William Castle is a hero around the Dread Central offices. The man was a true showman in every sense of the word and knew how to deliver laughs, chills, and lunacy like no other! Come this October fans will be getting a box set to scream about courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment — The William Castle Film Collection!
From the Press Release
The master of ballyhoo who became a brand name in movie horror with his outrageous audience participation gimmicks will be remembered on October 20 when the William Castle Film Collection debuts from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The set features eight of the legendary producer/director’s most notable films, including The Tingler (1959), 13 Ghosts (1960), Homicidal (1961), Mr. Sardonicus (1961), and Strait-Jacket (1964). Also included in the collection are Zotz! (1962), The Old Dark House (1963), and 13 Frightened Girls (1963), each making their DVD debuts. The extensive bonus materials 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.
The Tingler (1959)
Legendary horror star Vincent Price (Edward Scissorhands) stars in The Tingler, the 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.” The Tingler has a running time of approximately 82 minutes and is not rated.
13 Ghosts (1960)
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.
In Homicidal, 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 in which 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 a blood-pressure test, a recording blaring “Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward’s Corner,” and required walkouts to sign a yellow “Coward’s Certificate” card stating, “I am a bona fide coward.” Needless to say, very few filmgoers opted out of the screening. Homicidal has a running time of approximately 87 minutes and is not rated.
Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
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. Mr. Sardonicus has a running time of approximately 89 minutes and is not rated.
Tom Poston (TV’s “Newhart”) finds a Zotz coin and discovers its awesome powers. After attempting to share its secret with the US government (where he is brushed 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. Zotz! has a running time of approximately 87 minutes and is not rated.
13 Frightened Girls! (1963)
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 thirteen 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. 13 Frightened Girls! has a running time of 89 minutes and is not rated.
The Old Dark House (1963)
Tom Poston (Zotz!) was again cast by Castle in this project about an American car salesman in England who receives a mysterious invitation from an old, eccentric millionaire to visit the house in which he lives with his twin brother. The Old Dark House has a running time of approximately 86 minutes and is not rated.
Advised by his financial backers to eliminate the gimmicks, Castle hired Hollywood’s legendary Joan Crawford (The Women, Our Dancing Daughters) 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 to her home and grown daughter. While trying to re-connect with her daughter, Diane Baker (The Best of Everything, Marnie) the mother’s behavior raises suspicions about whether she is still a dangerously deranged killer. At the last minute, Castle had cardboard axes handed out to patrons and sent Crawford on a nation-wide promotional tour of theaters showing the film. Straight-Jacket has a running time of approximately 93 minutes and is not rated.
DVD Special Features
Disc 1 featuring 13 Frightened Girls/13 Ghosts includes:
Disc 2 featuring Homicidal/Strait-Jacket includes:
Disc 3 featuring Old Dark House/Sardonicus includes:
Disc 4 featuring The Tingler/Zotz! includes:
Now THAT my friends is something to really scream about! If only they could have dug up Macabre for an official release along with House on Haunted Hill, Shanks, and The Night Walker! Still, this is friggin’ amazing!
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