Monday, October 24, 2016

Horror Countdown 2016: 13 Ghosts (1960)

13 Ghosts (1960) dir. William Castle, William Castle Productions

From Hitchcock we move back to the Hitchcock of gimmicks, and what a gimmick Castle gave us. Illusion-O may not be the best name, but it's a pretty neat. You can use the gimmick or not, but it does help with the film's overall presentation.

The Zorba family is in trouble. It's their son Buck's (Charles Herbert) birthday and he gets to watch the family's furniture be repossessed. Father Cyrus (Donald Woods) and mother Hilda (Rosemary DeCamp) are at their wits end when a letter arrives. It seems Cyrus's Uncle Plato has died and left his entire estate to his only living family, namely Cyrus and his kin.

The whole thing seems too good to be true. The cash strapped Zorbas move into the massive old home, complete with creepy caretaker Ellen (Margret Hamilton). There is a catch though; despite Plato's vast fortune there doesn't seem to be any actual money. Plato had emptied his accounts days before his death, but where did he put the money?

Plato left the family something more interesting than mere money though. He left them ghosts. Yes, the Zorbas are now living in the first genuinely haunted house in the world. Plato, somehow, searched the world over and captured ghosts, letting them roam freely throughout his home. The family finds out when daughter Medea (Jo Morrow) and Buck are playing with a Ouija board. When they ask if the house is haunted, a large painting of Uncle Plato crashes down, nearly killing the family.

Each ghost; the family finds notes on 12, has a grim story behind them. Cyrus can see them though, provided he uses the strange spectacles Plato left him (and the audience can use their own versions at home). That gives him a slight leg up on the ghosts, but not much.

While all this is going on, Plato's lawyer Ben Rush (Martin Milner) has enlisted Buck to help him. As mentioned, Plato liquefied all his accounts and assets. Rush seems to believe he hid the cash somewhere and he wants Buck to help. He makes the boy swear that he won't tell a living soul what's he doing or who he's doing with, which raises more than a few red flags.

Maybe the film isn't as smart as it thinks it is, but the effects are nice and Castle can still get the scares done right.   

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