Saturday, December 12, 2009

13 Ghosts (1960)

13 Ghosts

Written by Robb White
Directed by William Castle

Cyrus Zorba...Donald Woods
Buck Zorba...Charles Herbert
Madea Zorba...Jo Morrow
Ben Rush...Martin Milner

Absent-minded paleontologist Cyrus Zorba inherits a mansion from his recently deceased Uncle Plato, a certified, bonafide and genufied Doctor Of The Occult. The house is fully furnished with a fine set of antique furniture...and maybe even a ghost or twelve. ("You inherit them, too. They go with the house.") Cyrus and his family, in rather dire straights, move into the spooky old manse post-haste, never once bothering to ask, 'if there are only 12 ghosts in the house, why is the movie called 13 Ghosts?'

Perhaps they're looking for someone to join them...


Oh, William Castle, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Well, I won't really count them, but if I did make a list, it would simply read like the man's filmography. Each film of his is completely different and totally enjoyable, and 13 Ghosts is no exception.

It must be said that despite the use of obvious wire-work (floating candlesticks, floating dishes, etc.), the ridiculous notion of ghost-seeing goggles (which made me think of the painful 3-D scene in Freddy's Dead), and the total hokeyness of the ghosts themselves (a ghost lion? Really?), this movie actually managed a few genuinely creepy moments, which are few and far between in not only Castle's films, but many of these older movies. Blame it on modern times. We horror fans have seen so much that we've ultimately become jaded, which is why we seek out these films more and more, like a junkie trying to catch that next high hoping it will feel like the first time once again.

I'm not even much of a fan of the haunted house sub-genre--it seems to me that it is one of the few aspects of horror that has really refused to evolve--but 13 Ghosts is such a hoot that rewatching it almost makes me forget about the cinematic stillbirth that was the 2001 remake.

Almost.

The prerequisite Castle gimmick this time was Illusion-O, where the audience could pick up a special viewer with two different colored lenses--sort of like 3-D glasses, although the film wasn't in 3-D. Looking through one lens, the ghosts onscreen would be visible; Looking through the other, they could not be seen. This gimmick is not translated to the small screen, which is perhaps for the best. Moviegoers were said to have complained of headaches following the experience.

The interesting thing is that you don't even miss the traditional Castle ballyhoo, or his usual onscreen introduction. The man has a bit of a reputation in more elite circles as being a bit of a hack, but the truth is that his gimmickry was a promotional tool, and not something that the enjoyment of the film depends upon. And don't try to convince me otherwise, because it's not going to happen.

This is a cleverly plotted, expertly crafted thriller. Haters be damned, Long Live The King.




View the trailer below!


1960
82 Minutes
Not Rated
Black & White
English
United States

"Tonight, death walks again in this evil house."
--J/Metro

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