Friday, August 14, 2015

WILLIAM CASTLE HORROR COLLECTION (1960-1963)


WILLIAM CASTLE HORROR COLLECTION (1960-1963) 

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment 

Release Date: August 18th 2015 
Duration: 7 Hours 18 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: 1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Video: Anamoprhic Widescreen (1.78:1, 1.85:1) 
Director: William Castle
Cast: Rosemary DeCamp, Glenn Corbett, Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Murray Hamilton, Guy Rolfe

Mill Creek have put together a fun set of 60s b-movie fun from the Alfred Hitchcock of schlock - William Castle, a showman of the highest order who infused his movies with scares, fun and plenty of gimmicks. Licensed from Columbia Pictures the set features the film in the original widescreen presentations and the transfers looks mighty fine. 


13 GHOSTS (1960) 

B/W – 85 Mins – Not Rated – Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Starring: Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Martin Milner, Rosemary DeCamp. Donald Woods, Margaret Hamilton

First up is the fun scare-film 13 Ghosts, we find a Museum employee Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods) who is on the verge of being evicted from his home alongside his wife Hilda (Rosemary DeCamp), teen daughter Medea (Jo Morrow) and adolescent son Buck (Charles Herbert). This luck seems to have changes when from out of nowhere he inherits a creepy old house that belonged to hus uncle, Dr. Plato Zorba. Of course they take advantage of the inheritance and move right in, but the house comes with baggage, a housekeeper, Elaine Zacharides, played my none other than actress Margaret Hamilton who played the wicked Witch of the West in the classic Wizard of Oz, her most famous role is referenced throughout to fun effect.


Dr. Zorba, who dabbled in the dark arts of the occult, is said to have hid away a vast fortune somewhere in the home,which is also haunted by twelves horrifying ghosts, which can only be seen when wearing a pair of special-made goggles created by Dr. Zorba, which is where the infamous Illusion-O gimmick comes into play. 

At the cinema when the movie would play the audience where given special viewers of which to watch the film, there was a blue filter and a red filter. If you were brave enough you would watch it through the red lens it would make the ghosts stand out, if you chose the blue lens the ghostly images would remove the ghostly images, which is a fun ploy, though I am unsure how effective it was, but that is a kind of showmanship and interactivity sorely missing from today's cinemas, we need more b-movie schlock these days. 

Not scary but pretty amusing, the young kid Buck (Charles Herbert) steals the show as an adolescent boy fascinated by the supernatural, and ultimately the one who solves the puzzle of the missing fortune. 

13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS (1963) 
Color – 88 Mins – Not Rated – Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Starring: Murray Hamilton, Joyce Taylor, Hugh Marlowe, Khigh Dhiegh, Charlie Briggs, Norma Varden

Next up is a fun Cold War era espionage thriller set at a Swiss boarding school attended by the daughters of various international diplomats. Candace "Candy" Hull (Kathy Dunn) is the daughter of American Diplomat  John Hull (Hugh Marlowe), she has a crush on her an older man named Wally Sanders (Murray Hamilton, the mayor from Jaws), a spy working for her father. To impress him she begins to do a bit of spying on her own, using her friendship with Mai-Ling (Lynne Sue Moon), the niece of a Red Chinese diplomat, to uncover secrets.Turns out the teen has quite a knack for espionage, and uncovers the murder of a Russian diplomat and is now caught up in a cat and mouse game of espionage and teen romance, and while it is not horror it it a lot of fun, this one feels very much along the lines of an old live-action Disney film from the 60s.  


The gimmick this time out is not some hokey visual process, but some pre-filming publicity by way of a contest, a casting call for thirteen girls from thirteen different countries to reprsent their own country in a starring role in the film. 

MR. SARDONICUS (1961) 

B/W – 90 Mins – Not Rated – Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Starring: Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton, Guy Rolfe, Oskar Homolka, Vladimir Sokoloff, Erika Peters

This creepy horror classic is based on a novella by screenwriter Ray Russell (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes), and is brought to life by William Castle (13 Ghosts), master of terror! Desperate to retrieve a winning lottery ticket, a greedy baron unearths his father s corpse. An enormous jackpot is his reward, but not without a price his face is frozen permanently into a hideous grin. He enlists his fiendish one-eyed servant to help him lift this horrible curse, but their schemes fail. Finally, he turns to a noted neurosurgeon and his wife s former lover to cure him.


