13 Ghosts (1960) by William Castle
The 1960 version of 13 Ghosts is a classic B-movie horror film by William Castle — it has little relationship to the 2001 remake, Thir13en Ghosts, starring Tony Shalhoub. For one thing, 13 Ghosts is actually enjoyable to watch 🙂
Synopsis of 13 Ghosts
Reclusive occult expert Dr. Plato Zorba has died, leaving his furnished mansion to his penniless nephew Cyrus and his family — along with the ghosts that he’s managed to collect, who seemingly are out to kill someone in the house.
Review of 13 Ghosts
Actually, 13 Ghosts is quite enjoyable — the acting is good, and the film actually spends a little bit of time setting the scene before getting to the haunted house. The Zorba family is functional, loving … and broke, as the movie begins with their furniture being repossessed. The family tries to celebrate their son Buck’s birthday that night anyway, where the birthday boy 1) shows his love of ghost stories, and 2) makes his birthday wish for a house that they own, complete with furniture — and the scary wind blows through an open window, and there’s a knock at the door … it’s a lawyer, telling them of their new inheritance.
Once they’re all there, and the lawyer has set the mood telling the family that he actually believes in the deceased’s stories of ghosts they … decide to play with an Ouija board, nearly ending with an accidental death. Admittedly, it’s a foolish thing to do in a haunted house, but it does move the story forward, with a ghostly prediction of an upcoming death.
The family is literally caught between a rock and a hard spot, as they can’t afford to move out, and the will prohibits them from selling the mansion. And there’s the rumor of a fortune hidden on the premises …
In all, 13 Ghosts will never be mistaken for high art, but it’s definitely an enjoyable film, and probably a wonderful film for a family to watch together on Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc.
Cast of characters in 13 Ghosts
- Buck Zorba (Charles Herbert, The Fly). The young son, intelligent and curious, whose birthday wish starts things off …
- Medea Zorba (Jo Morrow, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver). The teenage daughter, who foolishly uses an Ouija board in a haunted house. And then starts dating a handsome young lawyer …
- Benjamen Rush (Martin Milner, Adam-12). The handsome young lawyer, who executes the will. And is possibly interested in something more …
- Hilda Zorba (Rosemary DeCamp, Yankee Doodle Dandy). The lovely wife and mother, who supports her husband through everything.
- Cyrus Zorba (Donald Woods, Wonder Man). The husband and father, who inherits the haunted house – and is determined to keep his family safe.
- Elaine Zacharides (Margaret Hamilton, The Wizard of Oz). The housekeeper, who has more than a passing resemblance to a witch …
Editorial review of 13 Ghosts, courtesy of Amazon.com
This terrific haunted-house thriller proved an unforgettable experience for 1960 audiences. Set in the mansion of a deceased scientist named Dr. Zorba, the story finds the late occult practitioner’s nephew discovering a bunch of elusive spooks on the premises that can be seen only through Zorba’s ghost-viewing glasses. Produced and directed by legendary showman William Castle, master of such garish, audience-pleasing gimmicks as flying skeletons and electric-shock theater seats, 13 Ghosts was hyped with an innovative process called “Illusion-O.”
Movie patrons were furnished with special, red-and-blue-colored glasses that allowed them to choose to see the titular specters or not. This DVD does not provide a working replica of the Illusion-O viewer (earlier copies did), but it offers both a straight, black-and-white version of the feature (no viewer necessary) and a version with the film’s original tinted scenes requiring the viewer for extra fun. Also included is Castle’s own introduction, in which he explains the Illusion-O technique. —Tom Keogh
Movie quotes from 13 Ghosts
Van Allen: Oh Cy, where are you?
Cyrus Zorba: Explaining how man survived the Pleistocene age.
Van Allen: How did he? And why?
Hilda Zorba: The moving men are here again.
Cyrus Zorba: They won’t wait?
Hilda Zorba: Nope.
Cyrus Zorba: Not till tomorrow?
Hilda Zorba: Nope.
Buck Zorba: [making a birthday wish] I wish we owned our own house, and all our furniture that nobody could take away.
[wind blows through the windows and blows out the candles, somebody knocks at the door]
Housekeeper or witch?
Buck Zorba: [to Ben] There’s a witch in the house. Ring the bell; she’ll answer.
[Ben rings the bell, Medea answers]
Buck Zorba: What’d you do that for? You should’ve let the Witch answer it.
Medea Zorba: You need to stop calling her that or she’ll cut your tongue out.
Van Allen: All you have to do is find Elaine Zacharides.
Cyrus Zorba: I don’t have to find her. She’s the housekeeper.
Buck Zorba: Elaine?
Elaine Zacharides: Yes Buck?
Buck Zorba: You really are a witch, aren’t you?
Elaine Zacharides: Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies.
A moving experience
Ben Rush: Are you all moved in?
Buck Zorba: There wasn’t anything to move except us.
Buck Zorba: There’s furniture and books and most of it I haven’t even seen yet.
Meet some of the ghosts
Buck Zorba: That was Emilio.
Cyrus Zorba: Who?
Buck Zorba: 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
[points to wall]
Buck Zorba: .
Cyrus Zorba: Why?
Buck Zorba: He doesn’t mess up the kitchen often, but when he does, WOW!
[meat cleaver hits the wall]
Buck Zorba: . Now Emilio is through.
Hilda Zorba: Now *I’m* through
[takes off apron and storms out of the kitchen]
Medea Zorba: [Ben has just brought Medea home] That was a wonderful evening Ben, thanks. How about some coffee before you go?
Ben Rush: No, thanks. Not tonight, I sure wish you and your family were staying somewhere else; this place gives me the creeps.
Medea Zorba: Oh don’t start with that again.
Ben Rush: Well I worry about you, Medea. Just for me will you try to be a little careful?
Medea Zorba: For you, I’ll pull the covers over my head tonight.
Ben Rush: [smiling] See you tomorrow?
Medea Zorba: I hope so. Good night, Ben.
Ben Rush: Goodnight [leaves the house]
Buck Zorba: [as Ben walks in the door] Ben, I found it!
[grabs the railing and shakes it to reveal the hidden area in the stairs]
Ben Rush: Good boy! Have you told anyone else about this?
Buck Zorba: Course not! Let’s tell them now.
[Runs towards the dining room; Ben grabs his arm stopping him]
Buck Zorba: Ow! You’re hurting!
Ben Rush: Sorry, Buck. We can’t tell them yet.
Buck Zorba: But we’re moving out tomorrow!
Trivia for 13 Ghosts
- Several people call Elaine Zacharides (played by Margaret Hamilton) a witch. Margaret is even carrying a broom when we first see her, which Charles points out. Margaret Hamilton played the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.
- William Castle films are famous for their publicity gimmicks, and 13 Ghosts is no exception: The movie was filmed in “Illusion-O” and a special viewer was needed to enhance the ghosts or make them invisible. The “ghost viewers” contained a red filter and a blue filter, but unlike 3D viewers/glasses, both eyes would look through the same color filter. The red filter would cause the ghostly images to intensify while the blue filter caused the images to fade.