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CASTLE OF EVIL (1966)

"Furthermore, all six of you had the opportunity on that day and date to commit my murder, and all six of you had a motive. When you find out which of you committed this hideous crime, then the rest of you become my heirs."

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Director: Francis D. Lyon

Starring: Scott Brady, Shelley Morrison, Virginia Mayo, Hugh Marlowe, Lisa Gaye, David Brian, William Thourlby

Screenplay: Charles A. Wallace

Synopsis: Lupe Tekel d’Esperanza (Shelley Morrison) murders an undertaker who blackmails her over a mysterious death. Six people whose lives were damaged by ruthless electronics genius, Karl Kovic (William Thourlby), are called to his private island. When they arrive, Lupe tells them that Kovic is dead and that they are there for the reading of his Will. The group sees Kovic in his coffin; his face is horribly disfigured. Kovic left a letter which Lupe reads out loud, stating that if any of the heirs dies before the Will is filed, then their share will be divided among the others. Furthermore, Kovic knew that the laboratory explosion, which caused the phosphorus burns that ultimately killed him, was not an accident.

Suddenly, the group sees Kovic himself. He announces that he knows one of them killed him. When the guilty party is discovered by the others, they will inherit his estate. Kovic then vanishes. Lupe tells the group that they have until the following morning to identify the murderer. As tensions among the group mount, Lupe begins a experiment with a strange figure that looks like Kovic. Soon Kovic’s crooked lawyer, Hawley (David Brian), is dead....

Comments: This is a pretty terrible movie. Apart from the badness of the acting and the script, its "plotline", if I can call it that, is very nearly inexplicable. In fact, the mid-film change of direction is almost worthy of Corman’s The Terror (1963).

Call me cynical, but it seems to me that there’s a slight flaw in the cunning plan devised by Lupe (who the others insist on calling "Loopy" - yeah, well...). I mean, if seven people are heirs to an estate and six of them get murdered, wouldn’t the authorities be just a tad suspicious? The pity of this film is that we never get to meet Kovic himself. From the complaints of his heirs we learn that he dumped his mistress, robbed both his employees and the local natives, filed a malpractice suit against the doctor who saved his life, destroyed the professional career of an engineer who had the temerity to be right, and kept his crooked lawyer around just so he could torment him.

In short, he sounds a lot more interesting than the dull and dismal crew we’re forced to endure through the course of this movie. It’s sad watching actors like Virginia Mayo, Hugh Marlowe and David Brian waste themselves in rubbish like this. I have less sympathy for Scott Brady, since he learnt so little from the experience that he made a second movie with the same production team. Destination Inner Space (1966) is almost as bad as this one, but has the saving grace of a charmingly absurd sea-monster. The Kovic-robot is not nearly as much fun, although there’s a certain humour in watching a "robot with a computer brain" sneaking around corridors and peeking at people from behind curtains. Personally, I was kind of sorry when he/it got shot down by Kovic’s own laser gun. Still, at least it ended the film.