The Zorbas (Charles Herbert, Houseboat, Jo Morrow, The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Donald Woods, Watch on the Rhine, and Rosemary DeCamp, The Jungle Book), a typical suburban family, unexpectedly inherit an old mansion and they quickly move into their new home. Unbeknownst to them, the house is haunted by a dozen of mischievous ghosts. Would they survive?
Reaction & Thoughts:
Producer-director and swindler par excellence, William Castle (The Tingler and House on Haunted Hill), will be remembered as the master of gimmickry largely because of films like 13 Ghosts; a low-budget chiller built around a silly device. I wish I had seen the film as a kid because it feels like a naughty Disney production. Now that I think about it, Fred MacMurray and Nancy Olson — the stars of Disney’s The Absent-Minded Professor — would have been perfect in the roles of the parents.
Really, there’s nothing wrong with kiddie shows. But you sort of have to mentally transport yourself to the innocent days of childhood in order to appreciate Castle’s naiveté and cheap tricks. I enjoyed it for what 13 Ghosts is; an excuse to show off a one-time gimmick.
The selling point is the infamous Illusion-O (not to be confused with 3-D) — the ghosts are tinted red and can be seen using red cellophane filters. I tried it at home — I used a regular piece of cellophane — and I had fun following Castle’s on-screen instructions. What can I say? I’m a kid at heart. The story — a poor man’s Poltergeist (1982) — leaves a lot to be desired, but the idea behind Illusion-O is not bad at all.
The cast is pretty good. Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz) is great as the housekeeper who looks like a “wicked witch.” Martin Milner (TV’s Route 66 and Adam-12) plays a surprisingly nasty villain.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:.
13 Ghosts, written by Robb White (House on Haunted Hill), is a silly, but still wonderfully enjoyable B-movie. A horror movie for the whole family. Loosely remade in 2001 as Thir13en Ghosts. B&W – Tinted, 85 minutes, Not Rated.