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Case Number 17522

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The William Castle Film Collection

The Tingler
1959 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
13 Ghosts
1960 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Homicidal
1961 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Mr. Sardonicus
1961 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Zotz!
1962 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
The Old Dark House
1963 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
13 Frightened Girls!
1963 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Strait-Jacket
1964 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story
2007 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Sony
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // October 20th, 2009

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All Rise...

Strait-jacketed Appellate Judge Tom Becker tingled sardonically when he met 13 frightened homicidal girls at the old dark house.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Mr. Sardonicus (published March 29th, 2002), Strait-Jacket (published March 21st, 2002), Strait-Jacket (1964) (published March 23rd, 2014), and 13 Ghosts (published October 2nd, 2001) are also available.

The Charge

From the Screen's Number 1 Shock Expert!

Opening Statement

Hello, I'm Appellate Judge Tom Becker. Welcome to the DVD Verdict review of The William Castle Film Collection, eight odd and outrageous films by a director who was part auteur, part sideshow barker, part snake-oil salesman, and very much a character himself.

Castle was responsible for some of the most memorable low-rent horror and exploitation films of the '50s and '60s. One of the things that set Castle apart was his love for gimmicks. It wasn't enough for Castle to just give his audiences a movie, he often gave them an experience. In some cases, the experience was pretty simple—insurance policies in case you were frightened to death by Macabre or a fright break so the terrified patrons could hide out in the Coward's Corner during Homicidal. Other times, the gimmick was more elaborate, such as Emerg-O, wherein a terrifying plastic skeleton flew above the audience's head during House on Haunted Hill, or perhaps the most famous, Percept-O, which sent electroshocks to theater seats during The Tingler.

In keeping with the Castle sensibility, this review has been written using Chentain-O, a unique system that measures both the cheese and the entertainment values of each film. Through the magic of Chentain-O, you can quickly learn if the film you are going to watch is a sardonic, homicidal tingler or a an old, dark, frightened zotz. If you find this method to be too unsettling, turn your head from your computer and face The Weenie Wall, where you will be spared the shocking words. If you still find the writing too terrifying, feel free to scream—scream for your lives. After all, you'll be facing a wall in your own home, so what are the odds of you being heard?

I'll be back later to tell you more about the set and Mr. Castle. For now, enjoy the review—and watch out for Chentain-O!

Facts of the Case

The Tingler (1959): Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price, Laura) and his young assistant, David Morris (Darryl Hickman, Tea and Sympathy), are conducting experiments in fear. They've discovered that a spiny, lobster-like creature—The Tingler—lives inside our bodies and feeds on our terror. Apparently, The Tingler is a sensitive creature that is offended by the sound of people screaming; thus, caterwauling renders it harmless. What, they wonder, would happen if someone didn't scream when frightened?

To get a handle on this concept, Dr. Chapin shoots up a deaf mute with LSD. She hallucinates horrors such as being chased by disfigured killers, a bloody bathtub, and a rocking chair with a mind of its own. Eventually, she clutches her back and collapses—The Tingler's got her! When her dimwitted husband carts her corpse to the doctor's place, Chapin is able to extract a large and angry Tingler from her spine.

Things being as they are, The Tingler ends up escaping into the movie theater owned and operated by deaf woman and dimwit. Although The Tingler is set in the '50s, the theater shows silent films, and while The Tingler wreaks havoc on a curiously well-attended showing of the 1921 epic Tol'able David, that audience is warned to "Scream! Scream for your lives!" to prevent any unnecessary tingling.

And if you were in a theater watching The Tingler circa 1959, you might have found yourself doing the same thing.

Gimmick: Percept-O
Chentain-O Value: Scream—and scream again!

13 Ghosts (1960): Just when things are looking economically bleak for the Zorba family, their luck changes: a long-lost uncle has died and left them his large house. The house comes furnished—good, because all their stuff has been repoed—includes an aged servant (Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard of Oz) who's a bit creepy, but she's working for free, and—cue scary music—a collection of ghosts. It seems uncle was a ghost hunter who would go to various haunted houses, and adopt the restless dead and bring them home. The ghosts don't seem too keen on the new occupants, though 10-year-old Buck (Charles Herbert, Please Don't Eat the Daisies) is fascinated by them and eager to get to know them better. Mom, Dad, and comely older sister Madea (Jo Morrow, Gidget), on the other hand, are horrified and terrified by all the supernatural shenanigans, including ghosts trashing the house. But what they don't realize is that there are 12 ghosts (including Uncle), and the dead are waiting for…number 13!