There's never a bad time to watch a William Castle production and tonight was definitely the time to watch Mr. Sardonicus (1961), it was hitting almost all of the right notes for me.  There's a great foggy London-set intro from William Castle himself, ever the showman he comes off as the schlocky Hitchcock, which is very appropriate. We're introduced to a London doctor named Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis, Scream of Fear) whom receives a letter from an old flame, Maude (Audrey Dalton, The Monster That Challenged the World) imploring him to visit her, apparently it's a matter of life and death. Once he arrives it's quickly revealed she was coerced into summoning him by her husband Baron Sardonicus, a real bastard played to perfection by Puppet Master 3's Guy Rolfe. The Baron wishes for Cargrave to cure him of a horrible affliction  the Baron  after unearthing his own father's corpse from the grave to obtain a winning lottery ticket he was stricken with a permanently grotesque smile across his face, this aspect reminded me of The Man Who Smiles (1939), if the doctor should refuse or fail to succeed in devising a treatment Maude's life hangs in the balance.

It was a blast to see Guy Rolfe as a younger man, loved him from the few Puppet Master entries from Full Moon. Early on in the film the Baron's face is hidden, shrouded in mystery beneath as mask, which was pretty great. Once the hideous affliction is revealed it's a whole new level of weird, he's a creepy villain and he comes with a one-eyed man servant named Krull (Oskar Homolka, The Seven Year Itch) who threatens to steal most of the scenes he appears in, it's great stuff. As great as Homolka is it's Guy Rolfe who definitely steals the show with his maniacal charisma, not to diminish a strong performance from Ronald Lewis as our hero and Audrey Dalton who turns in a smaller performance but as a sympathetic heroin she's quite fine.  


A fun watch, it drags from time to time, your mileage may vary depending on your temperance for black and white, it's a William Castle production so you just know that there's a gimmick, this time out it's a choose-your-own-ending feature, sorta. Unfortunately we don't get zapped in our asses with an electric shock but this is still an entertaining watch in the tradition of a twisty Twilight Zone episode. 


HOMICIDAL (1961) 

B/W – 88 Mins – Not Rated - Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Starring: Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce, Richard Rust, James Westerfield

Homicidal is pretty much William Castle's spin on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, at the top of the movie a pretty blond checks into a hotel and comes on strong to a bellboy, offering him cash to marry her, which he accepts. They arrive at the justice of the peace for a quick wedding and as soon as the nuptials are finished she pulls a kitchen knife from her purse and stabs the justice to death! I was bowled over by this one, the amount of violence is pretty shocking for the time, Castle was definitely trying to one-up Hitchcock here with a knockout blond and some amped up violence and blood. 

The woman runs off and a search begins for the blond murderess, meanwhile the woman, revealed to be Emily (Jean Arliss) returns to her home where she cares for a mute, wheelchair-bound old lady (Eugenie Leontovitch) whom she abuses at every turn for reasons unknown. Also in the picture are the old woman's niece Miriam (Patricia Breslin) and he brother Warren, all of whom become suspicious of Emily as her behavior becomes more and more erratic - with the murder of the justice of the peace having something to do with an inheritance in the family. Arliss is fantastic as the nut-job murderess, and the reveal at the end is truly a shocker that I did not see coming, I knew something was up, but I just couldn't put my finger on what it was until it was revealed - good job Mr Castle, you got me! 

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1963) 
Color – 87 Mins – Not Rated – Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Starring: Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Janette Scott, Joyce Grenfell, Mervyn Jones, Fenella Fielding

The last film on the set is an adaptation of the J. B. Priestley which was previously adapted by James Whale (Frankenstein) in the 30s. we begin with an American car salesman Tom Penderel (Tom Poston, from the Bob Newhart Show) delivering a new car to Casper Femm (Peter Bull) at the the Femm family home located in a very rural area. Pulling up to the gate of the him during a torrential down pour a gargoyle falls onto the hood of the car, destroying the engine and stranding the aloof Penderel at the Fenn Family home. 


Once inside he meets the eccentric Femm family, who announce that Casper Femm has dies following an accidental fall down the stairs, but something more seems to be happening at the home, something murderous. From here we are treated to a macabre comedy of murder as one by one the inhabitants of the home fall prey to a killer, once again, inheritance seems to be the motive. This is a Hammer co-production and it certainly has a British feel about it, the comedic and macabre slapstick tone strongly reminded me of the Price-Lorre-Karloff classic The Comedy of Terrors (1964), this was a hoot and a ton of fun.  

A fun set from Mill Creek of some good old fashioned frights and laughs from the master of the b-movie William Castle. Sony had released these among others on a box set a few years ago, this is a great budget-minded edition from Mill Creek, minus the fun special features from the Sony set. I hope we see a second set in the near future with Castle's Straight-Jacket, The Tingler and Zot! among others. Mill Creek Entertainment released Mr. Sardonicus on a double-feature Blu-ray not too long ago, would love to see a few HD William Castle double-features going forward, these are must own movies for fans of 60s schlock and this set comes highly recommended. 4/5 

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