13 Ghosts

Happy Birthday to the Juggernaut Bitch! John DeSantis: Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to the Juggernaut Bitch! John DeSantis: Happy Birthday

Horrormadam here to wish one of my favorite character actors John DeSantis a very Happy Birthday! Born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, at 6’9″ John has starred in some of my favorite films as some of my favorite characters. He played Ragnar in The 13th Warrior (1999), Lurch in the New Addams Family (1999), and he played some of the greatest characters in the TV show Supernatural, as Moloch/Scarecrow/The Golem. He is one of the tallest actors out of Canada and also was in Aliens VS Predator: Requiem (2007). Known by his nickname Big John, I and everyone here at the House of Tortured Souls would love to wish him a very Happy Birthday and look forward to all of his new projects including his current series VanHelsing on SyFy.

Posted by Alan Smithee in CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYS, 0 comments
Top Five Films to Watch in October (Part 4)

Top Five Films to Watch in October (Part 4)

Part of the House of Tortured Souls
Staff Pick October 2016

By Woofer McWooferson

These are in the order they occurred to me as opposed to being ranked 1-5.

The Thing (1982)

Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady in John Carpenter's The Thing / Fair use doctrine.

Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady in John Carpenter's The Thing

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the most perfectly crafted horror movies of all time. Based on the John W. Campbell story “Who Goes There?”, The Thing centers around the events at Outpost 31, a US research station in Antarctica, after two Norwegians die while chasing a Siberian Husky headed into Outpost 31. After investigating the Norwegian outpost, they return with videos and...something in the snow. They soon realize that they’ve come across an alien creature capable of mimicking the form of any creature it has killed, and one could be among them now. While Kurt Russell as the rough but intelligent helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, is clearly the standout, the entire ensemble works to the film’s advantage. From the soft-spoken dog handler Clark (Richard Masur) to the burnout pilot Palmer (David Clennon) to the by the books captain Garry (Donald Moffat), each character becomes increasingly paranoid. The uncertainty of never knowing who is human or not weighs on all of them, and we are along for the ride as they try to find out. With creature effects by Rob Bottin, Carpenter’s impeccable direction, additional cast that includes Richard Dysart and Wilford Brimley), The Thing remains as near a perfect horror film as can be, and my personal all-time favorite.

The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

Amanda Donohoe as Lady Sylvia Marsh in Lair of the White Worm / Fair use doctrine.

Amanda Donohoe as Lady Sylvia Marsh in Lair of the White Worm

Ken Russell has made some extremely strange films, and The Lair of the White Worm is no exception. Very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novella of the same name, Lair takes us to Derbyshire where Scottish archeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) digs up a large and unidentifiable skull on the site of an old convent. While attending a party at the house of Lord James d’Ampton (Hugh Grant), Flint learns of the legend of the Dampton worm (a gigantic snake) and decides that must be the source of the skull. Meanwhile, Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) returns to Temple House, and Mary (Catherine Oxenberg), one of the two sisters who run the bed and breakfast where Flint is staying, disappears. Could it all be related? Is there another snake in the nearby cavern? Will Peter Capaldi play Doctor Who? Wait… scratch the last one. Packed with plenty of hallucinogenic visuals and some sexy snake woman action, The Lair of the White Worm is a unique horror experience.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

House on Haunted Hill / Fair use doctrine.

Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart in House on Haunted Hill

No October could be complete without multiple Vincent Price and William Castle films, and this is the best of both worlds. Price plays millionaire Frederick Loren who, along with his unwilling wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), are hosting a party for five strangers at a haunted house. Loren will pay any of the guests who can remain in the house all night $10,000, so there’s plenty of reason for people to stick around. However, their arrival in funeral cars, Annabelle’s insistence that Frederick is psychotic, and Frederick’s presents of .38 ACPs to the attendees give people plenty of reasons to reconsider. The Lorens’ acerbic banter make it clear to all that they’re not exactly a happy couple, but are they murderers? Who will survive the night and how? House on Haunted Hill is classic Vincent Price and classic William Castle. Price’s Loren is suave and worldly and a little bit sinister. Ohmart’s Annabelle is sharp, strong, and sexy. House on Haunted Hill gets a special viewing every October.

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wicker Man / Fair use doctrine.

Pagan animal masks in The Wicker Man

When I was first introduced to this film in the early eighties, I instantly fell in love. Edward Woodward plays Sgt. Neil Howie, who travels to the Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, and Christopher Lee stars as the charming and erudite Lord Summerisle. Lord Summerisle’s grandfather had developed strains of fruit trees that would prosper in Scotland's climate, planted those trees on Summerisle, and encouraged the inhabitants to turn to the old gods so that the trees would prosper. Lee’s Lord Summerisle is well aware of why the crops failed, but he encourages and supports the islanders’ actions completely. As Howie learns all this, he begins to suspect the girl will be sacrificed to save their failing crop of apples. The Wicker Man is a dark, sensual, and, in some ways, brutal film. The end is a real gut punch and remains one of my favorite film endings. If you haven’t already, check out The Wicker Man. You’ll be glad you did.

