King Of The Hill Dvd Box Set latest 2023

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William Castle – The Work of the Legendary Horror Director

I’ve watched over fifteen horror movies in the past two weeks. My teeth are soared and no doubt covered in cavities from the handfuls of candy corn I shoveled into my mouth. And the street I live on is lined with carved pumpkins and piles of fallen leaves, giving it an uncanny resemblance to the fictional small town of Haddonfield, Illinois. These three observations can only mean one thing; Halloween is fast approaching. Yes, that magical vacation that somehow seems to get more and more awesome every year despite having gone from stuff to do nearly two decades ago. And while I love dressing up and decorating for a Halloween party, and I’m a big fan of candy, my favorite part of this seasonal party is definitely the movies.

Every year I try to see as many horror movies as possible during the month of October leading up to All Hallows Eve. And with the number of movies I’ve seen (trust me, it’s a lot), I can have a hard time finding ones I haven’t seen yet. What once called me roaming the horror section of my local video store for an hour picking out random movies that I had never heard of that sounded interesting has now been replaced by the fact that I spends the same hour browsing Netflix. This year I decided to go back quite a bit in time and take a break from all the torture porn garbage that has come out in the last couple of years. Don’t get me wrong, as tempting as it was to see Saw 17: The Bride of Jigsaw’s Cousin, I decided to visit the work of an old horror legend instead.

This legend being none other than the “King of the Gimmick” himself. The Godfather of B-Movie; Mr. William Castle. Thanks to the recent release of The William Castle Film Collection, the 5-disc DVD set that includes eight of the director’s finest contributions to the world of cinema, everyone now has the privilege of rediscovering one of the first directors who understood that being scared and having fun go hand in hand when watching a scary movie.

With over fifty films on his resume, it’s a shame William Castle’s name doesn’t come up as often as Hitchcock or Argento’s when discussions arise about icons of the horror genre. Don’t get me wrong, his movies were never celluloid perfection or anything like that. But some classics like Straigh-Jacket, Mr. Sardonicus, and more had a campy twist that most horror fans can’t help but relish.

Having a background in theater production, William Castle (then known as William Schloss before changing his surname to the German translation of the word; castle) moved to Hollywood at the age of 23. After using his irresistible charm to acquaint himself with the great Orson Welles, he was able to get work as the infamous director’s assistant. He was even the first to take an interest in the property that would soon become The Lady from Shanghai, one of Welles’ finest films. Watching filmmakers like Welles in action day in and day out gave Castle an overwhelming desire to be a director himself.

Patiently waiting for his chance, Castle received his film training at the studios of Columbia Pictures where he dabbled in all sorts of behind-the-scenes work before eventually being hired as a contract director. At that time, directors under studio contract produced a film every 12 to 15 days. Needless to say, Castle got his chance and had to start churning out cookie-cutter movies every month. The films never garnered much attention except for all the negative reviews critics would throw at them, which didn’t cast Castle in a very positive light. It wasn’t until he ventured out on his own and decided he wanted to focus on making scary movies that his presence in the film industry would be felt.

Now, if you asked any film historian who William Castle was, the first thing they would all say would be “the king of gadgetry”. You see, as much as Castle loved being behind the camera; where he really excelled in filmmaking was marketing his end product to audiences. When the director ventured out of the studio and started making pictures on his own, he still had a lot to do financially, seeing how most of them were produced through second mortgages that Castle and his woman would contract. Thus, he had to guarantee that people would actually show up at the theater and with tickets to his movie. So he created absurd gimmicks that would generate enough buzz to get people talking all over the county, which in turn led to big opening weekends for his films.

When Macabre, Castle’s first independent feature, was released in 1958, people who bought tickets received a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London in case they died of fear watching the film. People were able to register with the nurses who were stationed right there in the cinemas. Castle even orchestrated hearses parked outside for added effect. All that hype around Macabre, a movie supposedly so scary you could die from it, did wonders for William Castle. The film was a huge hit with audiences.

Castle’s next film, The House on Haunted Hill, was promoted as being filmed in “Emergo”, and an exciting new technique in filmmaking where on-screen images would emerge in real life. In a scene at the end of the film, a skeleton emerges from a vat of acid and approaches one of the characters. At this point, a prop skeleton set up in the theater would be unveiled and hover above the crowd via a cable. Even though some theater patrons used this gadget for target practice with their Milk Duds, it again proved successful for Castle.

