Sunday, August 31, 2014
13 Ghosts (1960) Horror Ghosts
13 Ghosts (1960) - Producer showman William Castle brings us this simple but interesting tale of a family who move into a haunted house and get more than they expected. Supernatural and human threats create an entertaining film for all ages. Castle coming off his hit "The Tingler" more noted for its audience surprise than the story, hired writer Robb White who also wrote "The Tingler (1959) and "House on Haunted Hill (1958)" to pen the script. Never famous as a screenwriter it should be noted that he was a prolific writer of adventure novels from the mid 1930s until the late 70s and his novel "Deathwatch (1972)" is currently being turned into a film starring Michael Douglas called "The Reach (2014)" Castle, a man who brought the theater gimmick into popularity continued that trend in this film. Using color optics to create a viewer with a red and blue screen in it he added a way for the audience to filter out the ghosts if they found them too scary. Using the simple science of 3D at the time he created a gimmick in this interactive movie. Each time a ghost comes on screen there is a warning to the audience who can look into the blue or red side of their viewers to either see the ghosts or screen them out. You have to wonder who those few viewers were who went to see this film and chose not to see the 13 ghosts of the title.
The cast has some interesting professionals starring child actor Charles Herbert. Martin Milner a movie and television veteran playing a bad guy which was out of character for most of his roles. Margaret Hamilton most famous for playing Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West in the classic "The Wizard of Oz (1939)" gets to play at being a witch here also. A long career of over a hundred credits and in this film 21 years after her iconic role, she is making witch jokes to a child actor in a B grade horror film. It's a strange film that way with veteran actors who could be the top of the bill being thrown into what can only be seen as a pedestrian film. Donald Woods an actor with over 130 credits is billed fifth in this movie.
The story is about the Zorba family a down and out family who think they have had some unfortunate luck by inheriting the house of Cyrus's uncle Dr. Plato Zorba. Little do they know the house is haunted with 12 ghosts and those ghosts can not be freed until they are joined by a thirteenth. Mixed in is the subplot of the murderous lawyer who will stop at nothing to find the hidden money in the haunted house.
Since an original viewer is not in the vaults of Soresport Movies an old pair of 3D glasses will have to be substituted. Opening with William Castle introducing the Illusion-O we move right into the Zorba family situation. It is a sad set up with Hilda (Rosemary DeCamp) calling her husband at work to say that their furniture is being repossessed. Even sadder is young buck asking his Mother "Why do they always take our furniture?" her reply "Because your Father is a wonderful man but just forgetful." It implies that that Cyrus (Donald Woods) is just not a very focused provider. Still the family makes the best of Buck's birthday where he wishes he had a house with furniture that nobody can take away from them. Heart breaking but there is the added feature of a strange supernatural wind and at that moment a telegram informing him of the meeting where he inherits the furnished house. Unfortunately the story is his old uncle collected ghosts and now they come with the house. Cyrus also inherits a viewer so he can see the ghosts. So with the two kids young Buck (Charles Herbert) and teen daughter Medea (Jo Morrow) the couple move right in to find that the house comes with a housekeeper Elaine Zacharides (Margaret Hamilton) and a nosy lawyer Ben Rush (Martin Milner) around we get to see the supernatural end of the story quickly become apparent.
The majority of the film is ghosts, and there are plenty to get to. It drives the question of whether or not the family should stay. A tough question for a father protecting his family. It is obvious there are ghosts and the family knows they are there. Cyrus though must decide, if he leaves the house he loses it to the State but if he stays he puts his family in danger. The eternal optimist it seems or at least a man who feels trapped by circumstances he is slow to flee. As Cyrus learns more about his uncle and his collection of ghosts it makes it more reasonable that he should run and run fast. Some of this is played for laughs and some to create tension between the family members. Little Buck seems to know a whole lot about the ghosts most of it he learned from Miss Zacharides. She is played with depth and heart by Margaret Hamilton. She introduces the idea that there may be money hidden somewhere in the house which nicely counters the fear suffered by the family. They are desperate so the two counter ideas nicely set up the plot.
The scariest ghost that of Plato Zorba is a man in a scary mask but what a great mask, all gruesome and rotted it is one that should be brought back for Halloween. There are some nice low angle shots in the film but for the most part it is pretty standard fare. The shot from above as Buck slides down the bannister is pretty good.
The discovery of money and Ben's interest is a real turn in the film. It makes no sense that Ben would enlist Buck is probably the most unrealistic part of the film. Buck is not so keen on telling lies for Ben and it gets him wondering whether honesty is the best policy. As the story plays out we see the scheming Ben trying to get the family to leave so he can find the hidden cash before anyone else does. The plotting is well enough done though to seemingly thwart the lawyer's plans and it all plays out is what this writer would call an expected way. When all is said and done the viewer has seen a cool little horror film from a by gone error. Not particularly frightening but still interesting enough.A recommendation is being given to this film for not only telling a cool little story but also for the nostalgia of the film.Good acting by all and a very forgiving view of the child actor gives this a mild recommendation from Soresport Movies.