38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Some of my favorite 60's horror films show up in this boxed set due out this fall. William Castle always had a gimmick with his films. Sometimes these had him appearing onscreen himself such as in Mr. Sardonicus, and sometimes it involved theatre tricks such as wiring the seats to deliver a mild shock during the Tingler or issuing life insurance policies during Macabre. Eight of the films Castle made for the then Columbia Pictures are included here.
Homicidal (1961), begins with a woman paying a hotel bellhop to marry her and murdering the justice of the peace who performs the ceremony. She sucessfully flees the scene. She also just happens to work in a large mysterious house where there seem to be a multitude of family secrets, dominated by the late owner's obsession with obtaining a male heir.
Mr. Sardonicus (1961) is the tale of a 19th-century villager who obtained a fortune by retrieving a lottery ticket from the pocket of his dead father's vest pocket. Problem is, dad had been dead for some time and the sight of him shocked Sardonicus into having the same death grin himself. Now he'll stop at nothing to retrieve his normal facial expression.
Zotz! (1962) - A mild-mannered college professor finds an ancient amulet that can make people move in slow motion, and when enemy spies learn about it, a hilarious chase ensues.
The Old Dark House (1963), is Castle's version of the J.B. Priestley novel. It follows an American car salesman to a spooky old Welsh estate where the members of an eccentric family begin to get picked off one by one.
The Tingler has Vincent Price as a scientist looking for a live creature that he thinks is the basis for all fright and also has the power to frighten people to death.
13 Ghosts (1960) - Has a penniless man inheriting a mansion from his late uncle. It turn out that it is inhabited by 12 ghosts which special glasses enable the family to see. It also turns out that Uncle Cyrus left his fortune somewhere in the house.
13 Frightened Girls! (1963) - A bunch of priveleged teenagers at a boarding school intersect with a tale of espionage. Silly but fun stuff.
Strait-Jacket (1964) - Twenty years ago Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) found her husband with another woman and did them both in with an ax. After being locked up for twenty years she is now free and supposedly sane. However, strange occurances begin that make it look like Lucy has gone over the edge again. Joan gives a great performance here. Well, let's face it, she never gave a bad one regardless of the movie itself.
Several of these films have been on DVD before, and when they were released several came with featurettes, so I'm hoping at least that much gets carried over into the new boxed set. Specifically there were short featurettes on the original Sardonicus, Homicidal, 13 Ghosts, Tingler, and Strait-Jacket.
Now if only whoever it was who owned the rights to the 1958 Castle film Macabre would issue a DVD release.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2009
William Castle wasn't simply a film maker. William Castle was a showman. So much so that going to the opening of one of his films was an event as opposed to going to a movie. Special stunts were what Castle was noted for and several of these films featured those. While audiences can't appreciate the shows he put on in theaters these days, they can find enjoyment in his films on DVD with the release of THE WILLIAM CASTLE FILM COLLECTION from Sony.
This collection may not include all of his films but it does include a number of his better pictures as well as several never before released to DVD. And those that have already been released are given a well deserved treatment here by including them in this collection. So what's in it? Eight movies for young and old.
First off is 13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS. The catch here was Castle's search for girls from around the world to portray the members of an all girl boarding school who get involved in spy shenanigans. Light on scares and big on chuckles, the film is a low dose of Castle.
13 GHOSTS tells the story of down on his luck father who inherits a house from a rich uncle, only if he stays there. Too bad that this same uncle made a habit of collecting ghosts, 12 of which can be found there now. And the 13th? Watch to find out. The trick here was a set of glasses with blue and red lenses, one to allow you to see the ghosts, the other to block them out.
HOMICIDAL was Castle's answer to Hitchcock's PSYCHO. The film opens with a brutal murder of a justice of the peace by a young woman who returns home to care for an invalid woman. Hateful to her employer's sister as well as the woman she watches over, what is the secret that is revealed only in the last minutes of the film? For those too afraid to find out we have the countdown clock that permitted patrons to leave the theater and retreat to the coward's corner in the lobby.
STRAIGHT JACKET features an aging Joan Crawford as a woman sent to prison 20 years earlier for the axe murder of her husband and his lover. Now free, some strange goings on are affecting her life and those of the people around her. Has she gone insane?
