94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

Discuss Blu-rays released by Indicator and the films on them.

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HitchcockLang
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#51 Post by HitchcockLang » Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:12 pm

I posted this over at the Blu-Ray.com forums and I apologize for posting the same info here but I know not everyone frequents both forums and this seemed like the kind of thing worth sharing. Apologies if I'm wrong.

I tried my hand at crafting my own ghost viewer for 13 Ghosts by printing a reasonably high resolution scan of an original onto cardstock, cutting out the windows, and using Scotch tape to affix strips I cut from old theater light gels that the school where I teach let me have. It bows a bit from the tape and so I may try a few more iterations with thicker cardstock, but the effect works beautifully and it feels more fun than just resorting to anaglyph glasses. Here's the result:

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MichaelB
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#52 Post by MichaelB » Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:27 am

Final specs for vol 2:

Zotz!

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13 Frightened Girls

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The Old Dark House

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Strait-Jacket

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Drucker
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#53 Post by Drucker » Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:17 am

Worked my way through this set over the weekend and enjoyed it a great deal. All of the films were new to me and The Tingler is an obvious stand-out, 13 Ghosts. I think I may have even preferred the latter, and was especially enthralled with just how interactive these films were and how essential they (clearly) a re to be seen in a theater, with an active audience. No matter, maybe I'm just a novice to the genre but both films genuinely go in unexpected directions with unexpected bad guys. Though the villain in the second one becomes pretty apparent earlier than in the other films, the treatment is still effective.

Homicidal was the least of the films here, in my opinion. Despite an incredibly strong opening, and Castle's continued decision to let several plot lines and relationships unfold, they don't really come together in a satisfactory way here as they do in the first two films. They do indeed come back together, but it feels a bit rushed and there's too much we don't know about these relationships. Mr. Sardonicus fared better and felt the most traditionally filmy and not "Castle-y". It was fine, but I do feel that had the set been four films like this I would have been underwhelmed.

I assume part of the ploy to release films by the same directors, in succession or in box sets (as MOC used to), is you get a handle on the stylistic and thematic overlap of the films. The Boetticher set had a ton of that, and it's here too. My particular favorite thing about the films in this set is each one, at various points, goes into some sort of totally made up scientific explanation for what is happening.

Indicator continues to be an incredibly interesting label. Are the films in the second set more like the silly first two films here, or are they a bit (relatively) more serious?

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gcgiles1dollarbin
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#54 Post by gcgiles1dollarbin » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:01 pm

Zotz! is about as silly as it gets, and in that, it has its charms. It feels like a '60s television sitcom with a magical premise (underscored by the presence of TV regular Tom Poston), and who knows, maybe Castle was attempting a de facto pilot, albeit theatrically, although this half-baked theory is undermined by the pain-and-death powers of the embossed coin (which looks like the lost symbol of a roadie from the Led Zeppelin IV tour), not something that would fly well on television. Between I Dream of Jeannie, Mr. Ed, My Mother the Car, Bewitched, etc., Castle was definitely picking up the zeitgeist, though, perhaps even forecasting it, given that it was released in 1962.

I love Strait-Jacket--one of my favorite psycho-biddy films--but it's played like an overwrought melodrama and is consequently far less intentionally silly than Zotz! or 13 Ghosts, which isn't to say that it doesn't have its ripe moments. Middle-aged, axe-wielding, severely-eyebrowed Crawford is an iconic image, one that always leered at me terrifyingly from the video boxes of our local rental store when I was a kid.

Can't speak for the other two, but I would guess Strait-Jacket is the most sober of the bunch. I hope others chime in re Old Dark House and 13 Frightened Girls. It's interesting that Castle capitalized on the reputation and mystique of the Whale original, given that it was considered a lost film at that time. Among all the monster kid broadcasts of Universal horror films and allusions to the original within fan magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland (there was a cover story in the June 1970 issue, but by then a print had been discovered), I'm guessing the title alone had its allure at the time. I'm actually surprised he didn't do the same with London at Midnight, following the future credo of Guy Maddin: If you can't see a lost film, make it yourself.

