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The William Castle Film Collection (13 Frightened

DVD compilation of movies directed by William Castle

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Worth watching? Absolutely. Worth buying? Not on your life!

  • Jun 27, 2011
  • by
Sony's latest attempt to cash in on the king of gimmick-driven feature film showmanship is a quality effort, but its title is misleading; perhaps The Columbia Castle Collection would have been more appropriate. Then again, although Columbia distributed all of these titles, the famed studio only produced one of the films in this set (the incomparably silly Zotz!), while the rest were products of William Castle Productions.

At the very least, this can't really be THE William Castle Film Collection without Macabre and H ouse on Haunted Hill, and while the former has never been released on any home video format to my knowledge, the latter is widely available in well over a dozen low-budget DVD editions, some of which are of very good quality. House belongs on the same disc as The Tingler - Castle signed Price to a two-picture deal for both, and shot and released them back-to-back. As a result, they retain a common ethos, and as two of Castle's best pictures, it's absurd that one is included without the other. Sony has among the deepest pockets around; why couldn't they obtain a good print of House, which has been in the public domain for years? Nonetheless, this does include Castle's second adaptation of The Old Dark House and Zotz! While Zotz! was at least granted a VHS relea se some years ago, The Old Dark House was never released on any home video format in the U.S. until now. This is a film that's never received the respect it deserves: it's been unjustly dismissed in comparison to both the novel on which it's based (Benighted) and James Whale's superior adaptation released over thirty years prior. Not a great picture by any means, it's still a fun and intriguing alternate take of its much more famous predecessor.

Anyhow, the audiovisual quality of the features in this set is uniformly excellent. Despite a few rough sequences (most notably, the especially grainy colorized scene endemic of all existing copies of The Tingler), picture and sound alike have been remastered as well as could be expected. Scene selection menus for all of the features are comprised of 12 untitled thumbnail film stills spread over three screens. Despite their lack of titles, these are very easy to navigate.

All of the featurettes and trailers of the previously-released Sony DVDs are included on their respective discs, and while 13 Frightened Girls!, Homicidal and The Tingler enjoy the wealth of special features, all of these pictures' over-the-top trailers are enclosed. For Castle fans, the featurettes are a treat - comprised of interviews with cast and crew members, Castle enthusiasts and film historians, footage from the movies and plenty of publicity photos, they convey quite a lot about Castle's promotional hijinks and immersive, ludicrous brand of entertainment. However, they also further emphasize the absence of House on Haunted Hill, which deserves the same treatment! All four alternate opening scenes for 13 Frightened Girls! are included, as is the very silly alternate "scream" audio for The Tingler, some of which was recorded specifically for drive-in theaters!

It should be noted that the multitude of subtitles and alternate dubbed soundtracks on the preceding individual DVDs are not available on those of this set.

Another particularly interesting inclusion is Graveyard Shift, a 1973 episode of the short-lived Ghost Story TV series. Highlights of this episode starring John and Patty Duke Astin (who appropriately play a husband and wife) include the aged Castle performing a small role as a weathered old film producer and the Royal Warlocks: the oldest, most dapper gang of teen thugs ever provided by Central Casting! While this cheesy episode does has a place in this set, I have no idea why it's included as a special feature for The Tinger.

So, is it worth forty to eighty dollars? Certainly not, especially for those who own at least some of the individual DVD editions of the films in this set. Fortunately, you won't have to pay that much to see it, anyway - all of these discs are available via NetFlix. Enjoy!

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More The William Castle Film Collec... reviews
review by . April 19, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
William Castle never really did get the respect he deserved as a filmmaker. He made movies that were hugely popular and made tons of money. By the late 1950s, going to the movies wasn't as popular as it had been decades and even just a few years earlier. Castle once again popularized the idea of going to the movies as an active event, rather than the passive past time it had become. Yet, he never received much critical acclaim.   As an avid film buff, I don't like acknowledging …
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"Eight tales of tongue-in-cheek terror from one of the movies' masters of ballyhoo await classic horror fans in the lavish William Castle Film Collection. The five-disc set represents some of the high points of the producer-director's career at Columbia Pictures, after he'd established himself as a maverick with a taste for eye-popping promotional gimmicks with the Allied Artists hits Macabre (1958) and House on Haunted Hill (1959), neither of which is included here. The set kicks off with the obscure 13 Frightened Girls(1963), a lightweight thriller about espionage at a girls' school, but soon launches into high gear with 13 Ghosts(1960), a terrifically fun chillfest about a family that inherits a haunted mansion and the title gaggle of spooks, which can only be seen (by characters and audience alike) via a special ""Ghost Viewer."" Castle's homages to Psycho--the grisly Homicidal and Strait-Jacket, which stars an unrestrained Joan Crawford in a tale of ax murders penned by Psycho scribe Robert Bloch--are partnered on a second disc, while a third features Castle's team-up with England's Hammer Films for a darkly comic remake of the Boris Karloff classic The Old Dark House(1963) and an adaptation of Ray Russell's grisly Gothic chiller,Mr. Sardonicus (1961). The final double feature pairs one of Castle's most offbeat titles--the fantasy-comedy Zotz! (1962), which, like Old Dark House, stars Tom Poston as a nebbish ...
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Director: William Castle
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: 2009.10.20
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: October 20, 2009
Runtime: 692 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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