SoH Reviews: 13 Ghosts (1960)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a review for this film, maybe the last one I did was for Cat People? Reviews have been scarce this year so far because I haven’t been watching a whole lot of “newer” movies lately, it’s been really rough but I am trying and it’s slowly coming back around to some “normalcy”. I’m not sick or anything, but I posted on the gram that I needed a break on consuming a lot of film/media for my own sanity so it’s nice to get back into the groove. Coming Saturday, I’ll be reviewing Basket Case so be on the lookout for that. But today, today I will be discussing some thoughts on a classic William Castle film that was later remade called… 13 Ghosts.

I got a lot to say! Let’s get into it.

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From the jump, I knew this movie was gonna be something else. Now, prior to watching 13 Ghosts, I had seen House on Haunted Hill (with Vincent Price) and I did like that movie, definitely gimmicky in certain points but there were some highlights there. And having to basically ignore the remake of Thirteen Ghosts (2001) out of my head and look at this movie in its own light. 

Things I enjoyed about this film: seeing Margaret Hamilton’s name in the opening credits was a big surprise. I did not know she was in this movie and of course she plays a housekeeper who is also a witch but I liked the energy she gave to the character. The character is quite mysterious yet protective, she’s firm, straightforward, more of the level headed one in the household and I loved it. Another thing I liked is the family dynamic. I preferred and cared more for this family than in the remake and that says a lot. You care so much for the kids, especially the youngest child who is definitely the wide eyed, believer in the spooks and naivety that kids (especially in that time period) had. There’s an innocence about him and sadly that is preyed upon. 13ghosts_3

I did like the overall tension as well. Everything was building up little by little with the introduction of the lawyer, getting the house, learning more about the uncle, there was an ouija board available, it started out like a typical haunted house story that evolved into “do not trust certain people because they want to sacrifice you”.

The one big hiccup are the ghosts. And not the parts where we see things floating or they are breaking objects, not a problem there because I’m like “eh it’s probably on a string” kind of mindset there but it’s when we’re introduced to the ghosts and I’m not sure if it was a projector or the post production of placing film on top of each other to create the look but it was a bit… gimmicky. Like it’s the 60s but we can’t do things like makeup and special effects? There’s a mask worn in the film and it’s better than what I was seeing? I don’t understand the choice there? Like the ghosts looked cool but they weren’t in person yet but I guess that goes back to needing the special glasses to see them because they are “invisible”?

Every time the ghosts were on screen, I wish we saw them better, very grainy footage of them. And I think that’s where the remake shines, the ghosts are right there in your face and very graphic and fantastical. That was the only hiccup I really had a problem with. I wish there was more, it could have been pushed more. 13ghosts_2

13 Ghosts stars Charles Herbert, Jo Morrow, Rosemary DeCamp, Margaret Hamilton and Donald Woods and is directed by William Castle. I will give this movie a 3.5 out of 5. I would recommend this movie, it’s more on the underrated side and a foundation of haunted house films. Gimmicky or not, it is well worth a watch.

Sidenote: I just looked up screencaps and I see there’s color and I’m a little jealous. I watched the black and white version on Shudder.

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