13 Ghosts (1960)

Illusion-O Ghost Viewer from the original 13 Ghosts / Fair use doctrine.

Illusion-O Ghost Viewer from the original 13 Ghosts

And, finally, we are back to William Castle. This was one of my favorite movies as a kid. If you don’t know the story, Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods) inherits a home when his Uncle Plato Zorba dies, but the home comes with thirteen ghosts – with Plato himself being the thirteenth. Castle marketed it in Illusion-O, a viewer that allowed audience members to choose whether or not to see the ghosts. I recall being absolutely amazed at the ghost viewer and terrified that I could see the ghosts. The ghost lion particularly impressed me as I had never imagined a ghost animal. The addition of a mystery – there’s a cash inheritance hidden somewhere inside, a handsome but evil young lawyer (Martin Milner) out to obtain it for himself, and a housekeeper who might be a witch (Margaret Hamilton) brought more to what might just be a typical haunted house tale. If you can get a copy of 13 Ghosts in Illusion-O, you can use red and blue transparency to make your own ghost viewer. I advise giving it a shot as it’s a nice nostalgic black and white classic.

Now, I believe I was finishing American Horror Story season five, so if you'll excuse me...

Posted by Alan Smithee in HALLOWEEN, STAFF PICKS, 1 comment

Haunt Off – 13 Ghosts Versus Thir13en Ghosts

William Castle's 13 Ghosts
Terry Castle's Thir13en Ghosts
Part 3 of 3

By Woofer McWooferson

13 Ghosts - Plato Zorba v Cyrus Kriticos

Plato v Cyrus

It isn't easy to compare movies that came out 51 years apart, particularly when those films are in the horror genre and involves ghosts. This final analysis compares William Castle's 13 Ghosts to Terry Castle's Thir13en Ghosts, bearing in mind that Ms. Castle was only a co-producer and did not direct it whereas William Castle both produced and directed 13 Ghosts.

Being the showman that he was, William Castle touted 13 Ghosts as being in Illusion-O, a film technique that allowed audiences to see the “real” ghosts in the movie by looking through one lens or to watch a tamer version sans ghosts by looking through the other. In the film, there is a single set of glasses that Plato Zorba used to see ghosts and which is left to his nephew Cyrus and his family. In addition to a change of color on the screen, a message would flash to indicate that it was time to use the viewer, effectively making the audience part of the film. The Zorba family was affable and it was easy for audiences to relate to their situation – both on the natural and supernatural levels. The mother and father were kind and thoughtful, the daughter beautiful and charming, and the boy intelligent, playful, and a fan of all things horror. The ghosts, while disturbing, were only half the Zorba family's problem; lawyer Ben Rush was the other half, and quite the problem he was. Viewers genuinely wanted Rush to be caught or killed by the ghosts!

Everything that made 13 Ghosts charming and fun is missing from Thir13en Ghosts. The uncle has gone from eccentric to evil, the ghosts from tortured souls to malevolent, murdering entities, and the family from a loving and caring unit to a collection of individuals to whom the audience cannot relate nor care about, leaving viewers unconcerned for their well-being. The “sprawling old mansion” has been replaced by a super high tech, 3-D Rubik's house and deliberate tension-building sequences with real dialogue were replaced by jump scares and the witty quips that seem to overpopulate today's horror. Whereas 13 Ghosts only had one viewer for all in the family to share, Thir13en Ghosts had several, the better to allow the camera to follow as each member is confronted by one or more of the indiscriminate but vengeful spirits. It revolves around its effects rather allowing the effects to enhance the story.

Final word on the Haunt Off - 13 vs Thir13en:

Do yourself a favor. Save Th13en Ghosts for a popcorn and soda party that never wakes up. Then dim the lights and put on 13 Ghosts instead.

Check out my review of 13 Ghosts, and my review of Thir13en Ghosts .

13 Ghosts – 10/10 claws, fun for the entire family.
Th13en Ghosts - 4/10 claws – All four claws are for the ghosts and the house.

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

MOVIE REVIEW: 13 Ghosts (1960)

Part 1 of 3:
William Castle's 13 Ghosts

By Woofer McWooferson


Director: William Castle; Writer: Robb White; Stars: Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Martin Milner, Rosemary DeCamp, Donald Woods, Margaret Hamilton; Rating: NR; Run Time: 85 min; Genre: Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1960

Among William Castle's most memorable films, 13 Ghosts opens by showing audiences a count of 12 ghosts already in existence and a question mark indicating that the thirteenth ghost will be revealed as the movie unfolds. From here, it moves to a brief introduction wherein Castle explains to viewers that his new film technique (Illusion-O!) allows the audience to see the ghosts - if they chose to. Use of a special red/blue ghost viewer allows those who believe in ghosts to see them when the screen turns blue. To ensure maximum impact, USE VIEWER NOW would appear on screen to remind viewers to use their special ghost viewers. Finally, Castle asked the audience to be considerate of others who enter the film late and instruct them on how to use the viewer.

