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Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story

15 customer reviews

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(Jun 21, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE: Two audio commentaries featuring producer / director Jeffrey Schwarz, Terry Castle, editor Philip Harrison, composer Michael Cudahy, graphic designer Grant Nellessen, with special guests Vince Rotolo (, Arthur Knight (Knight at the Movies), and William Castle, Larger Than Life: The Making of Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, One Hour of Interview Outtakes, Arthur Knight USC Cinema Class Audio, AFIFest 2007 Q & A, Bob Burns Interview at The Alex Theatre, Darryl Hickman Interview at The Alex Theatre, Terry Castle Interview at The Alex Theatre, The Tingler Premiere, San Antonio, TX, William Castle at the USA Film Festival, Indie Express Interviews with Jeffrey Schwarz & Terry Castle, Red Carpet Interviews, filmmaker TV and appearances.


William Castle, was not just a writer / director / producer / horror fan. He was also a larger-than-life showman in the same league as P.T. Barnum (or Harold Hill). Mr. Castle felt that a simple scary movie was not enough; each of his flicks came with its very own 'in-cinema' gimmick. When audiences saw The Tingler, they also felt some goofy joy-buzzers from underneath their seats. When the ghosts showed up on Haunted Hill, inflatable skeletons would sometimes pass through the audience. That sort of thing would never dazzle today's audiences, but back in the early 1960's William Castle was one of the horror fan's most admired flick-makers. Now comes a long overdue and very entertaining documentary called Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, which is every bit the thorough, colorful, informative, and affectionate bio-piece that Castle's fans have been waiting for. It's great that Ed Wood has enjoyed such a lengthy posthumous shelf-life, so why not throw some love towards a considerably better schlock-slinger? Heck, I'm ready for Paul Giamatti to play William Castle in a big-budget bio-pic! Very well constructed by the folks at Automat Pictures (one of the leading companies in high-end DVD documentaries and featurettes), Spine Tingler gives us the whole colorful story in just about 80 minutes: From Mr. Castle's rather unhappy childhood to his early successes (and a few visits visits from lady luck), from his horror hits to his late-career stumblings. Ah, and let's not forget; Castle is best known for churning out the simple-style horror stuff, but if it weren't for him, we'd have never met Rosemary's Baby. Stocked with several excellent interviews and a ton of photographs, stills, and posters from the filmmaker's colorful career, Spine Tingler! is a great little documentary about a filmmaker whose impact deserves to be remembered. If the movie skips over a few of the man's lesser works (no mention of The Old Dark House?), the omissions can easily be forgiven. Director Jeffrey Schwarz went out and grabbed a really eclectic collection of interviewees. From close friends and family members to esteemed film critics and historians to fans / filmmakers like Joe Dante, Roger Corman, John Landis, John Waters, and Stuart Gordon. By working from such a wide array of people, we get to see several different angles of William Castle. And all of them are cool.

In an age filled with remake after remake, now s the time to start going back in time and checking out the films that are being ripped off today. If you ve already seen the Universal classics like Frankenstein and Dracula, then maybe it s time to educate yourself about the legendary William Castle, who took cinema to a whole new level. You might think Walt Disney World was the first place to get interactive with films (Honey I Shrunk the Audience!), but Castle was the originator. In the documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, filmmaker (and fan) Jeffrey Schwarz will help transport you to a world where going to the theater more than just an afternoon killer. It was an event. Schwarz s Spine Tingler! is extremely focused and fabulously entertaining. He begins his tale by giving us a brief history of William Castle and where he comes from, which eventually translates into WHY he clings so desperately to the gimmicks in his films. This is an important arch that carries over and ties everything together. The main focus on the doc is when Castle breaks into Hollywood with his first hit Macabre, where a certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film. The story then follows Castle through the success of his other films & their gimmicks, thus branding his name. When you saw William Castle on the movie poster or in the trailer you knew exactly what you were going to get. What s so sad and yet uplifting about Spine Tingler! is where Castle ends up after the success of his opus, Rosemary s Baby. He goes back to his roots and eventually fades out. It almost makes you cry to see the devastating finale to his successful career. But before the movie ends Schwarz reminds us about how much of an impact Castle has had on Hollywood and how his films still play to audiences in special screenings. It s uplifting, warm and leaves you with a smile. Schwarz also limits the use of talking heads and really gives us a visual representation of what the theatergoers got to see back in the 50 and 60s. The doc is loaded with photos from William Castle s life and plenty of stories that give charm to not only Castle himself, but also the film. Spine Tingler! is the definitive William Castle story that will never be topped. I m proud to put my stamp of approval on this classic doc. --Brad Miska,

