Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I had an occasion recently to think of movies I found really scary. There is “Ghost Story,” “The Changeling,” “The Shining,” “Ghost Ship,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Long before any of these was a 1960 William Castle movie called “13 Ghosts.” Not to be confused with the 1998 flick from Dark Castle, which took barely a kernel of the original’s plot and smothered it in gory computer graphics.

I was a wee five years old when I saw “13 Ghosts” on television. The film ends in a peculiar murder where ghosts crush the victim in a four-post bed. I had a nightmare about that in my own bed that night.

Some time back I rented the movie to see what it was I found so frightening. It wasn’t the setting. The ghost collector’s house was plain and typical of 1950s architecture, filled with modernistic furniture of the era. It certainly wasn’t the effects, which were primitive and went on too long. The actors weren’t that creepy, either. Maybe ‘twas the black-and-white. But more likely my imagination added stuff that wasn’t really there. Five-year-olds do that a lot.

One thing interesting about this movie was the theater version featured something called “Illusion-O,” meaning that you had to wear special glasses (similar to the primitive 3-D type) to see the ghosts. In fact, the people in the film had to wear special glasses to see the ghosts! I still think that’s a clever, if quaint, idea. Some of the DVDs even retain that feature, but don’t come with the glasses.

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