13 Ghosts – USA, 1960

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13 Ghosts is a 1960 supernatural American horror feature 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 Doctor 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 [click links to read more]:

“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)

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“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

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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
 

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