Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 amB+
|Lowest Recommended Age:
|Mature High Schooler
|Extreme peril and gore
|All white cast
|Date Released to Theaters:
Producer William Castle is better remembered for his outrageous marketing. schemes than for the content of the movies. He would do anything to attract attention, from taking out a million-dollar insurance policy for anyone who died of fright while viewing one of his movies to the “Coward’s Corner” set up to refund the ticket price of anyone who wanted to leave before the movie revealed its big secret. My favorite of Castle’s gimmicks was in “13 Ghosts,” where audiences were presented with special “ghost viewers” to hold before their eyes. If you looked through the red cellophane, you would see the ghosts, but if that was too scary, you could just look through the blue and then you would not see them.
In its television broadcasts, of course, this was impossible, and the movie has been shown since its 1960 theatrical release without this special effect. Now, the new DVD edition, which comes complete with one ghost viewer and an order form for those who want extras, enables you to see (or not see) the ghosts just as Castle intended, and the cheesy fun makes this just right for family movie night or a teenager’s Halloween party.
A family inherits a haunted house and a mysterious pair of spectacles from a reclusive uncle. It turns out that 12 ghosts occupy the house, including a lion and his headless tamer, a jealous chef and the wife and her lover that he killed with a meat cleaver, a hanging woman, and the ghost of the uncle himself. A Ouija board tells them that a 13th ghost will be added soon. Who will it be?
The special effects were low-budget even for their time, and today’s audiences will find them more silly than scary. But there are a couple of jump-out-at-you moments and plot twists that still work pretty well. The DVD includes both the version that requires the glasses and the one that does not and a brief documentary about Castle that is as much fun as the movie, especially the selection from the movie’s original introduction, which explained how to use the glasses.
Parents should know that this movie does include occult material, including a Ouija board and a seance, which may be upsetting to some children. There is an attempted murder of a child, and another character is murdered. Some families may be uncomfortable with the father’s irresponsibility about money.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy a movie inspired by Castle’s wild gimmicks, Matinee, starring John Goodman. They might also like Castle’s Homicidal(the one that was shown in theaters with the Coward’s Corner and ushers dressed in nursing uniforms), but parents should know that it is scarier than “13 Ghosts” and has more mature themes. They might also enjoy the big-budget remake with terrific (and very graphic) special effects but an even dumber plot, starring Matthew Lillard and Shannon Elizabeth.