[box cover]

13 Ghosts

With the release 13 Ghosts on DVD, Columbia TriStar has righted a great wrong . When the studio originally released this 1960 William Castle horror film on Laserdisc in 1995, they neglected to retain Castle's gimmick — "Illusion-O," a blue-hued film process that was advertised as requiring a pair of specs called a "Ghost Viewer" to see the screen properly. As Castle explains in an opening segment, when the screen goes blue, the viewers must look though the blue lens of their handy Ghost Viewers if they want to avoid the ghosts, but look through the red lens if they want to see them. This was bogus, of course — the ghosts are perfectly visible without the glasses. If, that is, the film is shown properly. On Laserdisc, Columbia TriStar printed the movie in full frame black-and-white, without the color credits, and without Castle's opening and closing remarks. Naturally, there was no need to supply the Ghost Viewer. However, on DVD Columbia has rectified all that. Home-video fans can finally see 13 Ghosts in its entirety, and with a new version of the Ghost Viewer tucked inside the keep-case. William Castle, the gimmick wielding maestro of The Tingler and other beloved horror treats of the '50s and early '60s, had a career that ranged from directing quickie westerns (including the 3-D Fort Ti) and one of the first films noir (When Strangers Marry) to producing Rosemary's Baby. Until his death in 1977, Castle seemed to know what epitomized high-octane, low-grade entertainment for boys. His string of horror films, from Macabre (1958) to I Saw What You Did (1965), rivaled Roger Corman's in their astute understanding of what shekel-paying kids wanted out of a summer's afternoon. A cross between Alfred Hitchcock and Russ Meyer, Castle made sure his imprimatur was visible on each of his films. 13 Ghosts, like several Castle films, is premised on a few people alone in a scary house. In this case, it's Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods), a poor paleontologist who inherits a large, shambling abode from his uncle Plato, whom he thought was dead. Plato Zorba was a scientist too, but he specialized in collecting ghosts. Cyrus moves into the mansion with his wife (Rosemary DeCamp), daughter Medea (Jo Morrow), and son Buck (Charles Herbert). Staying on is a housekeeper with a secret, played by Margaret Hamilton of The Wizard of Oz. Soon Medea is quasi-dating the lawyer handling the estate (Martin Milner), and the rest of the family is seeing ghosts all over the place. It becomes clear that there is more to the situation than meets the eye, or the special glasses Cyrus uses to view the specters, and Plato returns as the 12th ghost to help create the 13th. 13 Ghosts is a low-budget affair, with a small cast and a limited storyline, and scripted by Castle regular Robb White, who specialized in plots founded on theatrically conceived money-scams. But today 13 Ghosts feels almost classical in its austerity. The film can be fun if you approach it in the right spirit, and with a keen respect for Castle's promotional acumen. The print quality of Columbia TriStar's 13 Ghosts DVD is quite good, with an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) of Joseph Biroc's TV-style photography. The Dolby Digital monaural audio is clear, and there is also a Spanish track, with subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Supplements include the original theatrical trailer plus two "bonus" trailers, inserted production notes, and a seven-minute feature called "13 Ghosts: The Magic of Illusion-O" that gives a whirlwind tour of the film with testimonials from Fred Olen Ray and others. For archival completists, the flip-side offers the film without the color, Castle preface, and epilogue. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm



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