THE OLD DARK HOUSE is a remake of a classic Universal horror film, here played for laughs. Tom Posten is the flat mate of a man now deceased, invited to spend the weekend at the family retreat. Too bad this family is far from normal and one after the other gets bumped off as the night progresses.
MR. SARDONICUS, my favorite, tells the story of a doctor who receives a note from his ex-fiancé. Now married to a cruel landowner, she requests he come to her husband's aide in a cure for what it the most terrifying case of paralysis ever seen. If he succeeds, she is free to leave. If not? The face of Mr. Sardonicus gave me nightmares for years!
THE TINGLER features Vincent Price in a role that gives him a chance to make even some of the lamest dialogue sound Shakespearean. As a scientists who discovers that fear gives birth to a creature that literally squeezes your spine unless you release that fear by screaming, Price is fantastic. The great gimmick here was in select theaters that had certain seats with vibrating mechanisms placed under chairs. At one point in the film, in a theater, the screen goes black and Price calls out that the Tingler is lose in the theater you are in! If you feel it you should scream, scream for your life! Of course this was when the mechanisms would buzz, scaring theater patrons.
Lastly is ZOTZ! again starring Tom Posten. This time around Posten is a language professor whose niece receives a medallion from her boyfriend on an archeological dig. An ancient language is found on the medallion and Posten deciphers it to discover that by pointing at someone he can cause internal pain, by saying zotz he can make them move slowly and by doing the two together he can cause death! When the government doesn't pay attention to him the Russians do and attempt a kidnapping.
Included in this collection are several episodes of Castle produced TV shows, behind the scenes featurettes on the movies and a great documentary about Castle himself. The master showman took to appearing in most of his films and getting a kick out of the fans reactions to them all. Many fans have gone on to become star film directors in their own right.
This collection might be a bit pricy, but to purchase each film on its own would cost more. If you love good old fashioned scare films, if you have fond memories of these titles, then you'll want to add this boxed set to your collection. And what better time to give these movies a viewing than now at Halloween? Anyone up for a good scare?
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Retro rules! Well, most of the time, but not when it comes to cheap packaging!This review is not for the films as William Castle is a genius , this is for the packaging.Gave the packaging 2 stars because at least they aren't flippers, yippeeeee! But for the money i shelled out on this set,,,they could have at least been in thin cases! Don't even care that they slapped on 2 movies to a disc,,,but this gatefold cheap plastic glued to backing for a case ,is a retro( normally Warner Bros dvds ) style that must go,,,anyone who owns these knows that unless you are lucky,,,the glue comes undone over the years and then where do you put the dvds? In another case that's where, when it would be so much nicer for them to just DO IT RIGHT!Then they do that crap i really hate where they put one dvd overlapping the other , i mean if this was a $[...] dollar set that would be understandable,,,but this was no bargain.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2009
Castle freaks will want to have this collection for obvious reasons, but the best thing about it is the special features, which include a fifth bonus disk with an excellent full-length documentary about Castle's career.
The documentary features interviews with Castle's daughter, as well as Leonard Maltin, John Waters, John Landis, and others who provide intelligent commentary and insight.
It's not surprising to learn that Castle admired Hitchcock, and there was a bit of professional jealousy on Hitchcock's part as Castle became increasingly famous and was ultimately proclaimed the "master" of horror.
It's also interesting learn about the making of _Rosemary's Baby_.
On the other disks, aside from the films, there are documentaries about the making of _The Tingler_ and _Straight Jacket_. There are also a couple episodes of _Ghost Story_, a TV series which Castle produced in the early 70's. One, featuring John Astin as a security guard at a horror movie studio, has a great cameo by Castle as--what else?--a horror film producer. There was always something so great about seeing Csatle himself on the screen. He had such a presence.
I can find only two flaws in this collection. The first--unavoidable, I suppose--is that the films are only the ones made for Columbia. _House on Haunted Hill_ and _Macabre_ are conspicuously missing.
The second flaw is a bit of a soundtrack synchronization problem at the beginning of _Homicidal_. But it only lasts for a couple of minutes.
One thing I realized when watching these films again is that Castle was technically an excellent director. His use of light and shadow, framing of scenes, and camera work is really good--not "B" at all. And Von Dexter's music is perfect--I guess he was Castle's Bernard Hermann.
Overall, this is a must-have for fans of the man who "scared the pants off America."
