The William Castle Film Collection

 
The Tingler (1959)      13 Ghosts (1960)       Homicidal (1961)

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)       Zotz! (1962)      13 Frightened Girls! (1963)

The Old Dark House (1963)      Strait-Jacket (1964)

 

Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007)

 

Iconic horror director William Castle created a simple, but winning formula for his films: a little comedy, a lot of scares, a preposterous gimmick, and a clear sense that fright films should be fun. This even meant Castle would, like Hitchcock, appear in his trailers and even the movies themselves. Though his career spanned 35 years and included everything from westerns to crime thrillers, he'll always be remembered for his horror films from the late 50s to the mid-60s. And now Sony presents all eight of his Columbia features - three making their DVD debut, the rest newly-remastered - in one "spook-tac-ular" collection. And as a bonus, it includes the award-winning feature-length documentary, Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story.

 


Titles

 


 

Homicidal (1961), begins with a woman paying a hotel bellhop to marry her and murdering the justice of the peace who performs the ceremony. She successfully flees the scene. She also just happens to work in a large mysterious house where there seem to be a multitude of family secrets, dominated by the late owner's obsession with obtaining a male heir.

Mr. Sardonicus (1961) is the tale of a 19th-century villager who obtained a fortune by retrieving a lottery ticket from the pocket of his dead father's vest pocket. Problem is, dad had been dead for some time and the sight of him shocked Sardonicus into having the same death grin himself. Now he'll stop at nothing to retrieve his normal facial expression.

Zotz! (1962) - A mild-mannered college professor finds an ancient amulet that can make people move in slow motion, and when enemy spies learn about it, a hilarious chase ensues.

The Old Dark House (1963), is Castle's version of the J.B. Priestley novel. It follows an American car salesman to a spooky old Welsh estate where the members of an eccentric family begin to get picked off one by one.

The Tingler (1959) has Vincent Price as a scientist looking for a live creature that he thinks is the basis for all fright and also has the power to frighten people to death.

13 Ghosts (1960) - Has a penniless man inheriting a mansion from his late uncle. It turn out that it is inhabited by 12 ghosts which special glasses enable the family to see. It also turns out that Uncle Cyrus left his fortune somewhere in the house.

13 Frightened Girls! (1963) - A bunch of privileged teenagers at a boarding school intersect with a tale of espionage. Silly but fun stuff.

Strait-Jacket (1964) - Twenty years ago Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) found her husband with another woman and did them both in with an ax. After being locked up for twenty years she is now free and supposedly sane. However, strange occurrences begin that make it look like Lucy has gone over the edge again. Joan gives a great performance here. Well, let's face it, she never gave a bad one regardless of the movie itself.

Excerpt from calvinnme "Texan refugee" review at Amaon.com located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1959 - 1964

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Sony (5-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:27:24, 1:24:21, 1:32:45, 1:25:27, 1:21:24, 1:29:51 + 1:26:18

Bitrate:

Disc one with 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) 13 Ghosts (1960)

Bitrate:

Disc two with Homicidal (1961) Strait-Jacket (1964)

Bitrate:

Disc three with The Tingler (1959) Zotz! (1962)

Bitrate:

Disc four with The Old Dark House (1963) Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

Audio English (original mono)
Subtitles None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
All Original 1.85 Aspect Ratios 

Edition Details:
• The Magic of Illusion-O
• Battle-Axe: The Making of Strait-Jacket
• Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests
• Axe Tests
• Scream For Your Lives: William Castle and The Tingler
• Taking the Punishment Poll
• Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal
• TV spots
• Ghost Story: Pilot (The New House)
• Ghost Story: Graveyard Shift
• How To Plan a Movie Murder- Vintage Featurette
• HOMICIDAL Youngstown, Ohio Premiere.
• Original "British" Trailer Introduction
• Original Candy Web Trailer
• Original "Candy Web" Theatrical Opening Message from William Castle
• Original "Candy Web" Theatrical Closing Message from William Castle
• Alternate Opening (British)
• Alternate Opening (Swedish)
• Alternate Opening (French)
• Alternate Opening (German)

Disc 5

• Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (1:22:00)

• Commentary with Producer/Director Jeffrey Schwarz and Terry Castle


DVD Release Date: October 20th, 2009

One Keep Case
Chapters: 12 X 6

 

Comments:

As with other Sony boxsets like Icons of Horror - Boris Karloff or Icons of Horror- Hammer Films collections, the feature films of this boxset - eight in this particular package - are shared, two each on four dual-layered, progressive DVDs. There is a fifth single-layered disc of the Castle documentary. All have original aspect ratios are 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced, and each disc is coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. They have original mono audio (or 2.0 channel stereo) and there are no subtitles. The package (image above) is a three tiered Digi-pak housed inside a cardboard slipcase. Five of the eight films have been on DVD previously - some with extras - Mr. Sardonicus, Homicidal, 13 Ghosts, The Tingler, and Strait-Jacket.  Zotz! (1962), 13 Frightened Girls! (1963), The Old Dark House (1963) and the 5th disc award-winning documentary Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007) make their debut on DVD.