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domino harvey
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#55 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:06 pm

Not that crazy a trajectory for Zotz! as it seems, since I Dream of Jeannie was first the Brass Bottle

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knives
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#56 Post by knives » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:21 pm

Castle also had quite the tendency with television casting in his later films of the era. The Spirit is Willing stars Sid Caesar and John Astin for example.

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Florinaldo
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#57 Post by Florinaldo » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:55 am

13 Ghosts is the only title I have watched so far from the Vol. 1 box set because I had never seen it before (Homicidal is next). I found it a bit silly and not really a fright or horror film, and I think Castle and the rest of the production team may not have taken it very seriously either. At least based on details like the cardboard-cutout moustache worn by the ghost of the cook or more importantly the often exaggerated acting from the lead actor, with his various cartoonish reactions and double-takes, although he does an interesting job during the séance when channelling the spirit of the dead uncle. As has been mentioned by @Drucker, these movies were designed to be seen in a social context where one can laugh and have interactions with the rest of the audience. Especially at the ludicrous moments (like the control device in House on Haunted Hill that has no real functional relationship with the skeleton) or the shock moments that are forgotten about in the plot once they have done their job (like the old crone gliding out of the closet in the same film or the odd guy who pops in and out strangely to deliver the fateful telegram at the beginning of 13 Ghosts). When one watches those movies alone, there is a tendency to be more critical and not gloss over those moments.

The main problem however are to me the ghosts themselves. They are not all very well realised and the tinting calls attention to the fact that they are all gimmicky overlays on the image. A bit paradoxically, they are more effective in the black and white version because they then appear to be an integral part of the visual world of the film, and not artificial appliqués like in the tinted versions. I found the workarounds as to how to switch to these, either the angle button or through the pop-up menu, to be simple and ingenious.

There is one curious thing about Vol. 2. It is scheduled to come out on the 17th and the Powewerhouse site still identifies it as forthcoming. However, the amazon.co.uk site has it already in stock and is apparently shipping them out; they had more than 20 copies in stock yesterday but it has now dwindled down to 3 copies as I write this and may well sell out soon. I do not know if they received their copies a few days in advance and put them up for sale prematurely or if it is a listing mistake; I hope customers do not receive the wrong title if it's the latter case. Berserk! is also listed as being in stock in advance of its December 17th release date.

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MichaelB
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#58 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jan 15, 2019 4:00 pm

CineOutsider on Volume 2.

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Boosmahn
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#59 Post by Boosmahn » Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:43 pm

I recently finished the first set and, I must say, even if the films themselves aren't perfect, this release is now one of my favorite box sets in my collection.

The Tingler was a shock for me. The relationship between Warren and Isabel hit me like a ton of bricks, their bitter resentment for each other something I'd expect to see in a movie 50 years older. I watched the film with the "theater sequence," which I wouldn't recommend for your first time through.

13 Ghosts was my least favorite of the bunch but still had its memorable moments (such as Dr. Zorba's appearance and the lion-tamer scene). Also: Cryus' first house was obviously on a set, but this left an impression on me I can't explain. That pitch-black darkness you see when he opens the front door is probably the eeriest thing in the whole movie.

Homicidal is an enjoyable watch as a Castle send-up of Psycho but becomes its own thing at a few parts, the wedding scene especially.

Mr. Sardonicus reminded me of Eyes Without a Face in more ways than one (that's not to say Mr. Sardonicus copied the latter): a disfigured person whose estate is devoid of mirrors, the (nearly) featureless mask they wear, experiments being done to cure their affliction... the list goes on. On a side note, I found it odd that Castle introduced the film as being set in London before swerving to another location 10 minutes later. I realize that it might sound as if I dislike the film, though I did enjoy it; Homolka is fantastic as Sardonicus' loyal servant Krull.

