John Waters once compared William Castle to God. I think John Waters just became God.
This past Sunday night’s episode of FX series “Feud: Bette and Joan” was titled ‘Hagsploitation,’ and it kicked off with Jessica Lange (as Joan Crawford) recreating the trailer for William Castle’s 1964 horror film Strait-Jacket. A scene from the film’s promotional tour was then recreated, and wouldn’t ya know it, John Waters popped up for a cameo as Castle himself!
The scene paid tribute to the real-life marketing campaign for Strait-Jacket, which saw Castle and Crawford handing out cardboard axes to audience members when the film was released in theaters – Crawford also entered the room carrying (and swinging) an axe. And who better to play Castle, known for his attention-grabbing cinema gimmicks, than John Waters, whose own films have drawn inspiration from Castle’s unique brand of showmanship. For Polyester, released in 1981, Waters handed out scratch ‘n sniff “Odorama” cards, allowing audiences to literally smell the objects appearing on screen. It was a gimmick ripped straight out of William Castle’s playbook, so I suppose you could say that Castle was the role that Waters was born to play.
Of course, Waters doesn’t actually look anything like the heavy-set Castle, but that didn’t matter to “Feud” creator Ryan Murphy. Waters told Indiewire about the dream-come-true experience:
When they asked me to do it, I was like, ‘Well, I’m not fat, should I wear a fat suit?’ and they were like, no, we just like the conceptual idea of you playing him. It was an honor to be asked to do it, because I’m such a fan of William Castle. I had to keep the secret for so long because we shot it a long time ago. And the secret kept. I was surprised, because there were 100 extras there.
He added, speaking of Castle’s influence:
When I first saw ‘House on Haunted Hill’ as a kid in Baltimore and the skeleton went out on the wire and the thousand kids in the audience went crazy … My whole life, I’ve tried to at least equal that cinema anarchy. I came close with the end of ‘Pink Flamingos,’ but I didn’t tie with it. He still beat me.
If you missed it, you can watch the latest episode of “Feud” over on FX.