Gimmick: Illusion-O
Chentain-O Value: A dozen perfect specters, and the 13th is…?

Homicidal (1961): William Castle's answer to Psycho opens with a trifecta homage: an ice blonde named Miriam Webster (as opposed to Marion Crane) checks into a low-rent motel. She offers a bellboy $2,000 if he will marry her the next night at midnight. He accepts, and they go to a justice of the peace. Vows are exchanged, music is played, but the ceremony is cut short when the blushing bride pulls out a butcher knife and slices up the JP, much to the surprise of her new husband and the JP's wife. More homage happens with a brief but tense scene of the blonde driving away from the scene of the crime and nearly encountering the police.

The blonde drives home, and it turns out she's not Miriam but Emily, and she lives with mute stroke victim Helga. The real Miriam is the half-sister of the other resident of the creepy house, Warren, who stands to inherit $10 million when he turns 21 in a few days. Emily starts terrorizing Miriam, who turns to Warren for help—until Emily announces that she and Warren are married.

The police question Miriam about the JP's murder (since it was her name that was used). Miriam believes that Emily is responsible for the killing, and she and her boyfriend, Carl, try to prove it. But will she live long enough for justice to be done, or will Emily hack another notch into her belt?

Gimmick: Fright Break
Chentain-O Value: It's Castle's mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up—and sleazy—world.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961): In 19th Century England, Dr. Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) is urgently summoned by his former lover, Maude (Audrey Dalton, Kitten with a Whip), to the castle where she lives with her husband. Upon arriving, the doctor finds Maude lovely as ever, but everything else to be grotesque. There's a sinister one-eyed servant, Krull (Oscar Homolka, I Remember Mama), a maid being tortured with leeches, and Maude's husband, the wealthy Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe, Ivanhoe), a tall, cruel man who wears a mask. Robert learns Sardonicus' story: In his younger days, the family was poor, until his father won a lottery. Unfortunately, the old man dies and is buried with the ticket in his pocket. Sardonicus goes and opens the grave to retrieve the ticket, but on seeing his father's rotting corpse, his own face is transformed into a hideous grimace. Sardonicus wants Robert to fix him, with a terrible consequence for failure: If the operation doesn't work, Sardonicus will order Krull to disfigure Maude, so that her face is as ugly as his. Will the doctor be able to save his unhappily wed love from the cruel fate of her gross husband, or will Maude suffer the kind of ugliness that's not only skin deep?

Gimmick: The Punishment Poll
Chentain-O Value: Will leave you grinning ear to ear.

Zotz! (1962): Eccentric college professor Jonathan Jones (Tom Poston, Newhart) finds himself in possession of a mysterious coin that grants him special powers. He can cause physical pain by pointing at someone, cause slow motion by muttering the word "Zotz," and by pointing and muttering, can cause death and destruction. All this pointing and muttering almost gets him fired from his job teaching ancient languages at a local college, much to the delight of his nemesis and rival for deanship Professor Horatio Kellgore (Jim Backus, Gilligan's Island). Jones brings the coin to the Pentagon, but the military thinks he's a kook and throws him out. Unfortunately, some Russian spies find out about it and think it would be a dandy weapon in their Cold War arsenal; fortunately for Jones, the Russians are as inept as he is. Will his Zotz coin save him and his woman-folk from the Red peril?

Gimmick: Plastic coins were given out at screenings, but this disc gives us nothing.
Chentain-O Value: Not so hotz.