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2011
If you bought 13 Ghosts on DVD don't get rid of it.The DVD came with a ghost viewer ( like paper 3-D glasses).This great set does NOT.You'd think for the cost they would have included it.
Again the folks at Columbia (Sony) are asleep at the wheel.Buyer beware....otherwise this set DOES have movies that were NOT available.Also check out Warner Archive as they have a few earlier William Castle movies!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
William Castle never really did get the respect he deserved as a filmmaker. He made movies that were hugely popular and made tons of money. By the late 1950s, going to the movies wasn't as popular as it had been decades and even just a few years earlier. Castle once again popularized the idea of going to the movies as an active event, rather than the passive past time it had become. Yet, he never received much critical acclaim.
As an avid film buff, I don't like acknowledging that I had never heard of Castle until I saw the movie MATINEE starring John Goodman. Since seeing that movie, I've become more acquainted with Castle and have seen several of his films. If you're a fan of Castle or someone who is just becoming acquainted with him, you can start at no better place than THE WILLIAM CASTLE FILM COLLECTION. This five disc collection includes eight William Castle pictures and the documentary about Castle SPINE TINGLER!
Disc 1 includes the movies 13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS and 13 GHOSTS.
In 13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS Candace (Candy) Hull (Cathy Dunn) is the teenage daughter of an American diplomat who lives in London. She attends a private boarding school with and is friends with the daughters of diplomats from various other countries. While visiting her Chinese friend, she uncovers a political secret that she passes on to the CIA. Candy soon begins passing along other secrets she picks up which eventually lands her in deep trouble.
The 13 teenage diplomats in the movie were all girls who won a publicized contest to have a role in the movie. They were from 13 different countries. Also, Castle's gimmick for this film was to give audience members a lickable lottery card for a chance to win a prize.
13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS Original Theatrical trailer.
Original British Trailer for 13 GIRLS.
"Candy Web" Trailer.
"Candy Web" Theatrical opening and closing with William Castle.
4 additional different openings from four different foreign markets.
In 13 GHOSTS, the Zorba family is going through hard times. Then Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods) receives word that his reclusive uncle Dr. Zorba has died and left his mansion and all that's in it to Cyrus and his family. However, it seems that the house is also home to a collection of twelve ghosts that came to live with Zorba over the years. They can be seen only by wearing special goggles. After discovering that Dr. Zorba's fortune is somewhere still in the house, their lives are endangered. While the ghosts haunt, they attempt to uncover what is really behind the threat to their well-being.
The gimmick for 13 GHOSTS is that it was filmed in "Illusion-O." Viewers were given special glasses that contained a red filter and a blue filter. The red filter caused the ghost images to appear while the blue filer caused them to disappear.
Original Theatrical Trailer.
"The Magic of Illusion-O" featurette
Disc 2 includes the movies HOMICIDAL and STRAIGHT -JACKET.
HOMICIDAL features Jean Arless as Emily, a mentally unstable woman who commits a violent murder in front of witnesses for no apparent reason. Emily lives at the family mansion with the old family nurse and her twin brother. As the net of the investigation tightens, it becomes clear that there just isn't something right about Emily and her brother.
Inspired by Hitchcock's PYSCHO, HOMICIDAL isn't as playful as some of his other films. It's clear that he was definitely trying to gain more respectability. However, because of PYSCHO's overwhelming success, HOMICIDAL never received the acclaim that Castle wanted. Since then, the movie has gone on to become a cult classic and a film that has influenced several other campy horror pictures (SLEEPAWAY CAMP anyone?).
The gimmick for HOMICIDAL was that at the last few minutes of the film, right before the big reveal, there was a one-minute "Fright Break." A clock came on the screen counting down the time to give anyone who was too afraid to see the conclusion time to go to the lobby and get their money back. Castle didn't think anyone would follow through with this, but at the initial screening there were people who did. Thus a "Coward's Corner" was placed in theatres playing the movie. Those who left before the end of the movie had to stay in "Coward's Corner" until after all the other audience members went past. Only then could they get their refund.
Joan Crawford was the star of STRAIGHT-JACKET, portraying Lucy Harbin, a woman who is sent to an insane asylum after murdering her husband and his mistress with an axe when she discovers them in bed together. The murder is witnessed by Lucy's daughter, Carol. Twenty years later, Lucy is released and attempts to begin her life over and renew her ties with her Carol, who is now engaged. Soon, heads start to roll again and everyone believes that Lucy really isn't cured.
