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Thirteen Ghosts

Thirteen Ghosts on DVD

Chills and Thrills, William Castle Style

From the maker of “The Tingler ” comes this haunted mansion story with its own gimmick.

William Castle, the producer/director and showman, knew how to promote a movie. For “ Tingler ,” he had some of the theaters’ seats wired to give a “tingle” to some audience members. For “House on Haunted Hill,” he ran a skeleton across the ceiling of the theater on a wire.

Then there’s “13 Ghosts,” for which he created Illusion-O. This effect requires special glasses, much the same way that 3D movies do, except that there’s nothing 3D about “Ghosts.”

The plot revolves around a broke family inheriting a mansion haunted by twelve ghosts. Who will become the thirteenth ghost is the mystery, with everyone involved desperately hoping it won’t be them.

That’s about all the plot description you need, so go to it!

The characters are all fairly broad, including an “enhanced cameo” appearance by Margaret Hamilton (the wicked witch from “The Wizard of Oz”) where she gets repeated accused of being a witch. Martin Milner, who went on to fame with the “Adam 12” TV series, plays a likeable lawyer (how’s that for a suspension of disbelief?) who may or may not have more below the surface than he lets on.

Considering the movie’s age, and raison d’etre , it works pretty well today. Sure it’s hokey, but it was hokey back then, too and the date special effects make it work even better today.

Then there’s Illusion-O. Columbia Tristar has released two version of the movie on the single DVD. The version that’s face up when you open the box is the “un-Illusion- Oed ” version, but if you flip it over and grab the glasses included in the box you’ll get the full “benefit” of the gimmick.

That gimmick uses a colored filter during the scenes where ghosts are on screen and you can use the appropriate filter on the glasses to either see or hide from the ghosts (the latter choice for the particularly faint of heart). It works fine, but I have to admit we got tired of it quickly and, since there’s only one set of glasses in the box (you can order extra for three bucks a pop – and you’ll never use them for any other movie), stopped the disc and went back to the “ unenhanced ” version.

Both versions are presented in anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), with Dolby Digital mono sound. Picture and sound quality are about what you’d expect. They’re fine, but nothing outstanding, and it doesn’t matter anyway: this is “13 Ghosts!”

Extras include a “making of Illusion-O” featurette , Castle’s original introduction, trailers, and production notes.

13 Ghosts, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
84 min, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital mono
Starring Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Martin Milner, Rosemary De Camp, Donald Woods, with Margaret Hamilton
Written by Robb White, Produced and Directed by William Castle


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Updated May 13, 2006