13 Frightened Girls! (1963): International spy-jinks, Castle-style. Candace "Candy" Hull (Kathy Dunn) is the pretty teenage daughter of a diplomat (Hugh Marlowe, All About Eve). She attends boarding school with a baker's dozen other nubile DKs (diplomats' kids). During a holiday, she drops in at the embassy and visits with Wally (Murray Hamilton, The Graduate), a secret agent. Although he's old enough to be her father and duller than a white-noise machine, our pixie crushes on him, and when she learns he might be fired from his spying duties, she decides to help him out. While hanging out with her "red Chinese" friend, Mai Ling, she's lucky enough to discover that an assassination has gone down while the girls were enjoying an egg roll and rice supper. She even finds the body hanging in the freezer of the "red Chinese" embassy's kitchen—with a U.S. dagger plunged in it! Rather than report her findings directly to her father (or the police, for that matter), she leaves Wally a note cut out of newspaper letters. International crisis averted.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Candy starts spying on all the other embassies. Using the alias "Kitten" (for her white…kitten), she is soon uncovering all manner of threats to world peace and tipping off Wally through her cut-and-paste notes. As the blandly blonde daughter of a diplomat, she can make her way around the local international community unnoticed with only a do-it-yourself spy guide for assistance.

Soon, the global espionage community is abuzz about the daring exploits of "Kitten," which can mean only one thing for our sneaky towhead: danger. In the mildest, least-surprising or suspenseful way imaginable.

Gimmick: International star search; spit-activated Danger Card (evidently scrapped at the last minute)
Chentain-O Value: Call me one stupefied reviewer.

The Old Dark House (1963): American-in-Britain Tom Penderel (Tom Poston) is invited by his friend, Casper Femm (Peter Bull, Tom Jones) to visit his ancestral home, Femm Hall. The visit isn't purely social: Casper is frightened that something terrible is going to happen to him.

Turns out, Casper has every reason to be frightened. The Femm family is a strange lot with an even stranger story. In order to avoid being cut off from the vast fortune left to them by their ancestor, a pirate, the entire family must spend every night in Femm Hall—which explains why Casper never sleeps in his apartment. The last Femm standing will inherit everything. Unfortunately, the remaining Femms—including nymphomaniac Morgana (Fenella Fielding, Carry On Screaming!), pompous Roderick (Robert Morely, Theater of Blood), dotty Agatha (Joyce Grenfell, The Belles of St. Trinian's), and cousin Petiphar (Mervyn Johns, The Day of the Triffids), who is building an ark—are barely standing at all, and as the night wears on, fewer and fewer of them are standing at all. It seems someone is trying to speed up the inheritance process, and this is a bad time to be a Femm.

Gimmick: None. Castle directed this for Hammer Films.
Chentain-O Value: I've seen older. And darker. And funnier. But this is OK.

Strait-Jacket (1964): When she catches her husband in bed with another woman, Lucy (Joan Crawford, Trog) expresses her displeasure by lopping off their heads with an ax in full view of her young daughter, Carol. Lucy spends some quality time in an asylum, and 20 years later is released and goes to live with Carol (Diane Baker, The Silence of the Lambs). Carol is a sculptress who is dating a young man from a "good family." Carol's first order of business is to take Lucy shopping. The two buy clothes, accessories, and a wig that make Lucy look just as she did when she hacked up Dad two decades prior.

Unfortunately, old habits seem to die hard. First, Lucy starts having nightmares about disembodied heads popping up in her room. Then, some real heads start rolling. Was the lady released from that Strait-Jacket prematurely?

Gimmick: Oscar-winning actress as aged harridan
Chentain-O Value: A low-rent classic cut-up

The Evidence

When the Screen Screams, You'll Scream Too…If You Value Your Life!

The Tingler is quintessential Castle, a goofy fright fest featuring a charismatic leading, bushels of silly scares, and perhaps the ultimate gimmick in Percept-O. It's amazing to consider that Castle actually got away with hot wiring theater seats to electroshock patrons into screaming themselves silly while the screen went dark and the soundtrack blared a cacophony of other folks "screaming for their lives," but he did, and this moderately entertaining and cheerfully implausible fright film became a classic.

Even without Percept-O—an effect you could probably re-create at home if you're willing to take the time to strip the wires of an appliance, or pick up a stun gun—The Tingler is a fun affair. As in the previous year's House on Haunted Hill, Price plays a creepy hero stuck in a crap-o marriage with an elegant tramp (Patricia Cutts), with whom he shares some hilariously brittle and bitchy domestic squabbling. Price and Percept-O are the stars, of course, but they get great support from Philip Coolidge as the owner of the silent theater and especially from Judith Evelyn as his deaf-mute wife, whose turn at being terrorized is itself the kind of thing you'd expect to see in a pre-talkie melodrama.

