Archive for the ‘13 Ghosts (1960)’ Category

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Mill Creek Entertainment

Release Date: July 19, 2016

Region: Region A


85 min (13 Ghosts)

88 min (13 Frightened Girls)

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English 2.0 Dolby Digital (448kbps)

Subtitles: None

Ratio: 1.85:1

Notes: This is the high definition debut of both features, but each title is available in various DVD editions.

- Title - 2

William Castle began his feature career at Columbia studios as Harry Cohn’s go to man for directing quickly produced B-movies inexpensively. These films spanned a variety of genres, but his career would change dramatically in 1958 when he was allowed to produce and direct his own horror features for Columbia. These films were still a far cry from the prestige A-pictures being produced in Hollywood, but they earned notoriety would make William Castle a household name (especially if that household happened to have any burgeoning adolescents living under the roof).

It is impossible to quantify how much of Castle’s fame arose from the films that he made and how much was the result of his often ridiculous marketing gimmicks for these films, but it is probably safe to assume that most of his notoriety was due to the latter. 13 Ghosts actually incorporated his marketing gimmick into the story, and this might be one of the reasons that the film is one of his more famous endeavors. (Of course, the presence of Margaret Hamilton probably didn’t hurt its reputation either.)

The entire film was shot in black and white, but certain scenes were shown in what William Castle called the “Illusion-O” process. This simply meant that scenes that were to feature ghosts were shot with only the sets and the living characters in the frame. This footage was tinted blue. Meanwhile, separately shot footage of the ghosts was tinted red and then superimposed over this image. Audiences were later given an apparatus not unlike 3D glasses called a “ghost viewer” that allowed them to make these ghosts either visible or invisible. This was all explained in what a short introduction to the film by Castle himself. (Unfortunately, this introduction really should have appeared prior to the credits and not after. This would have kept the introduction separate from the actual film experience.)

Ghost Viewer Poster.jpg

Ghost Viewer

The story itself is diverting without offering anything particularly original or even frightening to the table (and this would have been true in 1960). When an eccentric uncle wills a huge, ramshackle house to his impoverished family, they get the shock of a lifetime. Their new residence comes complete with a spooky housekeeper, plus a fortune in buried treasure and 12 “horrifying” ghosts.   Of course, the ghosts could only be seen while wearing special glasses (much like those the audience was using)!

13 Frightened Girls was shot in color and released a few years later in 1963, and by this time Castle’s promotional gimmicks had become less intrusive. The thirteen frightened girls mentioned in the film’s title were cast through a highly publicized search for the loveliest girls from thirteen different countries to play daughters of diplomats. Of course, not all girls are from the countries that their characters are from. All of this makes for a rather invisible gimmick (at least as far as the viewer is concerned), but this was also a rather different kind of film. In fact, one might expect to see such a film on the Disney channel. The girls of a Swiss boarding school have one thing in common — they are all daughters of diplomats. One in particular finds out that she has a knack for espionage, and uncovers the murder of a Russian diplomat. Now she must escape using her girlish wiles.

13 Ghosts - One Sheet13 Frightend Girls - One Sheet

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 MacGuffins

The Blu-ray disc is protected in a standard Blu-ray case with attractive “double feature” artwork that features vintage one sheet poster for each film.

The menu is similar in its design and features the same one sheet art for both films.

Picture Quality:
13 Ghosts:

4 of 5 MacGuffins

Those expecting a proper “Illusion-O” presentation of 13 Ghosts will be disappointed, because the “ghost viewer” isn’t included here. However, the blue and red tinted ghost scenes are presented in all their original glory. Personally, I would have preferred a solid black and white option, because this transfer is really quite good during the black and white scenes. Detail is sharp and attractive with decent contrast throughout, and there is a lovely filmic texture throughout the length of the film. The tinted scenes are less sharp overall, and not quite as attractive. There is the occasional speck of dirt or scratch throughout the film, but none of these become distracting. All things considered, this is a surprisingly good image transfer from Mill Creek Entertainment.

13 Frightened Girls:

3.5 of 5 MacGuffins

13 Frightened Girls is also given a decent transfer, although it would pale in comparison to most top tier Blu-ray releases. There is a decent level of detail evident throughout the film and colors seem to be accurately rendered for the most part. Skin tone is never problematic and there aren’t any other anomalies to distract from the viewers enjoyment of the film. Black levels aren’t as rich as they could be and come across as a bit too bright. Without an in-depth overhaul, it is difficult to imagine the film getting a better transfer than this one.

Sound Quality:

2.5 of 5 MacGuffins

One doubts if the sound for these films was ever anything to brag about, and Mill Creek Entertainment’s sound transfers are a lifeless reflection of each film’s bargain basement roots. The largest problem that immediately comes to mind is the lack of a lossless audio transfer for both features. The sound itself is about what one might expect from a transfer of a low budget film from the early 1960s.

Both films suffer from the same audial maladies with the music and sound effects being banished to the center speakers (although, the soundtrack for 13 Frightened Girls is marginally better on this note). Clarity and range suffers somewhat throughout each film, but this isn’t particularly surprising. The dialogue is always clearly and evenly rendered, and what else can one expect from a bargain budget Blu-ray release of a bargain basement film production?

Special Features:

0 of 5 MacGuffins

There is no supplemental material included.

Final Words:

Both films are hardly masterpieces of their respective genres, but they do provide a nice diversion from one’s day to day worries. Children and young teenagers should certainly find both films engaging.

Review by: Devon Powell