13 GHOSTS (1960) Reviews and overview

 

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13 Ghosts is a 1960 supernatural American horror film directed by William Castle (Homicidal; The Tingler; Mr. Sardonicus) from a screenplay by Robb White (Macabre; The House on Haunted Hill).

The Columbia Pictures movie stars Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Martin Milner and Donald Woods.

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As with several of his more famous productions, Castle used a gimmick to promote the movie. For 13 Ghosts, audience members were given a choice: the “brave” ones could watch the film and see the ghosts, while the apprehensive among them would be able to opt-out of the horror and watch without the stress of having to see the ghosts. The choice came via the special viewer, supposedly “left by Doctor Zorba.”

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In the theatres, scenes involving ghosts were shown in a “process” dubbed Illusion-O: the filmed elements of the actors and the sets — everything except the ghosts — were displayed in regular black-and-white, while the ghost elements were tinted a pale blue and superimposed over the frame. Audiences received viewers with red and blue cellophane filters. Choosing to look through the red filter intensified the images of the ghosts, while the blue filter “removed” them.

The film was remade in 2001 under the title of Thirteen Ghosts, directed by Steve Beck.

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Plot:

When occultist uncle Dr Plato Zorba wills a huge ramshackle house to his nephew Cyrus and his impoverished family, they are shocked to find the house is haunted.

Their new furnished residence comes complete with Doctor Plato Zorba’s housekeeper, Elaine Zacharides, plus a fortune in buried treasure and twelve horrifying ghosts.

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His family soon discovers that these spirits include a wailing lady, clutching hands, a floating head, a fiery skeleton, an Italian chef murdering his wife and her lover in the kitchen, a hanging lady, an executioner and severed head, a fully grown lion with its headless tamer, as well as Doctor Zorba himself, all held captive in the eerie house looking for an unlucky thirteenth ghost to free them. Doctor Zorba leaves a set of special goggles, the only way of seeing the ghosts.

However, there is someone in the house who is also looking for the money and is willing to kill for it…

Buy Blu-ray box set: Amazon.co.uk

High Definition remasters of all four films
Original mono audio
Two presentations of 13 Ghosts: the original ‘Illusion-O’ presentation and the alternative black-and-white version
The Tingler audio commentary by film historian Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons, editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television
Homicidal audio commentary by author and film historian Lee Gambin
Mr Sardonicus audio commentary with Daughters of Darkness’ Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
Spine-Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007, 82 mins): Jeffrey Schwartz’s acclaimed documentary on Castle, featuring interviews with John Landis, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Stuart Gordon, Leonard Maltin, Budd Boetticher, Bob Burns, David Del Valle, Fred Olen Ray and John Waters among others
Larger Than Life: The Making of ‘Spine-Tingler’ (2007)
Kim Newman on ‘The Tingler’ (2018): an appreciation by the critic and author of Nightmare Movies
Scream for Your Lives!: William Castle and ‘The Tingler’
I Survived ‘The Tingler’ (2007): an interview with actor Pamela Lincoln
Unleashing Percepto (2007): an interview with publicist Barry Lorie
Stephen Laws Introduces ‘13 Ghosts’ (2018): an appreciation by the acclaimed horror author
The Magic of ‘Illusion-O’: William Castle and ’13 Ghosts’
Psychette: William Castle and ‘Homicidal’
Stephen Laws Introduces ‘Homicidal’ (2018)
The Punishment Poll (2007): an interview with publicist Richard Kahn
Taking the Punishment Poll: William Castle and ‘Mr Sardonicus’
Ballyhoo!: Bob Thomas recalls the time he interviewed William Castle
Original theatrical trailers
Trailer commentaries with Sam Hamm, Stuart Gordon and Joe Dante
Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
Limited Edition box set exclusive booklets with new essays, archival interview materials, contemporary reviews, and film credits
The UK premiere on Blu-ray
Limited Edition box set of 6,000 numbered copies

Reviews:

“Probably the most entertaining thing about 13 Ghosts is the palpable sense of how much fun the cast and crew had making it, combined with the knowledge that someone was willing to give William Castle enough money to make movie after movie after movie, despite and indeed because of the fact that he could absolutely be counted on to produce something like this almost every time.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“It’s too bad Mr Castle, in serving up his ghosts, didn’t simply have some cartoonists draw, ’em on in full view. We have in mind, specifically, that dandy ghost entry during World War II called The Uninvited when those vaporish coils were molesting Ray Milland and Gail Russell.” Howard Thompson, The New York Times (1960)

“The end kind of sucks, but I like the main family a lot (the kid is terrific), and each ghost is different enough to be memorable, from the lion trainer to the executioner to the chef that seems to have inspired a particular Swedish Muppet, they are all fun to watch during their brief appearances on-screen (you won’t need the glasses for more than maybe 10-15 total minutes of the film) and, despite being 50 years old, largely convincing in their ghostly appearance…” Horror Movie a Day

 

william castle film collection dvd box set

Buy The William Castle Film Collection: 13 Frightened Girls + 13 Ghosts + Homicidal + Strait-Jacket + The Old Dark House + Mr. Sardonicus + The Tingler + Zotz! on DVD from Amazon.com |Amazon.co.uk

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Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

Buy DVD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Cast and characters:

Charles Herbert … Arthur “Buck” Zorba
Jo Morrow … Medea Zorba
Rosemary DeCamp … Hilda Zorba
Martin Milner … Benjamin Rush
Donald Woods … Cyrus Zorba
Margaret Hamilton … Elaine Zacharides
John van Dreelen … Van Allen
William Castle … Himself
David Hoffman … Messenger
Roy Jenson … Doctor Plato Zorba’s ghost

Technical details:

85 minutes | 82 minutes (black and white)
Black and white | Colour
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)