And as far as rubbery little monsters go, the Tingler itself is something that needs to be seen at least once to be believed.

This disc is a re-release of the 1999 Fortieth Anniversary Edition and includes the featurette, "Scream for Your Lives: William Castle and The Tingler," a very good 16-minute look back at the film. In addition, this disc features an extra that wasn't on the previous release: "The Graveyard Shift," an episode from Castle's 1970s TV program Ghost Story (called Circle of Fear here). It's a nice bit of '70's TV cheese starring Patty Duke and her then-husband, John Astin, and a worthwhile addition to the set.

13 Times the Thrills! 13 Times the Screams! 13 Times the Fun!

13 Ghosts is a fun little haunted house tale with an amusing gimmick: Illusion-O. Audience members were given a set of glasses not unlike the red and blue 3D ones, only instead of the color strips being next to each other and separating vision, they were on top of each other, so you could watch through one color or the other. At various points in the film, the words "USE VIEWER" would pop up, and the screen would go blue. Then, the "ghosts" would appear, in red. If you look through the red portion of the glasses, you could see all the ghostly goings on; if ghosts frighten you, looking through the blue would spare you the horrors. Of course, even without the glasses, you could still see the ghosts, just not as clearly. Castle turns up at the beginning of the film to explain how all this works.

The film itself is a good time, even if it's not especially scary. The characters are of the typical American family-variety, with young Herbert turning in a very good performance as Buck and Hamilton giving a quietly sinister rendition of a different kind of witch. It's really never scary, but it's awfully entertaining, with apparitions, a seance, a plot turn involving hidden money, and an out-of-control Ouija board.

The disc is the same one that was released in 2001, with a featurette, "13 Ghosts: The Magic of Illusion-O," and a trailer for extras.

The Story of a Psychotic Killer!

With his often flat, TV-looking direction and silly, adolescent-pleasing gimmicks, it's easy to forget that inside the body of showman Castle beat the heart of a pervert. No film illustrates that better than Homicidal, one of the sickest films of the early 1960s, a model of low-rent exploitation.

Whether you call it a riff, a rip, or reflection, Castle's take on Hitchcock's Psycho is in a universe of its own. Castle seems obsessed with re-creating the Psycho-experience here, and many shots and little touches are obvious copy cat, including a moody score by Hugo Friedhofer, an opening shot of a city street with white letters telling us that we're in "Ventura, California Today," and an epilogue featuring a doctor and a police inspector (rather than a psychologist) explaining the whole thing.

While there's a kind of silly gimmick—a "Fright Break" at the climax, which allows viewers too terrified to watch the ending to run for cover—Homicidal works just fine as a bizarre mystery chiller. There aren't lots of killings, but what the film lacks in a body count, it makes up for in suspense and general creepiness, aided considerably by Burnett Guffey's shadowy lighting and solid camerawork. You might or might not figure out some of the plot twists, but either way, Homicidal is a very fun ride. Highly recommended.

The disc, which looks and sounds very good, is the same as the one released in 2002, with a featurette, "Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal," a look at the film's premiere, and the trailer.

A Man of Evil…With a Face That Could Stop a Heart!

Mr. Sardonicus is a truly unsettling gothic horror chock-a-block full of all manner of perversion. Sardonicus is a vile villain, a sadistic deviant, and his blank-faced mask a chilling sight. At one point, he has one-eyed servant round up a group of beautiful local peasant girls for his pleasure. After choosing one to spend "quality time" with him, he reveals his hideous visage to her, causing her to give out one of those shrieks that's music to a horror fan's ears. Unlike Roger Corman and the folks at Hammer, Castle stayed away from period horror; Sardonicus was his only gimmick shocker not set in present day. With a good cast, solid chills, and atmospheric cinematography by two-time Academy Award winner Burnett Guffey (From Here to Eternity), Mr. Sardonicus is alongside Homicidal as Castle's best.