I'm most likely going to buy volume two, despite the consensus being that the films are weaker (chiefly Zotz!).

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DRW.mov
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#60 Post by DRW.mov » Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:53 pm

Some of the volume 2 films are weaker (Zotz!) but if you enjoyed what you got in the first box you’ll certainly love the Joan Crawford starring Strait Jacket and the technicolor Hammer coproduction of The Old Dark House.

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MichaelB
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#61 Post by MichaelB » Wed Apr 22, 2020 5:15 am

To mark William Castle's birthday, if you order one or both William Castle volumes directly from Powerhouse from 10am on 24 April for the next 24 hours, you can get a 35% discount if you enter the code CASTLE at the checkout.

Volume One is completely region-free, Volume Two mostly region-free aside from Strait-Jacket (locked to Region B).

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therewillbeblus
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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#62 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 21, 2020 6:42 pm

I had already seen all four of the films in the first Castle set but revisiting them all together in the Indicator set allowed a wavering of appreciation shifts.

The Tingler was fine the first time, but a rewatch surprised me at how such a seemingly silly basic idea could spin itself into a film so strong. The gimmick is deceptive at covering the novel concept in making fear tangible, which it does by literally externalizing our fear-sensor through science. Castle self-reflexively becomes like Price’s mad scientist, himself inspiring this fantastical potential for the audience. People want nothing more than to understand and control enigmas, so what better way to involve the audience!

The marital problems and insinuations of infidelities are boldly depicted, for the content but also because of how dysfunctional and hopeless all relationships here are, save for the young idealistic one (which has enough similarities to Price's with his apprentice as a younger version of himself, that I didn't have much hope for that one either). The marriages fail because the characters can not communicate or cope with one another’s selfish drives - they cannot control their partners and thus are doomed to discontentment. Price retreats to solipsism through his work, not coincidentally a profession revolved around controlled, palpable manipulations of the physical.

Critics have analyzed the silent/sound film content, calling the mute wife a silent film character trapped in a sound film, which I like a lot. To take this idea further into the themes of the film, her predicament seems to directly address this discomfort in lack of tangibility through fear, which can be viewed in a larger social context of change in the 50s. I was actually reminded a lot of the melodramas from the decade that took interest in exposing the weak threads of ideological blind systems as people begin to self-actualize and develop their identities outside of such outlets, as well as how this separation from known institutions and roles was met with unbearable hostility. The wife as a "silent character" in a world of sound signifies her physical and social-emotional displacement, just as her inability to scream elicits a lacking of strategies to supply relief.

The need to scream to survive hits on the catharsis, or alleviation of this abstract dysphoria, to cope with unmanageable emotional dysregulation. The use of color in a wonderful death scene burns this horrifying truth into the celluloid, as a concrete, yet still mysterious, manifestation - bleeding these two into one another to practically combust before our eyes. I could see someone making a case for this as an example of Lacan’s Real.

Overall this is an incredibly intelligent film, and one that doesn't just posture- but confidently embraces- the uncomfortable truths of the generational shift in the 50s. The narrative is also exciting, participatory, and very well acted and directed. The detours draw out meditations on these relationship dynamics, forcing us to stew in these cynical spaces of ideological failure, before retreating back into isolation with the characters. The LSD trip can be seen as the ultimate example of this solipsistic retreat that also leads to dysphoria- no character is safe no matter where they turn. Every horror setpiece and melodramatic exchange takes on an involvement of genuine curiosity and thriller tones for the viewer. I love how the film ends without compromised characters' loose ends tied up, letting the melodramatic insecurities sit out in a vulnerable space, untended to without answers or even a willingness to address them. In a subtle way, it's incredibly dark- even nihilistic. Price goes off the continue to believe in science, but haphazardly coasting in this outlet as a distraction from the aspects of life that actually need attention. The absence of awareness to this need generates a sick hopelessness, and an ironic act of an intelligent scientist turning his back on the most significant domain of progress due to blindness.