Image quality: Although the previously released films-to-DVD are stated as being 'remastered' - this is a term that is easily thrown around and can mean very little. I already owned the single-layered Strait-Jacket with Joan Crawford and the image quality actually looks about the same despite the chronologically newer transfer. So, as these are all shared with another feature - we can consider each of them single-layered and not especially improved upon the previous DVD editions. The Tingler and Homicidal look quite good, the contrast on 13 Ghosts and Zotz! looks a little suspect, Straight-Jacket had some visible noise but overall despite some chroma - I'd say that these are all completely watchable. Certainly not pristine transfers but despite a move to Blu-ray - these aren't going to look dramatically superior. The modest appearance of these 8 films on digital is really no surprise. Sony's come-ons are the three previously unreleased (on DVD), the documentary - and getting them all in one package.

Audio was acceptable if unremarkable. It was consistent and clear enough but the dialogue is not supported with any subtitles which is a surprise as, I believe the individual DVD editions did have optional English, French, Portuguese or Spanish.

 

The supplements on the first 4 discs seem to duplicate the previously released films-to-DVD with some minor new material and content for the Zotz! (1962) - original trailer, 13 Frightened Girls! (1963) - alt-openings, The Old Dark House (1963) - original trailer. These are good though are stealing a bit of thunder from the 5th disc documentary - which you may want to see first. What may be new (I don't own all the older DVDs to be absolutely positive) is Season 1, Episode 19 of Ghost Story entitled Graveyard Shift with Patty Duke and John Astin and a cameo by Castle as the aged studio head. The Magic of Illusion-O, Battle-Axe: The Making of Strait-Jacket, Scream For Your Lives: William Castle and The Tingler, Psychette: William Castle and Homicidal and the Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests, Axe Tests, the alternate Country and Drive-In scenes - mostly made for further promotion - are all interesting. None are overly long and, at least, worth a peek.

 

The award-winning, hour-twenty two minute, 2007 - Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story documentary is great and where a lot of the shorter featurettes steal their content. It also offers a separate optional commentary track with Producer/Director Jeffrey Schwarz and Terry Castle for those who can't get enough (like moi). It focuses heavily on details like Joan Crawford's domination of Strait-Jacket and the Castle-produced Rosemary's Baby.  It has Diane Baker, daughter Terry, John Waters, Roger Corman, Leonard Maltin and many more with archive footage discussion of the impresario by Roman Polanski, Vincent Price and others. It's just great.

 

There was never anyone like William Castle. His finger was definitely on an entire era's movie-going pulse. For anyone who has seen Joe Dante's wonderful 'Matinee' from 1993 (a film I strongly recommend!) - they will know that John Goodman's character is a direct homage to Bill Castle.

 

Some of these films are wonderful enjoyment and I question any true film fans who would look down their nose at movies like The Tingler (1959), Homicidal (1961), Strait-Jacket (1964) and Mr. Sardonicus (1961) - they are pure entrainment. Cheesy - SURE - but they really define a time when one man's films were sneakily reaching out to embrace the public. You can really get an appreciation by watching the included Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story. Castle was dismissed by critics but adored by film-goers.

 

Despite the majority of the films in this package having been on DVD previously - the overall cost makes good financial sense for those who are just getting into the director/producer's oeuvre. You get 8 films and a feature length documentary for less than $60 (less than $7/each). We can complain that Sony are scrimping and not including films like "Macabre" - but I think this is a fabulous introduction to the director which will surely build more demand for his work like Shanks (1974), Project X (1968), Let's Kill Uncle (1966) or The Night Walker (1964). Let's hope for a Volume 2 !!

Gary W. Tooze


Sample DVD Menus


Supplements


 

The Tingler (1959)

 

Screen Captures
 
 

 

 

 

 

Gimmick:

 

Filmed in "Percepto". Some seats in theatres showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream - scream for your lives."

 

13 Ghosts (1960)

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gimmick:

Filmed in "Illusion-O". A hand held ghost viewer/remover with strips of red and blue cellophane was given out to use during certain segments of the film. By looking through either the red or blue cellophane the audience was able to either see or remove the ghosts if they were too frightening.

 

 


 

Homicidal (1961)

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

Gimmick - 45 second "Fright Break" clock gives a countdown to leave theater if you were too scared

 

 


 

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Zotz! (1962)

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

13 Frightened Girls! (1963)

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The Old Dark House (1963)

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Strait-Jacket (1964)

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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