|Directed by||William Castle|
|Produced by||William Castle|
|Written by||Robb White|
|Music by||Von Dexter|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||85 min / 82 min (black-and-white version)|
|Box office||$1,500,000 (US/ Canada)|
13 Ghosts is a 1960 American horror film directed by William Castle and written by Robb White. The film stars 11-year-old child actor Charles Herbert as "Buck" and co-stars veteran character actress Margaret Hamilton as Elaine. Throughout the film Buck refers to Elaine as a witch. Though this is never confirmed, the film hints at the possibility. These inside references were an acknowledgement of Hamilton's best known role as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
When occultist uncle Dr. Plato Zorba wills a huge ramshackle house to his nephew Cyrus and his impoverished family, they are shocked to find the house is haunted. Their new furnished residence comes complete with Dr. Plato Zorba's housekeeper, Elaine Zacharides, plus a fortune in buried treasure and 12 horrifying ghosts.
His family soon discovers that these spirits include a wailing lady, clutching hands, a floating head, a fiery skeleton, an Italian chef murdering his wife and her lover in the kitchen, a hanging lady, an executioner and severed head, a fully grown lion with its headless tamer, as well as Dr. Zorba himself, all held captive in the eerie house looking for an unlucky thirteenth ghost to free them. Dr. Zorba leaves a set of special goggles, the only way of seeing the ghosts.
However, there is someone in the house who is also looking for the money and is willing to kill for it. The real villain of the film turns out to be the lawyer Benjamen Rush. He attempts to kill Cyrus' son, Buck, using the falling bed canopy he used to kill Dr. Plato Zorba, but Dr. Plato Zorba's ghost catches him in the act, driving the immediately terrified Benjamen Rush to his death in the bed just as Buck escapes, Benjamen Rush becomes the 13th ghost, and then the ghosts disappear. The next morning, Cyrus and his family count the money, Buck keeps the mask used by Benjamen Rush to scare Buck's big sister Medea Zorba, and they decide to stay.
- Charles Herbert as Arthur "Buck" Zorba
- Jo Morrow as Medea Zorba
- Rosemary DeCamp as Hilda Zorba
- Martin Milner as Benjamin Rush
- Donald Woods as Cyrus Zorba
- Margaret Hamilton as Elaine Zacharides
- John van Dreelen as Van Allen
- William Castle as Himself
- David Hoffman as Messenger
- Roy Jenson as Dr. Plato Zorba's ghost
As with several of his more famous productions, Castle used a gimmick to promote the movie. For 13 Ghosts, audience members were given a choice: the "brave" ones could watch the film and see the ghosts, while the apprehensive among them would be able to opt out of the horror and watch without the stress of having to see the ghosts. The choice came via the special viewer, supposedly "left by Dr. Zorba."
In the theatres, scenes involving ghosts were shown in a "process" dubbed Illusion-O: the filmed elements of the actors and the sets — everything except the ghosts — were displayed in regular black-and-white, while the ghost elements were tinted a pale blue and superimposed over the frame. Audiences received viewers with red and blue cellophane filters. Choosing to look through the red filter intensified the images of the ghosts, while the blue filter "removed" them. Despite Castle's claims to the contrary, not many heart attacks or nervous breakdowns were averted by the Illusion-O process; although the blue filter did screen out the ghostly images, the ghosts were visible with the naked eye, without the red filter.
Because the ghosts were indeed viewable by the naked eye, the movie ran for years on television with no viewer needed to see the ghosts. DVD editions have varied in their preservation of the Illusion-O effect, with the latest DVD release including versions with and without the ghost outlines and a set of special viewers.
While technically without the special viewers the ghosts are visible, they do look better using a red cellophane filter. An easy way to get one would be to buy a cheap pair of old school 3D glasses and just use the red side; the ghosts become far more visible then.
It was remade in 2001 under the title of Thirteen Ghosts, directed by Steve Beck. Like the original film, it was distributed by Columbia Pictures (except USA and Canada which was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures).
- "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
- Castle, William (1976). Step right up!: ... I'm gonna scare the pants off America. New York City, New York, US: G. P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 9780399114700. OCLC 1974189. Retrieved March 30, 2012.