I think one of the main reasons why I m such a hardcore follower of Viral Marketing is because it s a gimmick that manages to involve audiences in the film they re anticipating. I think it s a wonderful throwback to William Castle, whose own showmanship was such a form of P.T. Barnum marketing that he s sorely missed in a world of spoon fed horror films and lethargic monster pictures. Castle involved you in his movies. He s the epitome of what movies are supposed to be, fun attractions that the entire audience can be apart of, that you can only get a taste of with revival theaters who are ballsy enough to continue Castle s fun house tricks. Spine Tingler! is the excellent documentary about the life and adventures of William Castle, who, right from childhood, was a bonafide showman who thrived on audience, spectacles, and attention. Lacking the sap and sensationalism of normal biographical documentaries, director Jeffrey Schwarz keeps the tone and pacing of Castle s life story a bright and cheery affair with a story that reveals so much about Castle that the average moviegoer may not know. Castle garnered a sheer respect for being a master of the movie gimmick, shocking his friends and associates by actually investing in his promotions such as hiring actual nurses who were employed to stand by theaters in case anyone died of fright. And you have to love his promotional declaration: Please ladies and gentleman, do not reveal the ending of Homicidal to your friends or they will kill you. And if they don t, I will. On the same wavelength of charisma, Schwarz grabs most of the anecdotes from William's lively daughter Terry Castle, who recalls her father with sheer fondness and hysterics, and who can blame her? I sat with a smile cemented on my face the entire time and it didn t fade for at least a day. Among the notable interviewees are Forry Ackerman, Leonard Maltin, Stuart Gordon, and John Landis who provide fond remembrances as fans who attended original screenings. Spine Tingler! is a funny and often energetic look at a man I ve grown fonder and fonder of over the years, and his sheer ability to suck audiences into his films and provide an experience rather than a simple movie is forever the template for modern directors struggling to spread the word about their own films, and Spine Tingler! truly captures the man, and the myth who invented such gems as Emergo, Percepto, Illusion-O, and became a role model for independent filmmakers everywhere. Now, does anyone have any Ghost Viewer glasses they don't need? --Felix Vasquez, Jr., Film Threat

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: John Waters, John Landis, Terry Castle, Diane Baker, Roger Corman
  • Directors: Jeffrey Schwarz
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, Surround Sound
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Automat Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: June 21, 2011
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004Y2AE1A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,553 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Albert W. Ramirez on September 12, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This superbly done documentary covers the life and career of William Castle, the master of movie promotion. He was the guy that popularized gimmicks like a life insurance policy which would pay if anyone died of fright during his film Macabre and wired movie theater seats to give patrons a "buzz" during the Tingler.

His influence is even felt today in the 2011 Spy Kids: All the Time in the World which took a page out of Castle's playbook with their scratch-and-sniff "Aroma-Scope" gimmick.

Furthermore, the DVD is crammed full with over 5 hours of extras presenting a tremendous value for the money.

If you are a horror buff, grindhouse enthusiast or just interested in marketing, you should buy this DVD.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brian P. Nestor on August 14, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I can only give the highest review for this documentary. There are tons of this type of material being released right now, but this one is done right. First, they give a very specific life story, showing how the great showman came into being. Second, they went into all of the insane gimmicks that he used in each and every picture he released. Third, they showed his influence, especially on a certain Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, who made 'Psycho' as a direct copy of the production technique and exploitation marketing campaign that William Castle had pioneered.

the interviews are many and wonderful, with such great film makers as John Waters, John Landis, and Joe Dante, among many others. The special features go into much greater details in the interviews. It is especially interesting to see how, late in life, success - in the form of 'Rosemary's Baby' - really ruined him, in a perverse way. My only complaint is that they don't cover "Confessions of an Opiate Eater", an obscure 1964 Vincent Price film that comes off as a racist fever dream.

Overall, if you like movies, and really like the seamy side of the street, this documentary is as good as I have seen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Oldfield on April 16, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For Castle fans this DVD is a must. Of course we've seen a lot of this before in some form - Castle talking in his trailers and in his gimmick films, and explanations of the gimmicks, but this film seems fresh and new and will also intrigue those who know very little of this great showman as well as die-hard fans. For the first time we are given quite a decent account of his early years, so we can see what led up to the wacky films of the late 50s and early 60s, and it goes on to cover the end of his career. You do get a sense of what he must have been like and at times it's quite moving to hear Terry Castle talking about her fab Dad. Lots of extras too. If I have any criticism it's that the sound on the extra interviews (obviously filmed as best could be managed at recent showings of "The Tingler" and "Spine Tingler!") is uneven, so you have to turn the volume way up sometimes to hear what's being said. But these are extras after all so it's a minor niggle. Overall I really enjoyed the documentary and learned a few new things about Castle and his films.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James D. Crabtree VINE VOICE on November 23, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video
William Castle was a great director of "B" films, which might seem a contradiction in terms but Castle films like The Tingler and 13 Ghosts are today far more memorable than many of the "A" movies of the time. He was a showman and a personality in his own right, injecting himself in his movies in obvious, and not-so-obvious ways. This is an awesome bit of film history and a fun story in its own right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By one brain on December 17, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It was great to relive the Castle experience that I remember so well as a child.
Macabre / House on Haunted Hill / The Tingler / 13 Ghosts / Homicidal are my favorites.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The DVD is vastly superior to the Instant Video.

Was not happy with the quality of instant video. The DVD is spectacular.

I can remember going to see a couple of William Castle movies on a Saturday matinee. We had to sign a liability release in case we "died of fright" during the movie.

If you are a William Castle fan, be sure to buy "Matinee" on DVD. Matinee is a 5 star movie about William Castle.
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By Mr. Lucky on October 3, 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A delightful and insightful look at the consummate huckster and showman. Some incredibly rare footage, especially revolving around Castle's little seen curio "Shanks." This is a must own for lovers of kitsch and camp.
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By Robyn Swaim on April 22, 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Having grown up watching William Castle's films when I was a kid at the kiddie matinee on Saturdays, and owning his autobiography, I had to have this film version of his career. His is larger than life and well worth watching.
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Topic From this Discussion
Is this the same DOC included in the box set?
Yes, this is the same film but it includes over five hours of never before seen bonus material. If you're a Castle fan, it's really worth your while. We tried to make a Special Edition that is REALLY special, and can stand alongside the box set.
Jun 20, 2011 by Jeffrey |  See all 3 posts
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