BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
William Castle never met a gimmick he didn’t like. Known for filling theaters with anxious audiences, his gimmicks, whether they be 13 Ghosts’ special Dr. Zorba ghost viewer or the auditioning of girls from different countries to be in 13 Frightened Girls, he knew how to sell his special brand of B-movies. As movies didn’t have national openings when he was at his most fruitful, the news of the gimmicks included with his releases spread a like a fire among movie-goers, young and old. People had to see it to believe it.
Columbia Pictures has started a new double-feature campaign that highlights the directorial efforts of Castle. The two films included with this release are 1960’s classic 13 Ghosts and, hailing from 1963, a certifiable cold war relic known as 13 Frightened Girls.
13 Ghosts, written by Robb White, features solid performances from the in-demand child star, Charles Herbert (The Fly) and the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Margaret Hamilton. Using a coloring process to colorizing the ghosts in the feature, the movie concerns itself with the huge haunted house occultist Dr. Zorba has left to his nephew Cyrus (Donald Woods) and his penniless family.
None can blame Cyrus for jumping at the chance to own the sprawling mansion. Even if the house has a legacy of disturbances thanks to Dr. Zorba’s supernatural meddling. There are rumored to be 12 ghosts in the house and a whole lot of money hidden somewhere inside it. All of this just excited the family more.
It also brings a whole lot of trouble. Lawyer Benjamin Rush (Martin Milner) strikes first, positioning himself as a love interest to the oldest daughter and a friend to their youngest. He eventually uses Buck (Herbert) to help him locate the loot and claim it for himself. Except the 12 ghosts, in search of an unlucky 13th ghoul to free them, have other plans in store for him and with the audience’s help – who must use special red or blue filtered glasses in order to see them or not – they will get the freedom they are seeking.
Audiences who wanted to see the ghosts were instructed to use the red lensed glasses. Those too afraid to watch were advised to put the blue lenses on. The blue filter – just colored cellophane – wiped the ghostly images away and, with one scene showing a decapitation and another a vicious murder, the haunted images were causing all sorts of commotion. If the headless lion tamer and the lion trying to tempt Herbert to place his head in its mouth wasn’t enough to cause a reaction, then the hanging lady surely would. Castle kept topping himself and 13 Ghosts remains a credit to his particular brand of the macabre.
The second film, 13 Frightened Girls, is definitely a product of its time period and does not hold up as well. It is a political thriller that features a 16-year-old-girl sleuthing alongside an intelligence agent (played by character actor Murray Hamilton of Jaws and The Amityville Horror fame) as they uncover a plot to undermine and threaten the security of the United States. The gimmick in this one lies in the international casting call for the girls. He needed a good mix to the cast since the plot involved a baker’s dozen girls. Diplomatic daughters, to be specific. While he probably never nailed down that international cast, he sold it well. Unfortunately, the family-friendly Walt Disney-like atmosphere of the picture meant so many of his regulars stayed away.
It is a film ridden with problems. From the ludicrous opening in which a 16-year-old is trusted to drive a bus with a bunch of children on board to the pro-American speech that is woven into almost every line, it doesn’t stand of chance of being anything but propaganda. The pretty girl campaign didn’t really launch any of these young women into Hollywood stardom and only Alexandra Bastedo survived its wake to go on and be a sex symbol, starring in the 1968 British espionage/science fiction adventure series The Champions.
These two films – plus another double-feature release from Columbia containing Homicide and Mr. Sardonicus – are only a dip in the big gooey bucket of Castle’s films. Scoop them up or Castle will get you!
Available on Blu-ray - July 19, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: 13 Ghosts - none; 13 Frightened Girls - none
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: A
In typical low-budget fashion, the 1080p transfers on these twofers are kind to the features they contain, just not the prettiest. Levels are strong throughout, with black levels holding inky and shadows defined. Of particular note is the fact that the hi-definition upgrade in video and audio quality over the previous releases makes this series of releases from Columbia easy to recommend, particularly when it’s available at such a low price for customers. Just don’t expect anything visually striking with these two films. Both films are presented in English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track.