Originally, Castle didn't have a gimmick for STRAIGHT-JACKET because Joan Crawford was the gimmick. However, at the last minute he had a bunch of cardboard axes made and handed them out to audience members.
"Battle Axe: the Making of STRAIGHT-JACKET" featurette.
Joan Crawford wardrobe tests.
Several tv spots.
Axe "screen" test.
A promo with Caste and Crawford entitled "How to Plan a Movie Murder."
Disc 3 includes the movies THE OLD DARK HOUSE and MR. SARDONICUS.
THE OLD DARK HOUSE stars Tom Poston as Tom Penderel, an American car salesman who is living in England. Tom receives an invitation from an old, eccentric millionaire to visit his house where he lives with his brother. Thinking he might be able to make a sale, Tom agrees. He soon finds himself staying with a very strange and bizarre family with murder all around. THE OLD DARK HOUSE was a movie that didn't have a gimmick.
The movie is notable for several reasons. Boris Karloff was offered a role in the movie, but turned it down because he felt it was too comical with not enough "horror." Charles Addams illustrated the animations at the beginning of the movie. Lastly, the movie is a great example of what a great actor Tom Poston was.
Ronald Lewis stars in MR. SARDONICUS as Sir Robert Cargrave, an eminent physician who has mastered a new technique for muscle relaxation. Cargrave receives a summons from his former flame, Maude (Audrey Dalton). Maude is now married to the Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rowlfe). Cargrave arrives and finds the villagers who live near Sardonicus' castle to be terrified of him. Sardonicus constantly wears a mask, but no one will tell him why. That is, until Sardonicus tells him himself and explains to him the reason he had him summoned.
The gimmick for MR. SARDONICUS was the punishment poll at the end of the film. Audience members were given a card with a glow-in-the-dark thumb that they could either hold up or down to decide what would happen to Sardonicus at the end of movie. An alternative version for drive-in movies asked audience members to flash their car's headlights in response.
"Taking the Punishment Poll" featurette.
Pilot for the tv show GHOST STORY (aka CIRCLE OF FEAR). Castle was the executive producer for this series.
Disc 4 features THE TINGLER and ZOTZ!.
THE TINGLER is one of Castle's most well-known movies. The movie stars Vincent Price as Dr. Warren Chapin, a physician who has discovered that fear is actually caused by an almost invisible creature that he calls the Tingler. The Tingler disappears when a person screams. Chapin shares his discovery with an acquaintance of his, Oliver Higgins (Philip Coolidge), who operates a silent movie theatre. Not long after, Higgins mute wife dies unexpectedly. During her autopsy, Chapin removes the Tingler from the woman's spine. However, it eventually escapes. Beware The Tingler!
The gimmick for this movie is that it featured "Percepto" which caused certain seats to be shocked by buzzers attached to their seats whenever a scream occurred during the movie.
Besides "Percepto" and the starring of Vincent Price, THE TINGLER is worth watching because it features the earliest film depiction of an LSD trip.
"Scream for Your Life" featurette.
Alternative Drive-In Sequence.
Original Scream Sequence.
An episode from the tv show GHOST STORY (aka CIRCLE OF FEAR) entitled "Graveyard Shift."
Tom Poston stars in ZOTZ! as Professor Jonathan Jones a devoted instructor and researcher who translates the inscription to an ancient coin and is given three powers: the power to inflict pain, the power to slow time, and the power to kill. At first he keeps things a secret, but then goes to the government to offer his services. Upon rejection, he returns home and soon finds himself being pursued by Soviet spies.
The gimmick for ZOTZ! was a gold-covered plastic coin.
Disc 5 features the documentary SPINE TINGLER! This movie was directed by Jeffrey Schwartz and features an in-depth commentary with Schwartz and Terry Castle, William Castle's daughter.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Thanks to the marvelous WILLIAM CASTLE FILM COLLECTION, after nearly 50 years I have finally gotten a chance to see a movie that fascinated me as a child.
In ZOTZ! (1962), ancient language college professor Tom Poston translates the inscription on a 5,000-year-old coin, and learns how to use its magical powers.
This silver dollar-sized disc gives the possessor three different powers:
1.) Point at anyone or thing and it causes exquisite pain.
2.) Look at any living thing, say "Zotz!" and it goes into slow motion.
