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Wednesday, 10 January 2007

13 Ghosts (1960)

Young birthday boy Buck Zorba wishes that he lived in a house with furniture that nobody could take away, because his father Cyrus is a scientist so forgetful that he never remembers to pay the bills. Before they can blink, Cyrus's long dead uncle turns out to be just dead. It happened last week and right in town and he's left his sprawling mansion to his nephew, apparently along with the ghosts that he has collected from around the world. Naturally in they move and immediately decide to play with the ouija board which points out that there are thirteen of them and they want to kill them!

I don't recognise anyone except Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West herself, who may just be that here too. Certainly Buck thinks so! Then again what writer Robb White and producer/director William Castle, the gimmick maestro of the era, wanted us to look at are the ghosts. This film was original made using a gimmick called Illusion-O, vaguely similar to the 3D process but in which the colours work differently: one colour intensifies the ghosts and the other makes them fade. They look pretty cool, if very dated. This was 1960, after all.

The story is very 1960 too, exactly the sort of thing I'd expect from something like a Three Investigators novel or pulp adventure story: it's fun and consistently entertaining, though there's not a huge amount of substance; and it's far from a horror movie, at least how people expected horror movies to be by the time they got around to doing a remake. The rest of the family are the sort of wholesome Americans we saw in Lost in Space, wanting to move out because of the activities of their ghosts yet hardly seeming phased by any of it. Definitely another intriguing William Castle movie though, of many.

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