Shanks - 1974
Starring Marcel Marceau, Cindy Eilbacher
Written by Ranald Graham
Directed by William Castle
Released by Paramount Pictures
In part one we explored the little information I was able to gather before sitting down to finally watch the 'Shanks'. So with popcorn and diet Mountain Dew I prepared to see what had eluded me all these years. For those of you who have not seen the film, here is a synopsis of the plot.
We start outside a small town grocery store where Shanks (played by Marcel Marceau), a mute puppeteer, is giving a show for the town children with his puppets. He lives with his mean sister in law and her drunken second husband, Mr. Baron (it's alluded to that Shanks' brother may have met a foul end at the hands of the sister in law and new husband). His best friend is a teen (not sure of her age) girl named Celia who loves his puppet plays and asks him to do a show at her birthday party. Old Walker, a rich old scientist (also played by Marcel) enlists Shanks to work for him at his big mansion. The old man has created a way to animate the dead and control them like puppets. Starting with a frog, then a rooster, they get the process to the point it can be done wirelessly with pins inserted into specific points on the body.
One day Shanks goes to the mansion one day and finds Old Walker dead in his lab, apparently having past away in the night. Shanks does what anyone would do, and inserts the pins into the old man's corpse and starts to make it walk around. Mr. Baron, wanting money, comes to the mansion and attacks Shanks. Shanks uses the dead rooster to defend himself, killing Barton. With another fresh body, Shanks reanimates him and takes him for a little walk. Using Baron, he lures the mean sister in law out to the road to be struck and killed by a car. Guess what he does with her body.
He meets up with Celia and puts on a puppet show with the dead Barton and sister in law. Celia thinks it's a little play, until she looks into their eyes and realizes their deceased nature. Scared and crying, she asks Shanks what happened and he mines what happened to them. He shows her how he made them animated, and takes her back to the mansion for a private birthday party. With Barton and sister in law as butler and maid, they are served a dinner and cake (hang on, it's going to get strange now...okay, stranger).
A motorcycle gang ride to the mansion (why I don't know) and invade the private party. Finding the puppet dead people, they take the controls from Shanks and knock him out. Celia is attacked. When Shanks awakens he finds Celia's molested dead body outside as the gang play games with the dead puppet bodies.
Shanks takes control of Old Walker's body and makes him rise from the grave to attack and kill the gang members before having a final confrontation with the gang's lead mano-a-mano at the top of the mansion. The gang leader falls to his death. Shanks then puts the pins in Celia's body and reanimates her, dancing a waltz with her when we freeze on that image and fade to...
...Shanks giving a puppet show for the town kids outside the grocery store. An alive Celia (was the whole movie a macabre puppet show for the little kiddies? ) helping to put puppets away.
I'm going to let you digest that, and in Part Three I'm going to give you my feelings on the film.
Until Next Time,