3.) Point and say "Zotz!" and the target instantly dies.
Poston's rival for the retiring Dean's position is Jim Backus, a real weasel who kowtows to his superior and openly lobbies for the promotion while tearing Poston down. The Dean is played by Cecil Kellaway, and his wife is the perfectly cast Maggie Dumont.
Louis Nye, Poston's associate on Steve Allen's Tonight show, cameos in the Pentagon scene. (Even if I remembered this moment from the first viewing, I never would've made the Allen connection as an 8-year-old.)
The two meet as Poston is leaving General Fred Clark's office after he gets the brush-off as a kook. Poston offers the talisman as a way of disabling or destroying opposing armies "as far as the eye can see" and naturally the general thinks him quite mad and won't watch a demonstration of the power of Zotz!
This is a potentially powerful weapon. While Gen. Clark putts golf balls during Poston's causing a small plane to temporarily nose dive from the sky, a foreign spy disguised as a window washer catches it all. He and his crew (including Mike Mazurki) pursue Poston back to California, and the professor is kidnapped from the Dean's farewell dinner party. With Poston's niece and girlfriend also held captive, it looks like he'll have to turn the talisman over to the forces of evil....
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I have always been a big horror movie fan, but I was familiar with only a couple of William Castle's films...that is until now. This box set while no where near complete is a very good example of this man's creative low budget films. Castle's films were also known for their "gimmick" and even though he borrowed from other films from time to time I find his films fun and effective especially for the money he made them on.
This 8 film set is a little disappointing to fans because 'Macabre'(never available on DVD) and 'House On Haunted Hill' are not included. At the MSRP of this thing, they should have included 'I Saw What You Did'(OOP) and Universal's 'The Night Walker' (not available on DVD) for good measure also and at the very least 'House on Haunted Hill' could have easily fit on the bonus disc with Spine Tingle The William Castle Story. How can you call this a William Castle Collection without including 'House On Haunted Hill'?
The good news is we get three new to DVD Castle films 13 Frightened Girls, The Old Dark House and Zotz! and the extras from the individual releases of the other films all seem to be here, even though the language options are not. This is no great loss for me, but could obviously mean a great deal to others. I know some have been complaining about the packaging, but I really don't see any cause for alarm as the discs being placed over lapping might be a small nuisance, but unless you're taking these discs out hundreds of times, I don't see where the damage will occur? I've had many of these types of sets and none of mine are damaged. With a little gentle care, this design shouldn't pose any problems.
The film transfers look very good, and the extras are interesting. It would have been nice if they would have included reproductions of some of the gimmicks used in Castle's films (i.e..the punishment poll and danger cards from 'Mr. Sardonicus' and '13 Frightened Girls' also the ghost viewer for '13 Ghost'). We are talking about a couple of pieces of cardboard here, but I'm sure Castle fans would have loved the addition of these items and more gimmick reproductions.
The films vary in artistic quality, but all of them are fun and worth your time. I'm sure everyone has their personal favorites and depending on when you first saw each film might effect your opinion of your ratings from best to worst. I had never seen the three new to DVD and for me they are the weakest films on this set. I would have rather had 'Macabre' and 'House on Haunted Hill' on this set than those three films, but that is only my opinion. It would have kept the theme of horror throughout this set and then maybe they could have done a comedy Castle set later with the other films and a rerelease of 'I Saw What You Did'.
This box set includes the following eight films that any Horror/Castle fans should enjoy. These are certainly a fun treat on Halloween.
1) 13 Frightened Girls - 2 1/2 stars - This film is pretty silly, but I found it to be harmless fun. Some of the young girls are just awful in the acting department and I found this film to be a little slow moving for me to give this a better rating.
2) 13 Ghost - 3 stars - A fun ghost story and I couldn't resist pulling out a pair of my 3-D glasses to check the scenes out where the viewers are supposed to watch though the ghost viewers. This is certainly better than the remake, but it's not one of Castle's best.
3) Homicidal - 4 stars - This is one of Castle's best and pays a great homage to Psycho. If you've never seen it before, you are in for a treat and a big surprise!
4) Straight Jacket 3 1/2 stars - Joan Crawford hamming it up with surprisingly graphic murders for the times.
5) The Old Dark House - 2 1/2 stars - Not to be confused with the 1932 Karloff classic. I'm sure some like this one more than others, but I found this one to be slow moving with only a few fun moments.
