too uppity, like his shrewish sister and milquetoast brother-in-law. Meanwhile, Shanks, who's not the world's most well-socialized guy, is trying to figure out how to get involved with Celia (The Waltons' Cynthia Eilbacher), a lovely young pigtailed thing he thinks is hot. Things come to a head when a motorcycle gang invade Old Walker's house...

This is... um. How shall I say it? "A pile of elephant dung" will probably suffice. I find it very hard to believe that the same guy who made the movies I mentioned in the first paragraph made this (and I often wonder if he actually did; after all, "Lamberto Bava" directed Demons, but anyone with half a brain who's watched the sequel, which Bava actually DID direct, knows Dario Argento did a lot more than write and produce Demons). It's dull and plodding and hitchy and while it's possible to believe that this was simply a case where Castle's trademark gimmick simply failed, there's too much wrong with it to leave that as the only explanation for this mess. For example, Castle always had a way with actors, bringing out their best even in the silliest roles; here, there's actually a halfway decent cast, and no one, from Eilbacher to the glorious Helena Kallianiotes (Five Easy Pieces), has any clue what they're doing here from first frame to last. This can't be William Castle. It certainly can't be his last movie. Too much of my childhood is riding on that. *
September 2, 2012
Odd but nicely macabre
Super Reviewer
March 11, 2011
"Shanks" is not marvelous, but if you wanted to make a film to exploit the talents of Marcel Marceau, there would be few ways to do it better.

Marceau portrays Malcolm Shanks, an innocent puppeteer who is beloved by the town's children but saddled with an abusive sister and her nasty, drunk husband. Keen to seize his wages, they find him a job with an old, rich scientist (also played by Marceau, in ridiculously heavy makeup) who is conducting reanimation experiments on the dead. Sure, it happens! When the scientist dies himself, Marceau takes over the operation, finding that his marionette skills are well-adapted to mastering the handheld invention which directs a dead creature's movements.

At least three mimes portray animated corpses, and most of the fun is watching these artisans at work in such an unusual, macabre setting. No one utters much dialogue except the sister and husband -- Marceau's character stays silent but *does* croak a few lines in the guise of the old scientist -- and the wordless action is accented by occasional title cards in the style of a silent film. Eventually, a hoodlum motorcycle gang complicates the plot, which unfortunately is a rather clichà (C)d touch.

"Shanks" is just a novelty, but it's entertaining. It is also William Castle's final work as a director.
August 20, 2010
Marcel Marceau as a mute? No way! And here he is as a puppeteer who learns the secret of bringing the dead to "life" through electric marionation.
August 3, 2010
Castle's final film is one of the most bizarre; not so much in its fairy tale-esque maccabre but rather in it's distant yet bi-polar tone. There are some awesome near experimental sequences and what the film is trying to do, make a mime-based neo-silent film is commendable, but worth only a glancing look by the most devoted of horror buffs. There's hardly a story and what is there doesn't merit a feature film, and after a while the film feels laborious and repetitive.
½ July 25, 2010
On TMC this Friday night at 2am or so.
This is really weird.
½ May 28, 2010
My favorite film by William Castle. That may be faint praise, but it is the only one of his film's I've seen that gets under the skin. Of course, gimmickry is the raison d'etre of the whole thing, and the movie is fatally unserious, with a climax in which Marcel Marceau is randomly menaced by a biker gang. But the concept is one of Castle's better gimmicks, and when played almost straight it finds a good balance between the wry and the macabre.
April 5, 2010
"A Grim Fairy Tale" -- Pretty amazing. Marcel Marceau in a mute, dual role. William Castle's last film. Reminded me of Edward Scissorhands at times, but more adult and macabre.
March 26, 2010
Now this is a strange film. Directed by William Castle (his last), it's really just a vehicle for legendary mime Marcel Marceau's odd talents. It's really the excellent and atmospheric score by Alex North that carries this nearly silent gothic fairy tale. The production values are uneven, and it's slow-paced and overlong, but an interesting and original oddity for cult movie fans.
Super Reviewer
½ March 22, 2010
REALLY weird but good.Worth watching at least once
½ March 20, 2010
Essentially a silent film directed by William Castle, Marcel Marceau plays a puppet maker who starts killing people and using their body as...well...puppets. It's actually more lighthearted than it seems with the exception of a few scenes and a final act that seems out of place. Still, it's worth a look for Castle fans and those who like their movies a little on the weird side.
March 17, 2010
Enjoyable in the same way when you see a car crash. Caught this on TCM and boy was I lucky since it's hard to find in watchable quality.
March 13, 2010
One of the weirdest films I have ever seen, and that's saying something. An odd near-silent fable about a puppeteer taught to animate the dead, William Castle's last film as a director is strange, slow-moving, and doesn't always make sense, but is still pretty jaw-dropping.
March 12, 2010
camp b movie fare from the schlock master castle
½ October 26, 2008
Wonderfully twisted! A one of a kind film with a cast of mostly *gasp* MIMES!
Super Reviewer
October 7, 2007
(1974 Director William Castle) I have not seen this...but intend to rent it thru Netflix IN HONOR OF MARCEL MARCEAU! HAS ANYONE SEEN THIS ONE???
September 23, 2007
This is seriously one of my favorite movies ever. Would love to find a copy on DVD.
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