The gimmick in Sardonicus is the Punishment Poll. Theater-goers were given a small, glow-in-the-dark card with a thumbs-up, thumbs-down option. In the beginning of the film, Castle explains that viewers will be able to vote on Sardonicus' fate at the end of the film, whether he has been punished enough. In the closing minutes, Castle appears again to take the vote, encouraging the audience to hold up the cards—thumbs up if they think Sardonicus should be spared further torment, thumbs down if they want to see him suffer more. Despite rumors to the contrary, there was only one ending filmed, in which Sardonicus, naturally, is voted more punishment. Castle, on screen, makes a show of "counting votes" and then declaring that the vengeance-thirsty audience has determined Sardonicus' fate. It's a fun gimmick, though I can't imagine people gullible enough to buy into it. Even without the Punishment Poll, Mr. Sardonicus is an effective, well-crafted horror story and far more creepy and chilling than you'd expect from the normally schlocky Castle.

The disc here is the same one that was released in 2002, though like The Tingler it contains an episode from Ghost Story, this one starring David Birney and Barbara Parkins. Besides that, there is a short but interesting featurette, "Taking the Punishment Poll," in which various film writers talk about the gimmick, and the trailer.

The Magic Word for Fun!

Goofy as a '60's sitcom and twice as forgettable, Zotz! is a fairly useless entry here. While Castle's suspense movies showed flashes of wit and irony, his attempt at flat-out comedy falls flat. The script trades on eccentricities and poorly staged sight gags, and is just not funny. This might have worked better as one of those hour-long (or even half-hour long) lighthearted episodes of The Twilight Zone, though Rod Serling's attempts to be whimsical generally didn't work so well either. On the up side, it's always good to see old pros Poston, Backus, Fred Clark, Cecil Kellaway, and Margaret Dumont. It's just a shame their talents are wasted in this bland vehicle. The only extra here is the film's original trailer.

The Big Fright! The Eerie Sight!

13 Frightened Girls! is such a silly, benign cloak-and-daggerless adventure, it makes Emma Roberts' turn as Nance Drew look like a sequel to Reservoir Dogs.

"Simplistic" doesn't begin to describe the goings on here. Super-sleuth "Kitten" turns global politicking on its ear through such methods as crawling on the floor unseen through a crowded kitchen to make a discovery and taking a flashbulb photo of a Russian general hanky-pankying with a floozy. The same embassy where one diplomat is killed and another imprisoned is accessible by hopping over a wall. Apparently, the world is just one big frat house, and Kitten is merely leading a panty raid.

Including Candy and Mai-Ling, there are actually 15 girls, but other than Candy, none of them ever shows anything resembling fear. We rarely see them all together at the same time, and when we do, they are in their blue schoolgirl uniforms and hats, like Victoria's Secret models putting on a community theater production of Madeleine. How Mystery Science Theater 3000 missed this plum, I do not know. The girls run the gamut of stereotypes, including a Swede who murmurs, "I want to be alone," a hot-blooded South American, and a curiously manly and athletic Russian. As for poor Mai-Ling, her every appearance is accompanied by "mysterious East" theme music, and she seems to have studied speech at the Jerry Lewis School of Accents. When she and Candy are impatiently awaiting a snack, you half expect her to go to the kitchen, shove a bamboo shoot under the cook's fingernail, and return with some Dim Sum. The closest thing to a twist is that the big enemy turns out not to be the Russians, but those other commie bastards, the "red" Chinese.

13 Frightened Girls! was originally going to be called The Candy Web. There were actually two gimmicks planned for this. The first involved Castle's worldwide search for the bland yet pretty girls who played the diplos' daughters. The other gimmick—which we see in a couple of Castle-hosted deleted scenes—was that audience members would be given a card with the words "Don't Get Caught in the Candy Web" on them. At the end of the film, Castle returns to instruct the audience to spit on the cards and rub them. If the word "Danger" appears, the lucky audience member wins a prize. I tried spitting on the DVD case. No danger, no prize—which pretty much sums up 13 Frightened Girls!

The disc? Really good picture, decent audio, the deleted Castle footage, and a bunch of trailers and alternate openings from various international versions.