6) Mr. Sardonicus - 4 1/2 stars - The best film of the lot, great atmosphere and very reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode.
7) The Tingler - 4 stars - Another of Castle's best films with Vincent Price you can't go wrong.
8) Zotz - 2 1/2 stars - If I had seen this as a kid I probably would have loved it. What kid didn't dream of having this power? but seeing this now for the first time, I found it to be a little slow moving despite the interesting plot.
Overall this is a great set even though it should have been better. The DVD's should have came in individual slime cases and it should have included more films, but I can't fault this release for what it doesn't have, because what's here is pretty darn good.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2010
Okay I love Bill Castle but this DVD set lacked in packaging and in show Quantity for the amount of $$$$$. The shows aren't on single disks - 2 shows are on 1 disk (but not dual sided - Thank God). Most of the shows have been released already. The first time on DVD shows are - 13 Frightened Girls - Damn good film, just keep in mind what teenagers found popular in the early 1960's (Frankie & Annette/the Monkees etc.) The Old Dark House - that ones good for a laugh - just look for the grand staircase that on the one side has been repaired with strips of unfinished wood, a tree trunk & cinder block - It reminds me of every single house repair I ever tried. Zotz - I keep trying to find something nice to say about it - I guess the part where the niece points her finger at her boyfriend who's being fresh and gives him a shock. So why 5 Stars? Because it has the BEST bio of any person I've ever watched. Normally when I watch a bio on someone/some band I admire, I'm crushed to find out what sleezes they were. But not with Bill Castle, he deserves every ounce of recognition the public can give him - I wish he could have been my dad. Another point I would like to make about Mr. Castle's films in general are to notice how many women are the domanate leads? Rare for someone making horror films that would be enjoyed mostly by boys - the only boy character I can think of in a William Castle movie was the little boy in 13 Ghosts.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2009
House of horrors? Welcome to the Carnival of Castle.
William Castle, the master of ballyhoo who made movies for about $4 and then promoted them with outrageous audience participation gimmicks, is finally getting his just reward. On October 20, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will unleash William Castle Film Collection, a DVD collection featuring eight of the legendary producer/director's most notable films.
Get ready for chills and spills and thrills and lots o' laughs with The Tingler (1959), 13 Ghosts (1960), Homicidal (1961), Mr. Sardonicus (1961), Zotz! (1962), 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) , The Old Dark House (1963) and our all-time WC fave, Strait-Jacket, the 1964 slasher flick starring Pepsi and gin-sodden Scream Queen Joan Crawford as an ax-wielding maniac.
Unlike sister companies Warner Brothers and Fox, Sony always packs their collections with welcome extras and bonus tracks. Here, the treats include original theatrical openings, alternate sequences, vintage footage and original theatrical trailers, as well as two episodes of the television series, Ghost Story produced by William Castle.
Then there's Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007), the award-winning documentary on William Castle made by director Jeffrey Schwarz. The film features archival interviews with John Landis, John Waters, Budd Boetticher, Roger Corman and legendary mime Marcel Marceau, all of whom readily admit how Castle influences their lives and careers.
So just who was William Castle?
Born in 1917, Castle grew up fascinated with the fast and furious, movement and mayhem . . . the Barnum and Bailey circus, the New York stage, radio and the movies. He knew what he wanted to do with his life and spent most of his teen years working on the stage in various jobs, everything from set building to acting. He left Broadway for Hollywood at the age of 23, directing his first film (The Chance of a Lifetime) six years later.
Castle honed his craft over the next decade. He worked as an assistant to director Orson Welles, doing much of the second unit location work for Welles' noir classic The Lady from Shanghai. Castle had a reputation for getting the work done, and eventually decided to produce and direct his own pictures. The first, Macabre, boasted ad lines like "See it with someone who can carry you home!" and "If it frightens you to death, you'll be buried free of charge!"
The hype worked, and Castle became famous for directing low budget B-movies with gimmicks that were ambitiously promoted. And you wonder why his autobiography was entitled "Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants Off America."
Some dismiised Caslte as a poor-man's Hitchcock, but that is an insult to both Willy and Alfred. After all, gimmicks were important to both men . . . Hitch had cameos, William had Percepto.
