13 Ghosts (1960): Directed by William Castle
Castle aggressively promoted this film with floats going up and down Hollywood Blvd. with “ghosts” riding along, holding signs, touting the movie. He named the gimmick created for 13 Ghosts “Illusion-O,” which was a special hand-held piece of cardboard with two transparent colored strips, one red and one blue. 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 film starred Martin Milner (TV’s “Adam-12”) and Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz). 13 Ghosts has a running time of 85 minutes and is not rated.
Intrigued by the circus of Barnum and Bailey, New York stage plays, radio and the movies, William Castle (1914 – 1977) knew what he wanted to do with his life and spent most of his teenage years working on the stage in a number of jobs ranging from set building to acting. He left Broadway for Hollywood at the age of 23, going on to direct his first film (The Chance of a Lifetime) six years later.
Castle honed his craft over the next decade turning out every manner of film. He also worked as an assistant to director Orson Welles, doing much of the second unit location work for Welles’ noir classic The Lady from Shanghai, starring Rita Hayworth. 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 films with many gimmicks, which were ambitiously promoted, despite being reasonably low budget B-movies. By the mid-60s, he abandoned the gimmicks and went on to produce the Roman Polanski classic Rosemary’s Baby (1968). His autobiography was entitled “Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare the Pants Off America.”
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