13 Ghosts is produced and directed by William Castle and written by Robb White. It stars Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Martin Milner, Margaret Hamilton and Donald Woods. Cinematography is by Joseph Biroc and music by Von Dexter.
When the Zorba family inherit a house from the recently deceased Dr. Plato Zorba, they think their luck has turned for the better. But pretty soon it becomes evident that Plato was known to be a dabbler in the supernatural and the house is haunted by a number of ghosts
By the time of 13 Ghosts' release, William Castle was well into his stride as a showman producer. Following on from The Tingler, one of his best films that featured his best gimmick (Percepto), he brought to his target audience Illusion-O, basically a two coloured viewer that the audience could use if they did or did not want to see the ghosts in the film, a subtitle flashed on the screen prompted use of the viewer. Unlike The Tingler, 13 Ghosts isn't a good enough film to be considered better than the gimmick that accompanied it. Yet there's a glorious sense of fun about the film, anyone under the illusion (o) that Castle was trying for a serious horror to scare the teenagers, could do with listening to Von Dexter's score for some of the ghostly goings on. Wonderfully tongue in cheek, the whole thing is played for nervous smiles rather than shrieker schlock.
The effects used (red images in a black and white movie) are more than good enough for tone and purpose of this particular production, in fact if you watch in the dark in the right frame of mind, then the ghosts do have a creepy enough vibe to them. The narrative, while hardly taxing for the brain, does contain a couple of surprises, while the presence of the wonderful Margaret Hamilton (Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West) is a major plus point, especially since she closes the picture down with eyebrow shifting glee. Critics across the years have always been hard on the film, and for sure it's weak in direction, writing and a high percentage of the acting, but it was a hit at the box office. There was a market for it back then, and there still is now, you just gotta be into fun and in an undemanding horror/comedy mood.
Just above average for a cheeky chiller blues lifter. 6/10
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