By the mid '60s, Castle abandoned the gimmicks and went on to produce the 1968 Roman Polanski classic Rosemary's Baby.
Less than 10 years later, Castle was dead.
But his works lives on.
Let's take a quick look . . .
Legendary horror icon Vincent Price stars in this terrifying story of a docile creature that lives in the human spinal cord. It becomes activated by fright, and can only be destroyed by screaming. Castle promoted the film with the gimmick of "Percepto," where audiences would actually feel the sensations of the actors on the screen.
To achieve this, theaters wired select seats with tiny motors underneath that would vibrate during key scenes in the movie. The audience would get a "tingling" sensation and were encouraged to "Scream! Scream for your lives!"
Castle aggressively promoted this film with "Illusion-O," a special hand-held piece of cardboard with two transparent colored strips. If you wanted to see the ghosts in the film, you looked through one, but if you were too frightened, you could look through the other and they weren't visible. The film promised (and delivered) "13 Times the Thrills! 13 Times the Chills! 13 Times the Fun!" in the story of a family who inherits a haunted house, but discover a special pair of goggles that allows them to see their ghostly tormentors.
The brutal stabbing murder of a justice-of-the-peace sparks an investigation of the dark family secrets in a sleepy small town. Castle promoted the film with a "Fright Break," a 45-second timer during the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring the sadistic killer. The voiceover advised the audience of the time remaining so they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the rest of the film.
To ensure filmgoers did not opt for the refund, Castle instituted the "Coward's Corner:" Patrons were expected to follow yellow footsteps up the theater aisle, bathed in a yellow light and sit in a yellow cardboard booth in the theater lobby. Theaters had a nurse offering blood-pressure tests, a recording blaring "Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward's Corner!" and required those walking out to sign a yellow "Coward's Certificate" card stating, "I am a bona fide coward."
In this gothic tale set in 1880 London, a baron's face is frozen into a permanently grotesque smile after digging up his father's grave to retrieve a winning lottery ticket accidentally left in his pocket. The gimmick allowed audiences to vote in a "Punishment Poll" during the climax of the film where Castle himself appears on screen to explain to the audience their options. Each member of the audience was given a card with a glow-in-the-dark thumb they could hold either up or down to decide if Mr. Sardonicus would be cured or die at the end of the film. Supposedly, no audience ever offered mercy and the villain was always punished.
A man finds a Zotz coin and discovers its awesome powers. After attempting to share its secret with the US government (who brushes him off as a lunatic), his discovery captures the interest of foreign agents, who attempt to steal it. To promote the film, Castle provided each filmgoer with a "magic" coin which, unfortunately, did absolutely nothing.
13 Frightened Girls!
Castle launched a worldwide hunt for the prettiest girls from different countries to cast in 13 Frightened Girls. The stunt helped generate publicity for the film about the 13 daughters of international diplomats in a Swiss boarding school, who stir up trouble when they mess in the diplomatic affairs of their parents and a Russian spy is discovered murdered..
The Old Dark House
An American car salesman visiting England receives a mysterious invitation from an old, eccentric millionaire to visit the house in which he lives with his twin brother. No gimmick, no good.
Castle hired Hollywood's legendary Joan Crawford to star as an ax-murderess in this story of a mother, who, after a 20 year stay in an insane asylum for killing her husband and his mistress, returns home. While trying to reconcile with her daughter, mommie dearest's behavior raises suspicions . . . is she still a dangerously deranged killer? At the film's last minutes, Castle had cardboard axes handed out to patrons and sent Crawford on a nation-wide promotional tour of theaters showing the film.
Some of the great bonus tracks include
* Featurette: The Magic of Illusion-O
* Alternate opening (British) for 13 Frightened Girls!
* Alternate opening (Swedish) for 13 Frightened Girls!
* Alternate opening (French) for 13 Frightened Girls!
* Alternate opening (German) for 13 Frightened Girls!
* Featurette: Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal
* Featurette: Homicidal Youngstown, Ohio Premiere
* Featurette: Battleaxe: The Making of Strait-Jacket
* Vintage Featurette: How to Plan a Movie Murder
* Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests
* Joan Crawford Axe Test
* Featurette: Scream For Your Lives: William Castle and The Tingler"
* Featurette: Ghost Story: Graveyard Shift
* Alternate Drive-In Sequence for The Tingler
* Original "Scream" Sequence for The Tingler
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