Now I Know: It's Better to Be Afraid than Embarrassed?

Hope you had a good weekend!  -- Dan
 

It's Better to Be Afraid than Embarrassed?

The 1961 horror film "Homicidal" isn't going to make any list of must-watch movies. It's not bad -- it has an 80% rating on ten reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and averages 3.3 stars on Letterboxd over more than 1,600 reviews. One critic called the movie "an enjoyably bizarre film, making some of the basic elements of Psycho even freakier." That sounds good, but the movie is not for everyone -- plenty of people aren't fans of "bizarre" or "freaky" films, after all, and may have found Homciidal scarier than they bargained for.

And while the same could be said for many horror films, Homicidal came with an insurance policy: if you were too scared, you could leave and get your money back. At least, at first.

Homicidal was directed by William Castle, a director of low-budget, B-list movies from the 1940s through the 1960s. He was probably best known for the 1959 screamer "The House on Haunted Hill," starring Vincent Price; the movie made $2.5 million on a $200,000 production budget. To help get people in the seats, Castle came up with a creative marketing gimmick -- a 3-D experience well before 3-D movies were an option. As summarized on Wikipedia, on Castle's urging, "in some theaters that showed the film, exhibitors rigged an elaborate pulley system near the theater screen which allowed a plastic skeleton to be flown over the audience during a corresponding scene late in the film." As word of the flying skeleton spread, so did interest in the movie, and the film became a commercial success. 

For Homicidal, though, Castle had a different marketing stunt in mind: a ticket out. Just before the movie's climax, a 45-second timer appeared on the screen. Patrons were told that this was the "Fright Break" -- if, during that 45-second window, a viewer was too scared to continue watching, they could simply get up and leave the theater. If they did so, they could return to the box office and the theater would graciously refund their admission. 

The idea worked a little too well, though. According to the book "Crackpot," customers found a way to take advantage of the offer -- they watched the whole movie but then stayed in the theater for a second showing. When the Fright Break popped up the second time around, they left, recouping their money. Castle cracked down on this by having theaters issue different colored tickets for different shows, but some customers tried the stunt and demanded refunds anyway. So Castle came up with another idea: embarrass those who decided to bow out.

Castle began to issue certificates like the one below to moviegoers. Yes, you could get your money back, but if you did, you'd be branded a coward. 

And the ticket was just the beginning. Crackpot continues:

[Castle] came up with "Coward's Corner," a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn't take it any more, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward's Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stencilled message: "Cowards Keep Walking." You passed a nurse [ . . . ] who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, "Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward's Corner!" As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity – at Coward's Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, "I am a bona fide coward."
As one would imagine, very few people were willing to subject themselves to such an experience. And for the rest of the audience, the gimmick turned into a game: your ticket to the movie entitled you to watch the film, but also gave you a sporting chance at finding a coward to laugh at. 

The stunt probably worked. According to the American Film Institute, after Castle created the Coward's Corner, "theaters were taking in an average of $20,000 weekly, and only paying out $100 in refunds." And, per some accounts, Alfred Hitchcock took notice of Homicidal -- which gave him the inspiration to create Psycho a year later.


Now I Know is supported by readers like you. Please consider becoming a patron by supporting the project on Patreon. 

Click here to pledge your support. (If you do, in gratitude, you'll have an ad-free Now I Know experience going forward.)

Bonus fact: As noted above, Homicidal isn't making any top-25 lists. Case in point: In 2007, Time Magazine published its list of "top 25 horror movies" of all time and Homicidal isn't on it. But guess what is? Yes, Psycho, Carrie, and the Texas Chain Saw Massacre make the list. But so does Bambi. The classic Disney film, per Time,  earned a spot rather easily:  "Parents disappear or die; stepmothers plot the murder of their charges; a boy skips school and turns into a donkey. Kids were so frightened by these films that they wet themselves in terror. Bambi, directed by David Hand, has a primal shock that still haunts oldsters who saw it 40, 50, 65 years ago."

From the Archives: The Creepiest Way to Say Happy Birthday: Warning -- there's a scary clown behind that link.
Like today's Now I Know? Share it with a friend -- just forward this email along.
And if someone forwarded this to you, consider signing up! Just click here.
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Archives · Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2021 Now I Know LLC, All rights reserved.
You opted in, at http://NowIKnow.com via a contest, giveaway, or the like -- or you wouldn't get this email.

Now I Know is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Some images above via Wikipedia.

Now I Know's mailing address is:
Now I Know LLC
P.O. Box 536
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549-9998

Add us to your address book


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your email address or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp

Key phrases

Older messages

Now I Know: The Easter Eggs

Friday, December 3, 2021

It's the Now I Know Weekender! View this email in your browser · Missed an issue? Click here! Easter Eggs!! Hi! As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review

Now I Know: The Best Reason for a Delayed Flight?

Thursday, December 2, 2021

On the one hand, you arrive late. On the other hand, you'll have a story to tell for your whole life. View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives I kind of wish I were on this

Win the Ultimate Tailgate Package from Now I Know

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

good luck and may the force be with you View this email in your browser Archives · Privacy Policy Hi again! As I forgot to mention this morning, here's an email about a sweepstakes you can enter! I

Now I Know: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Triple Sevens

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

I just watched Ghostbuster 2 last weekend and really want to make a joke about it here, but I think it'd be lost on most of you. View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives Hi!

Now I Know: Giving the Train a Slip

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The bug in mass transit View this email in your browser · Missed one? Visit the Archives I started writing this one in 2019. I finally finished it! I hope you like it. Also, check out today's

[Electric Speed] Literature clock | A game about language

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Digital tools and resources for creative people ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

[TWR] Lemme guess…

Saturday, January 22, 2022

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.” ― Robert Burns, To A Mouse ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Watch your mouth.

Friday, January 21, 2022

You're not going to be everyone's cup of tea but that's why there's coffee. Confessions of a potty mouth. I got banned from Linkedin a couple of weeks back for "sharing

The effect

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Strategy Toolkit - January 2022 edition ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Have a good weekend! Day #65

Friday, January 21, 2022

Continuing our streak! 💪 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Friday Finds (Career, Paul Graham, Propaganda, Art, Philosophy)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Read in your browser here. Hi friends, Greetings from London! I spent the week visiting museums and filming YouTube videos with Ali Abdaal. If there's anything I love about culturally-rich cities

Now I Know: But That Cat Never Left!

Friday, January 21, 2022

It was a sneaky reference, but not to that, exactly. View this email in your browser · Missed an issue? Click here! But That Cat Never Left! Hi! As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know,

🎙️ Find That Pod # 146

Friday, January 21, 2022

6 Great new Podcasts ADVERTISEMENT 6 Great New Podcasts Welcome to the 146th edition of Find That Pod. Greetings friends and as always, welcome new subscribers! A very busy time around these parts, so

🎤 S.T.U.P.I.D. Email (Friday January 21st, 2022)

Friday, January 21, 2022

The STUPID Email (Swipe, Thought, Uplifting, Picture, Interesting, Drawing) This is a fun email for Friday January 21st, 2022. Hope you like it :) ​ ​ 🎤 Listen to this email here: ​ ​ Swipe: This great

Big Isn’t Necessarily Better

Friday, January 21, 2022

Pros and cons for nano-, micro-, and macro-influencers ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