Open the Door to a Nuthouse of Terror!

Castle does Hammer…sorta. Castle had wanted to direct an updated version the 1932 Boris Karloff classic The Old Dark House. British studio Hammer, known for its horror films (The Brides of Dracula, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed), also wanted to remake the J.B. Priestley tale, so Castle and Hammer teamed up. The result is an amusing if not entirely satisfying concoction.

The Old Dark House looks nothing like the rest of the films on this set, its colors and elaborate sets marking it squarely as a Hammer production. Castle still has a good time with it, and this pairing with Poston is far more successful than the miserable Zotz! thanks largely to the cast of British vets. While there's a bit of suspense and a slight mystery—you might or might not really care who is doing the killing—the dark humor and eccentric characters carry this one. Fun, but more in an Agatha Christie way than a William Castle way.

Her Husband…Her Bed…Another Woman…and the Shiny Ax…So Close! So Close!

Never one to miss a trend, Castle happily hopped aboard the aging-movie-queen horror genre with Strait-Jacket, another shot to the solar plexus for the legacy that was Joan Crawford. Castle was enamored with that grandmommy of Grand Guignol, the Crawford-starring Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and while Joan wasn't actually the director's first choice for Strait-Jacket (that was Joan Blondell), he was thrilled to have the chance to work with the woman who'd been brutalized by Bette Davis and had won an Oscar for another mother-daughter horror show.

Strait-Jacket was Castle's attempt at an "A-List" feature, and while it falls far short, Crawford's presence makes it worth seeing. Her performance is nowhere near her best, or even especially good as performances go—she's stuck in high-gear histrionics, and the decision to have her play her character in the prologue 20 years younger adds a surreal quality. Still, Joan's the whole show, and this one has tons of camp appeal. An improbable but tight little script, some scary, if bloodless, kills, and a neat little twist also make this worth catching. Watch for Lee Majors, who turns up (briefly) as the errant husband, and a young, but already grizzled, George Kennedy as an unlucky field hand.

The disc is the same one released in 2002, with a good picture and audio, and contains the same extras: "Battle-Axe: The Making of Strait-Jacket," archival footage of a promo piece with Castle, Crawford, and writer Robert Bloch, Crawford's wardrobe tests and ax-swinging practice, and a trailer.

He was just another movie director…until he found himself a gimmick.

The "bonus" disc in this set houses the documentary, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story. Spine Tingler! is a well-made and affectionate piece by Jeffrey Schwarz, who does a commentary with Castle's daughter, Terry. Schwarz also produced the featurettes on the earlier-released films that are on this set. After watching the film-specific likes of Battle-Axe, Scream for Your Lives, and the rest, you might be feeling Castled-out; however, Spine Tingler! offers a lot of information about Castle that you might not know—for instance, he was close to Orson Welles and brought Welles the pulp novel that would eventually become The Lady From Shanghai—and it's filled with archival footage and commentary from people like Budd Boetticher, John Waters, Forrest J. Ackerman, Roger Corman, and John Landis.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

What is Sony thinking pricing this set at $80 (MSRP)? Five of these films have been released before, and this set merely repackages those old discs. Three of them—13 Ghosts, Strait-Jacket, and The Tingler—are still available as stand-alones and priced at or below $10. There are a few changes—Homicidal has a new transfer, and the Ghost Story episodes are nice additions—but nothing that makes this set worth an upgrade if you already own the earlier discs—and if you're a big enough Castle fan to consider shelling out for this set, then I'm guessing you probably already have at least a couple of the earlier releases.

The three films that are getting their first DVD releases—Zotz!, 13 Frightened Girls!, and The Old Dark House—aren't especially strong entries. Sony clearly realized this and didn't provide any notable supplements for them, as opposed to the re-releases, each of which features a cool, film-specific mini-doc with archival footage and the likes of writer/director Donald Glut, filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, archivist Bob Burns, and writer Michael Schlesinger offering insights.

