The Amazing Gimmicks of William Castle

William Castle directed and produced a number of sci-fi and horror B-movies including The House on Haunted Hill (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960), but he is best remembered for his movie-house gimmicks, the likes of which haven't been seen on this scale before or since.  Most of the following was compiled/adapted from Wikipedia and the Trivia sections of the individual entries for these movies on the IMDb.  The included photos are stills from the trailer for 13 Ghosts.

Macabre (1958)

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The Tingler (1959)

13 Ghosts (1960)
Update from 2016: Note that some DVD releases include the colored segments of the film (and the "ghost viewer," while other prints are simply black and white with no color effects (i.e., the ghosts appear in B&W as well).  I happened across a colored print and used red and blue 3D glasses, which had the novel effect of making the ghosts appear/disappear as I opened/closed alternating eyes.  The effect was actually quite striking in that the ghosts completely disappeared or were brought into sharp relief, respectively, compared to the unfiltered print.

Homicidal (1961)

Mr. Sardonicus (1961)

Zotz! (1962)
13 Frightened Girls! (1963)

Strait-Jacket (1964)

I Saw What You Did (1965)

Bug (1975)

Further information

Spine Tinger!  The William Castle Story (2007) - About the life and times of the most inventive gimmick-driven director in B-movie history.  It is included as a bonus feature in the 5-disc William Castle dvd set.

Wikipedia entry:

The Tradition Continues...

Blood Feast (1963) - Similarly, the producer of Herschell Gordon Lewis's gore-fest Blood Feast had barf bags printed up with "You may need this when you see... BLOOD FEAST."  Supposedly he had half a million of these printed and handed out a week before the picture played, according to producer David F. Friedman.

Popcorn (1991) - This horror movie about (among other things) a movie theater, steals several of Castle's gimmicks such as "shocking seats" as well as inventing other ones such as a more sophisticated version of John Waters' Odorama (or maybe the original Smell-O-Vision).  There's also the fake nurse outside the theater asking patrons to sign forms "in case you die of a heart attack."  During the showing of the fake film Mosquito (a pastiche of '50s giant insect movies like Tarantula and The Deadly Mantis), a glowing prop giant mosquito flies out from behind the screen over the audience.  Even the names of some of the gimmicks sound like Castle's (e.g., Project-o-vision and Shock-o-scope vs. Illusion-O and Percepto above)!

Matinee (1993) - A film with a character played by John Goodman who is loosely based on Castle and employs a similar promotions, including the buzzer gimmick from The Tingler.

Contagion (2011) - My friends Bill and Alexandra went to see Contagion in 2011 and told me afterward about a very William Castle gimmick.  After the film was over, as the patrons were leaving, crews entered the theater in fake hazmat suits and pretended to scrub down everything, including the seats and even the edges of the screen.  I don't know if this was something done locally or if it was part of the film's marketing, but I'm sure Castle would have gotten a smile out of it.


Copyright 2012, 2015 the Ale[x]orcist.