Movie Mom

Movie Mom


William Castle’s “13 Ghosts”

posted by Nell Minow

People often ask me if I’ve ever walked out of a movie.  Fortunately, I seem to have an endless tolerance and sometimes even affection for bad movies.  But just once, I did insist on leaving the theater, and a delightful tribute to William Castle’s horror movies on Turner Classic Movies reminded me of the film that did drive me from the theater.  It was Castle’s 13 Ghosts.

While William Castle worked with legendary Hollywood artists like George Stevens and Orson Welles, he is best remembered for his cheesy horror films, produced on micro-budgets but marketed with magna-artistry. Indeed, his marketing campaigns were far more creative than his films with fantastic gimmicks like a life insurance policy for anyone who died of fright during the film and a plastic skeleton that flew out into the audience from a wire above the screen.  He even wired seats in the theater to give the audience an electric shock for The Tingler.

I wrote about my favorite, for the movie Homicidal, in my new book, 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

As often happens in thrillers, there comes a point near the climax when a character is warned not to go into a dark, menacing house.  Of course, she goes anyway, but before she does, the movie gives us a “fright break.”  A stopwatch on screen counts down 45 seconds to give those who are too terrified to find out what is inside that house to leave and get their money back. According to director John Waters, a Castle fan, when people actually took advantage of this offer,

William Castle simply went nuts. He came up with “Coward’s Corner,” a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn’t take it any more, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward’s Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stenciled message: “Cowards Keep Walking.” You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform?…I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, “Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward’s Corner!” As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity — at Coward’s Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, “I am a bona fide coward.’“ Very, very few were masochistic enough to endure this. The one percent refund dribbled away to a zero percent, and I’m sure that in many   cities a plant had to be paid to go through this torture.

I hope not many got their money back.  The surprise in the house is pretty wild!

In “13 Ghosts,” a family moves into a spooky house.  The gimmick is explained by Castle himself at the beginning of the film.  I was so sure that the ghosts were real that I insisted my mother take me out of the theater.  But now, I own the DVD, which of course came with its own ghost viewer.

YouTube Preview Image


Previous Posts

List: The Best Movie Con Games and Grifters
In honor of this week's release of "Focus," here are some of my favorite movies about con games and grifters. Remember that "con" comes from "confidence." A con man (or woman) makes you believe in them and have confidence in their schemes. And cons make great movies. If you haven't seen these, crank

posted 3:45:21pm Feb. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Love & Mercy with Paul Dano and John Cusack as Brian Wilson
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VUhFpFQeilM?rel=0" frameborder="0"] "Love & Mercy" tells the story of Brian Wilson, the brilliant but troubled member of the Beach Boys.

posted 8:14:21am Feb. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Contest: Win an Insurgent T-Shirt
Getting ready for the second film in the "Divergent" series? Not sure you have just the right thing to wear? I'm here to solve your problem! I have an "Insurgent" t-shirt (Size L) to give away!

posted 3:55:04pm Feb. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Toys That Impair Imagination: The Over-Licensing of Children's Toys
It's always tempting to give children toys from the movies and television programs they love, and some of them are high-quality or even educational. But Melissa Atkins Wardy has a very good argument

posted 8:00:05am Feb. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: Ryan Potter, Hiro in "Big Hero 6"
Ryan Potter provided the voice for Hiro in this week's DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week, the Oscar-winning Big Hero 6. Talking to him on the phone, it was easy to imagine I was talking to Hiro himself. Other than a few moments with Maya Rudolph, who played Hiro's harried guardian, he did not interact

posted 3:58:31pm Feb. 24, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.