The films on this set were made between 1959 and 1964, but Castle's "gimmick period" actually began in 1958 with Macabre, when audiences were offered an insurance policy in case they died of fright during the film. Castle followed that up with the great House on Haunted Hill, which gave the world Emerg-O—actually a plastic skeleton being hoisted over the audience's heads during a key moment. While House on Haunted Hill has been released countless times, it still belongs on this set, if only for continuity's sake; ditto Macabre, which hasn't yet had a DVD release in the US. I'd also like to have seen The Night Walker, an eerie suspense drama with Barbara Stanwyck, and I Saw What You Did, Castle's second—and last—collaboration with Crawford here. The Night Walker has never been released, and the original Anchor Bay release of I Saw What You Did is out of print. That would bring the total here to dozen, and would help justify Sony's price tag. Maybe there'll be a Volume Two that includes these films along with the Castle's final five: Let's Kill Uncle (a silly comedy, as yet unreleased on DVD), The Busy Body (unfunny Sid Caesar shenanigans, released recently by Legend), The Spirit Is Willing (another lame Caesar comedy, unreleased), Project X (interesting futuristic thriller, unreleased), and Shanks (Marcel Marceau horror oddity, unreleased).

The eight films are paired up and spread over four discs, with Spine Tingler! getting its own disc. I don't know if Sony has plans to release each two-film disc as a stand-alone, as Warner Bros. did with The Val Lewton Horror Collection, but it would probably be a good idea to encourage Castle fans who don't want to double dip multiple titles to get the ones they don't have.

Also, the packaging here kinda sucks. It's a three-part foldout with two discs stacked on the first two folds and the bonus disc of Spine Tingler! in its own holder. There are poster reproductions for some of the films on the packaging, but you'll have to take out both discs to see them. Plus, the top of the stack doesn't stay in place very well. For $80, why not give each disc its own case? And why not include the "special" glasses for 13 Ghosts—which came with its original release—so we can see the Illusion-O effect as it was intended? I made do with a 3-D pair left over from my copy of The Polar Express: 3D.

Closing Statement

So what do you think of The William Castle Film Collection? If you think it's a worthwhile and fitting tribute, and something fans will want, then raise your right index finger over your head. Come on, raise it high. Now, if you think it's just a transparent cash grab by Sony, then raise your left index finger over your head. Just hold it a second while I count. Thank you.

Gripes aside, this is a fun set of films, and you'll probably be able to pick it up for far less than the MSRP. While Zotz! will likely appeal only to Castle (or Poston) completists, and 13 Frightened Girls! is trifling and borderline awful, The Old Dark House is a lot of fun and an interesting change of pace, Spine Tingler! is a cool doc, and I'm personally kinda thrilled to have Mr. Sardonicus and Homicidal available again. Overall, I'd say this is more hit than miss.

The Verdict

Guilty? Not guilty? You decide.

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Scales of Justice, The Tingler

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 85
Acting: 85
Story: 80
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, The Tingler

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Tingler

• Featurette
• Alternate Scenes
• Bonus TV Episode
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, 13 Ghosts

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 60
Acting: 85
Story: 75
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, 13 Ghosts

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1960
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, 13 Ghosts

• Featurette
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Homicidal

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 75
Acting: 85
Story: 88
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Homicidal

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Homicidal

• Featurette
• Premiere Footage
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Mr. Sardonicus

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 85
Acting: 85
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile, Mr. Sardonicus

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mr. Sardonicus

• Featurette
• Bonus TV Episode
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Zotz!

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 5
Acting: 75
Story: 40
Judgment: 45

Perp Profile, Zotz!

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Zotz!

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, The Old Dark House

Video: 90
Audio: 85
Extras: 5
Acting: 80
Story: 75
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, The Old Dark House

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Old Dark House

• Trailer

Scales of Justice, 13 Frightened Girls!

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 60
Acting: 70
Story: 50
Judgment: 55

Perp Profile, 13 Frightened Girls!

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, 13 Frightened Girls!

• Deleted Scene
• Alternate Foreign Openings
• Domestic and Foreign Trailers

Scales of Justice, Strait-Jacket

Video: 88
Audio: 88
Extras: 85
Acting: 83
Story: 88
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile, Strait-Jacket

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1964
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Strait-Jacket

• Featurettes
• Archival Footage
• TV Spots
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 80
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story

• Commentary








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