William Castle Horror Collection

| August 18, 2015

In the modern age of movies, showmanship has become a lost art form. Movie premieres are rather tame, with the principals involved in the project walking a red carpet and posing for pictures. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, premieres (as well as the movies themselves) were grand spectacles, occasionally with gimmicks used to bring in the masses. The undisputed king of the movie gimmick was producer/director William Castle.

The William Castle Horror Collection includes 5 of Castle’s 1960’s films on 2 DVD’s. Sadly, only 3 of the 5 movies feature a gimmick that includes the audience in the preceding’s. The first of these inclusive movies is 13 Ghosts. The movie begins with William Castle in his office giving instructions on to use the special supernatural viewer (a cardboard cutout of a ghost with a red and a blue film section). When prompted on screen during the movie, the audience is to lift their viewer and look through the red film if they believe in ghosts and the blue film if they do not. 13 Ghosts is shot in black and white except for the special supernatural viewer scenes which are red and blue. The special effects are really well done and quite creepy. The basic story is a paleontology professor has been left a house by his recently deceased eccentric uncle. The one caveat is the professor and his family have to share the house with the 13 ghosts that also live there, or they forfeit the house. 13 Ghosts is a fun movie that deserves repeated viewings, especially as Halloween draws near. Also, as a side note, the housekeeper in the creepy old house is none other than Margaret Hamilton a.k.a. The Wicked Witch of The West from The Wizard Of Oz!

Movie 2 on disc 1 is 13 Frightened Girls. The title is misleading, as this movie is not part of the horror genre at all. A group of foreign diplomats’ daughters are on vacation from their Swiss boarding school when one of the girls discovers an evil plot. This movie is more Disney meets James Bond than horror. Also, the lead actress plays a 16 year old girl who shamelessly flirts (fairly sexually, I might add) with men in their mid-20’s. Pretty uncomfortable stuff.

The first movie on disc 2 is Mr. Sardonicus. Once again we are greeted by Mr. Castle at the opening, preparing the audience for what’s to come. The story takes place in 1880 London. A young man and his wife are struggling to make ends meet. They discover that Sardonicus’ recently deceased father had purchased a winning lottery ticket that would eliminate their poverty. The only problem is Sardonicus’ father took the ticket to his grave…literally! So naturally, Sardonicus digs up his father’s grave, is greeted with a face altering curse, as well as a fortune. Towards the end of the movie, Mr. Castle appears, giving the audience members at their local cinema a chance to decide Sardonicus’ fate by holding up cards with either a thumb up or a thumb down. The movie tends to drag at points, but still worth a watch.

Movie 2 on disc 2 is the jewel of this set. Homicidal is, dare I say, a masterpiece in the horror genre. It is very underrated, and criminally under seen. Though done by different studios and different directors, Homicidal is very much a companion piece to Hitchcock’s Psycho. The pacing, the acting, and the twist ending of Homicidal are superb. It even features a great gimmick from Castle. With 10 minutes left in the movie, a 45 second clock appears on screen, with Castle giving the audience just enough to leave the theatre if they don’t believe they can handle what happen in the ending of the movie. Genius stuff.

The final movie of the collection and the 3rd on disc 2 is The Old Dark House. The title has promise. Unfortunately, it leads the audience down a different path. The Old Dark House is a comedy, much in the same vain as the Don Knotts vehicle The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. The star of the movie should’ve tipped me off: Tom Poston, best known for his deadpan comedic talents in such sitcom classics as Newhart and Mork & Mindy. Lots of wacky shenanigans with a kooky British family ensue. The major fun note of this movie was its co-production with Hammer Films.

The William Castle Horror Collection is a 2 DVD release from the good people at Mill Creek Entertainment. If you’re a horror junkie such as myself, buy this collection. The William Castle intro’s, outro’s, and gimmicks are terrific. And, the inclusion of 13 Ghosts and Homicidal are worth the purchase price. Maybe you could buy it for a very special ghoul in your life (or DEATH) this Halloween…

About the Author:

Steve graduated from Southwestern Michigan College with an Associate's Degree in communications. He currently resides in Niles, MI
Filed in: Film, Video and DVD
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