The opening imagery in 13 Ghosts, pre-Castle speaking, is like an intense experimental horror film, and the clear highlight. The music is so deafening on a normal volume setting that my partner ran from the other room (where she was blasting music exercising) to yell at me for playing the film too loud. I could watch that over and over, and if it was a three-minute short instead of an 80-minute film, I wouldn’t feel cheated in any way paying for four films.

Anyways, this also followed The Tingler’s theme of making invisible forces accessible through the ghost-vision glasses, with characters putting them on to identify these spirits. Much like the death-scene in the other film, the use of color accentuates this intrusion of the abnormal into our reality, and heightens our fears as we get what we asked for without the tools to address it. The Tinger fleshed this brewing psychosocial experience in depth and with intellect, while this film has no such interests. Instead, Castle’s film opts for pure visual exposition. The shadowy lighting resembles a noirish expressionism, and the wicked witch of the west’s hand-holding guide of explanation helps initiate a supportive mood as a mystery-adventure chamber-piece that is not married to any of these genres, and in fact disbands from each almost as immediately as they are hinted at, using them flexibly as gateways to lighthearted fun. The glasses’ function for the characters seems to be less a mechanism that is existentially-destructive, and more as a celebration of cinema’s capacity for taking us on adventures that real life doesn’t afford. The little boy’s experience in the basement with the lion’s ghost doesn’t elicit fear as much as voyeuristic wonder on his face.

There is a place for these kind of 'comfort' films, and this one is a lot better than it lets on, or perhaps it's the restorative treatment given by Indicator. I definitely enjoyed his miles more with the audio-visual boosts compared to the rather rough DVD at my library a few years back, which I suppose is obvious, but it made more of a difference than restos usually do for me.


While these two got marginally better on repeats, unfortunately Homicidal's novelty wore off enough to feel more like a chore this time. I like RV's Hitchcock comparison in the horror thread, and the film amuses me as being more in step with one of De Palma's worst films than the several Hitchcocks he's emulating. Still, it's a film that rides all its already-minor enthusiasm on a first viewing, not replay value.


Mr. Sardonicus fared much the same, which is essentially as a subpar Gothic-horror. RV noted the strengths in the flashback, and while this deviation was an interesting enough fable, I actually love the ending the most and it almost saves the movie. The idea of someone trapped and destined to die because of their own psychology outside of apparent magic is genius, and the screams of agony while a certain character gleefully eats a feast in a twisted role reversal is like having your cake and eating it too. What an incredible ending to a mediocre film!

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Re: 94-101 William Castle at Columbia Volumes 1 and 2

#63 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri May 22, 2020 6:09 pm

Contrary to the first set, most of the second volume was new to me. Zotz! is as silly as people say, though it's so clearly a comedy by intention that I was able to give it a fair amount of rope. As far as ideas about magic powers being sought by the government to repurpose for wartime conflict, I find that idea almost always ridiculous (including being a rare dissenter of Stranger Things) so it’s par for the course as far as I’m concerned. The film plays like a Twilight Zone episode in its lead exploring the amulet’s abilities through curiosity rather than malicious intent, and so it dodges some frustrating conventions (brewing power-hunger in all Hobbesian mankind!) while hitting other targets dead-on. For comedy bits, the scene where the therapist analyzes him with perfect, condescending open-ended responses to fit his already-established diagnosis is actually very funny and well-written, while other (often sight-gag) shenanigans had me facepalming. Not a good movie by any stretch, but not as bad as it could have been.


13 Frightened Girls, on the other hand, was right up my alley. A lighthearted female teenage sleuth fantasy, where Kathy Dunn slips into the role of a spy along serious threats of murder but with a playfulness that undercuts all realism. This predates Veronica Mars in finding a balance between comedy and thriller tones, though obviously a lot more campy and without the complex, confident lead... or at least not in the way you think.