After Emergo came “Percepto” for the release of “so bad it’s a great movie”, The Tingler. The ridiculous plot of the film revolved around a creature that forms at the base of the spine whenever they get scared and if they don’t scream the creature kills them. Of course, all hell breaks loose when Vincent Price’s character is able to rip one of these creatures off a person’s back to let it escape and wreak havoc in a movie theater. The movie’s trick, Percepto, was electronics wired under certain theater chairs that sent a shock to the person sitting on it, giving them one more reason to scream.

Then came “Illusion-O” for the 1960 release of 13 Ghosts. In the film, the characters were unable to see the ghosts that haunted their newly acquired home unless they wore a special pair of glasses. Illusion-O was created to give the public the same experience, and in reality it was just a pair of old blue and red cellophane 3D glasses that gave viewers the ability to view ghosts at the screen when appearing or hiding. them in case they were too scared.

Movie after movie, William Castle would find ridiculous new ways to make sure people lined up to see his movies. Nothing seemed too outrageous for the horror maestro as long as it caused a buzz. His 1961 film Homicidal contained a “Fright Break” with fifteen minutes remaining in the film that offered people the option of leaving the theater in case they were too scared to finish watching. They were even offered a full refund, provided it was issued at the theatre’s designated “Coward’s Corner”.

Castle’s most unique gadget probably came with the release of the 1961 film Mr. Sardonicus. In the film, the titular character has a grotesque smile permanently frozen on his face after digging up his father’s corpse to retrieve a winning lottery ticket. With apparently two endings to the film shot during production, audience members were asked to participate in a “punishment poll” just before the film’s climax to determine Sardonicus’ fate. They had to thumb up if they wanted him to live or thumbs down if they wanted him to die. Being a horror movie, Sardonicus was always sent to his execution by the public, leading many to speculate that an ending with him surviving was never shot at all. It only adds fuel to the fire that an alternate ending doesn’t appear on The William Castle Film Collection’s Mr. Sardonicus disc. You wonder, don’t you?

It would be easy to look back on the work that William Castle did in creating his films and in marketing them as corny and shameless self-promotion. Many wondered why the director continued with gimmicks even after making a name for himself. But if you really think about it, the positive buzz that William Castle was able to create around his films in the late 50s, long before this internet thing happened, is a pretty impressive feat, for whatever reason. He did it. And not all of Castle’s movies were campy and gimmick-centric.

Straight-Jacket, Castle’s 1964 film starring Joan Crawford, is an amazing movie and one of my favorites from the 60s. It had some pretty sweet deaths that were extremely violent for the time and a rare surprise ending that really surprises. Not to mention it was written by Robert Bloch, the scribe behind Hitchcock’s Psycho. And in 1961, Time Magazine named Castle’s Homicidal one of its ten best films of the year. You know what horror movie wasn’t on this list that came out the same year? The psycho mentioned above. William Castle is also recognized as the lead producer of Rosemary’s Baby, the horror classic directed by Roman Polanski. If you’ve seen the movie, you might remember its weird cameo as the creepy guy standing in front of the phone booth when Mia Farrow tries to make a call.

After a long career that included directing over 55 films, Mr. Castle succumbed to a heart attack and died in May 1977. Gone but not forgotten, Castle’s films remain popular to this day. Each October, theaters across the county offer midnight screenings that pay tribute to the work of the late director. Some theaters have even gone so far as to install Percepto in their seats for screenings of cult classic The Tingler, a favorite among Castle fans everywhere.

With a career nearly as interesting as the fictional worlds he created behind the camera, William Castle has proven that sometimes it pays off for a filmmaker to be less of an artist and more of a seller. So this Halloween, when you’re looking for a cool horror movie to get you in the holiday spirit, drop in this latest Hollywood remake and save that title straight to DVD for another time. Try the William Castle film collection. He never won an Oscar or anything like that, but his movies are a lot of fun and entertaining to watch, which is more than a lot of horror movies today. And personally, I would take Mr. Castle’s work on a Saw movie every day.

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