13 Ghosts

13 Ghosts (1960)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Martin Milner
Extras: Featurette, Introduction, Trailers, Production Notes

William Castle was the undisputed master of the spooky film with a chuckle during the 50s and 60s. Not necessarily plain-out horror movies, many of his films created a spooky atmosphere with ghosts, apparitions and highly dramatic events. ’13 Ghosts’ is another one of these films, the story of an impoverished family inheriting a house from an eccentric uncle they thought long dead. But with the house, they inherit its inhabitants, a creepy housekeeper – masterfully played once again by Margaret Hamilton – and a selection of ghosts the uncle has accumulated in the mansion for his paranormal research. Soon the ghosts target members of the family and they begin to fear for their lives.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is bringing ’13 Ghosts’ to DVD in a great-looking black and white widescreen transfer that has been thoroughly cleaned up. No speckles or scratches mar the presentation and there are only a few, very infrequent jumps as a result of damaged splices. Quite bit of edge-enhancement has been applied to the transfer however, in order to create a sharper image, resulting in ringing artifacts that are somewhat prevalent throughout the film. On the flip side of the disc you will find the original ’Illusion-O’ presentation of the movie. It is a color-coded process that allows you to ’blend’ the ghosts in the movie in and out with the help of special glasses that also come with the DVD. It is a fun effect that was used in theaters when the film had its theatrical run and interestingly enough, the gimmick actually works – although it is quite distracting from the overall film.

The disc features a monaural Dolby Digital audio track in English and Spanish. Although clearly dated, the track has a fairly natural sounding quality and never comes across as too harsh. The limited frequency response is mostly noticeable in the music cues, but ultimately these limitations add to the vintage feel of the film itself.

A number of fun extras round out the release, such as a William Castle’s original theatrical introduction, explaining how to use the Illusion-O glasses. You will also find a nice featurette discussing the merits of ’Illusion-O’ and William Castle’s preference for gimmicks in general. Production notes and trailers are also part of the package.

If you’re a sucker for Castle’s classic spookfilms, like I am, you will love this version of ’13 Ghosts.’ It’s a fun film and the presentation on this DVD is just as entertaining, and especially the inclusion of the Illusion-O-version is a very nice and welcome addition.