There is a lot of risqué material here, with an immediately alarming transformation from Candy's childlike voiceover marveling at independence to an overly aggressive sexual pass at Murray Hamilton! Her state of sexual development becomes a strange variable in this narrative, as she continuously transitions between pre-pubescent attitudes, like those of infantile dreams and sheltered experience, and dreams that become actualized as sexual flirtation - even going to far as to labeling it as such when proactively organizing her predatory conquests. It’s difficult to tell when this is an act she’s taking on with imagination (she observes female agents using sexual attraction as a tool, and thus takes on this role) or when it’s coming from age-appropriate adolescent sexuality emerging, which makes sense for a 16-year-old girl (Dunn was actually only 14 years old, at least at the time of casting, which makes this film even harder to watch at times). Characters talk about her being “almost a woman” in 'reality,' but her own adoption of a role is more fitting with a childlike fantasy, yet one that allows her access to an adult world on her terms.

The movement through narrative and setpieces are inspired and the structure embodies noir plotting and adventure-spy vibes. It’s hard to dislike this film, and while it’s no dense masterpiece, there are a lot of subtly complex meditations on identity and the experience of youth emerging between several social contexts at once. Mostly, this is just a very fun time, though I couldn’t help but be consistently conflicted in states of disturbance and amusement by Dunn’s malleable shifts between child and sexualized adult, the implications of which are apt yet demand self-reflection on the part of the audience. In a sense, the source of her behavior is always enigmatic: her sexual prowess especially seems to be in step with her actual desires, but are also utilized specifically to trick the enemy. Is this merely a costume of how she wants to be seen, as an actual little girl in spirit? Or a part of her actually emerging, with her learning how to use new foreign traits for personal gain and manipulation? Or is her sexual satisfaction blended, even fetishistically elicited, by the thrills of moving into adult-roles? Perhaps it's a bit of all of these, and yet when she is becoming drugged and assaulted by an adult male spy, I cannot help but see a little girl being abused because that is what is happening. What a strange experience, to be a viewer engaging passively in a deceptively-lighthearted child-adventure film, being put through the ringer of imaginative surrogate coupling and solemn analytical patterns of binding/unbinding engagement.

The final battle is pretty lame, but it's another interesting change in how Dunn regresses back into her shell as a little girl after besting adults for much of the film. I thought maybe I was overthinking things, but then I looked through the booklet (which is where I found the age info, it doesn't seem to be on the 'net) and was validated to see the first essay touches on this troubling, dark subtext. Anyways, I loved this film - partly because it's like a cheesy To Catch A Thief in tone, partly for its dissection of raw youthful transitions, and partly because it dares to go to lengths to force its audience to sit with the blurry space of identity, holding multiple truths at once about Dunn's stage of life, which has unnerving implications for both the child and adult in all of us.


The Old Dark House was a ridiculous, colorful take on the original masterwork. It's not very good, nor does it contain any particularly memorable moments, but it can join the pile of 'good movies to watch inattentively while sick.'


Unfortunately I didn't find Straight-Jacket to be the stellar picture everyone else seems to- not that it's bad, but I wasn't overly impressed. The film is well-done, the suspense finds one of the best rhythms of any Castle picture, and Crawford gives a well-balanced perf for a chunk of the runtime. I appreciated how Castle tries to have empathy for someone struggling with not only mental illness, but dangerous mental health issues, though everything crumbles as the narrative unfolds with a twist that feels overcooked rather than audacious (though I have to admit some of details of the 'plan,' and unspecified roots of the motive, are intriguing). George Kennedy strutting around coated in dirt also isn't going to take away any personality from a film!

People tend to unanimously gravitate towards this as the best of the set, but for me 13 Frightened Girls easily takes the cake.

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