When occult researcher Dr. Plato Zorba dies, he leaves “one of those sprawling old mansions they built 50 years ago” to kind but forgetful nephew Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods). However, as Ben Rush (Martin Milner), Dr. Zorba's lawyer, notes, the family also inherits the 12 ghosts Dr. Zorba has gathered in the house. These ghosts can only be seen when wearing the special occult glasses Dr. Zorba invented. Son Buck (Charles Herbert), a huge horror fan, finds the house and ghosts a dream come true. Unbeknownst to the Zorba family, their lives at risk because Dr. Zorba stashed his fortune somewhere in the mansion. Zorba's housekeeper Elaine Zacharides (Margaret Hamilton in a role that nods and winks at her Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz) adds to the creepy factor, and the Zorbas find themselves ready to move in spite of their distressed financial situation.

Since the ghosts are revealed in the movie's opening, there is no mystery around their appearance. Instead, the mystery revolves around Uncle Plato's fortune. Everyone in the cast is brilliant, and there is real chemistry Ben Rush and Medea Zorba (Jo Morrow). Combined with Castle's Illusion-O!, 13 Ghosts deserves its place in the horror pantheon both on its own and as a cult film favorite. Do yourself a favor. Get some blue and red translucent viewgraph sheets and make your own ghost viewer... if you dare.

Find more about 13 Ghosts at IMDb. Watch for part 2 where I review Thir13en Ghosts, co-produced by William Castle's daughter Terry, and part 3 where I compare the father's and the daughter's films.

10/10 claws – 13 Ghosts stands the test of time

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

BOOK REVIEW: Step Right Up! (2010)



By Woofer McWooferson

Step Right Up! Cover 1 new

Author: William Castle; Publisher: William Castle Productions; ISBN: 978-0-5780-6682-0; Media: Paperback; Length: 276 pages; Genre: Autobiography; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2010

Emergo! Percepto! Illusion-O! Fright breaks, Coward's Corner, life insurance policies, punishment polls, and cardboard axes! Fans of horror movies in the 1950s and 1960s know these terms well as they are signature gimmicks of the consummate showman and director: William Castle. Even as a young child, Castle knew that he wanted to scare audiences to the same extent that he was scared during The Monster, a horror play that he attended with his father when Castle was the tender age of six. He was hooked on horror, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

Step Right Up! I'm Gonna Scare the Pants off America: Memoirs of a B-Movie Mogul is Castle's autobiography and a captivating journey through the life and mind of the man John Waters called, "...my idol. His films made me want to make films.” Originally published in 1976. Step Right Up! contains musings and recollections that are colorful, entertaining, and educational, his descriptions weaving a tapestry that makes readers feel as if they are sharing a brandy with Castle himself in his den. With Castle as our tour guide, we accompany him backstage to meet Bela Lugosi, whose difficulty in pronouncing Castle's surname, Schloss, instantly convinced the young man to adopt the name Castle, the English version of Schloss. We watch as a young Castle bluffs his way into a meeting with Orson Welles, eventually earning the right to take over Welles' Mercury Theatre. And we thrill as a chance encounter with Vincent Price completely changed the direction of Price's career, eventually establishing him as one of the greatest horror actors in the US.

Though Castle's success undeniably sprang from his ability to sell his films as a multimedia experience – a heretofore relatively rare tactic in filmmaking. Step Right Up! gives readers an unparalleled ride through Castle's life and career at a pace that never flags and that keeps the reader entertained, wondering what will next inspire the genius that was William Castle.

Not sure if Castle is your cup of mead? Check out some of these titles at the Internet Movie Database:

Bug (1975)
Shanks (1974)
Circle of Fear (1972 - 1973)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Project X (1968)
The Spirit Is Willing (1967)
The Busy Body (1967)
Let's Kill Uncle (1966)
I Saw What You Did (1965)
The Night Walker (1964)
Strait-Jacket (1964)
The Old Dark House (1963)
13 Frightened Girls! (1963)
Zotz! (1962)
Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Homicidal (1961)
13 Ghosts (1960)
The Tingler (1959)
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Macabre (1958)

If you like horror, step right up to check out Step Right Up! You will not be disappointed.

Bonus Fact: The character of Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman) in Joe Dante's 1993 film Matinee is based on William Castle.

10/10 claws – don't forget your "Illusion-O" handheld ghost viewer

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments