“Emilio! He killed his wife, his mother-in-law and his sister-in-law with a meat cleaver. Whack! Whack! Whack! You’d better stand over there.”
When Cyrus Zorba and his poverty-stricken family inherit an old mansion, they can’t believe their good luck. However, not long after they movie in they realize that the house is haunted by 12 ghosts and run by a housekeeper who works in the dark arts. Though the ghosts are intent on killing a member of the family, the Zorbas insist on staying in the house because they have learned that a large fortune is hidden somewhere inside it.
Having, up to this point, only seen the Dark Castle remake of the B-Movie horror classic 13 Ghosts (which was titled Thir13en Ghosts, and was a rollicking cheesy fun time), I tried to make it a point to sit through the original William Castle flick. Which I finally did. And I have to say, this original has a fun kind of charm to it, overall.
One thing I’ll give William Castle, he did know how to sell gimmicks to make his otherwise ho-hum B-Movie horrors far more fun than they really are. For instance, for 13 Ghosts, it’s hard not to talk about the movie without bringing up the method that was used to have the ghosts only visible on the screen by way of the audience wearing special glasses. The process used a red and blue filter on the standard black-and-white film, resulting in allowing the audience to individually choose to see the ghosts, or, in the case of the easily spooked types, not have to see the ghosts at all. It wasn’t what you would call a very effective science (you could still see the ghosts with the naked eye if you happened to not use either pair of the glasses), but the hype behind it made it a classic. So much so, the concept of using special glasses to see into the spectral realm was utilized in the remake, to really good effect.
As far as the story behind 13 Ghosts, it’s your standard Scooby Doo plot, where a family inherits an old spooky mansion from an uncle, which might have spirits wandering about due to a journal found, then it turns out the lawyer of said uncle is trying to use the superstitious nature of the family to scare them away so he could find the secret hidden treasure left by the uncle, only to be found out and there may or may not be actual ghosts by the time the credits roll. It’s a standard classic Gothic formula tale, and like I said, if it wasn’t for the Illusion-O gimmick, it may have been regulated to unremarkable status.
Overall, though, as I mentioned, I did find 13 Ghosts to have a certain charm that I enjoyed. It was a fun and slightly cheesy mystery chiller that also featured the late, great Elaine Zacharides as the housekeeper that everyone thinks is a witch. Which, I don’t know if that was a tribute to her more famous roll as the Wicked Witch on The Wizard Of Oz, but she was clearly the standout in this movie. The ghost effects were quite hokey, but added to the charm (I was cracking myself up by using the Swedish Chef from the Muppets when the ghost of the jealous chef appeared in the kitchen). Connoisseurs of old horror flicks need to check this one out, if in fact you haven’t.