William castle at columbia Volume One
Gimmick! Gimmick! Gimmick!
The king of stunt cinema and his gimmicks are celebrated in this box set, covering William Castle’s early-’60s output.
The Tingler (1959) – aka the one where audiences were buzzed by seats rigged with vibrators – is a nonsensical chiller starring Vincent Price as a scientist who discovers that extreme states of terror cause a sort of timid rubber lobster to gestate in your spine. Price is great in a less villainous role, but the film is ploddy; a solid B-movie, but not as much fun as its reputation suggests.
Far better is 13 Ghosts (1960), aka the one where audiences were given a “ghost viewer” to see the spooks. A hugely entertaining haunted house flick with a ghostly chef and a lion amid its phantom parade, the regular splashes of vibrant red and blue among the black-and-white give it an odd vibe of buttoned-up psychedelia.
Homicidal (1961) – aka the one that isn’t really in SFX territory – is a blatant Hitchcock knockoff that, nevertheless, proves that Castle could play things straight. It’s an entertaining thriller, though it does have a whiff of transphobia.
Completing the set is the excellent Mr Sardonicus (1961) – aka the one where the audience chose the ending... sort of. Here a disfigured Baron forces a doctor to perform facial surgery on him to remove his rictus grin. It works because, for all his cruelty, Sardonicus is as much victim as villain, given a tragic backstory and brought to life with a terrific performance from Guy Rolfe.
While the films are a mixed bag, they all look superb, with beautiful 4K scans. A lavish and wellpresented set that gives Castle’s output the treatment it deserves.
The films look superb, with beautiful 4K scans
Extras The Tingler, Homicidal and Mr Sardonicus all have journo/ podcaster commentaries. 13 Ghosts misses out, but is presented both in black-and-white and the original “Illusion-O” version, and there’s an interview with actress Pamela Lincoln. Spine-Tingler! The William Castle Story (82 minutes) is an excellent documentary with contributions from John Landis, Roger Corman and John Waters; it comes with its own short Making Of. Elsewhere, Kim Newman gives a fond appreciation of The Tingler while Jonathan Rigby celebrates Mr Sardonicus. Plus: trailers, music tracks, intros, promo and archive material and booklets. Will Salmon
Despite the film’s infamous “punishment poll”, in reality only one ending was ever shot for Mr Sardonicus. What a swizz!
That disguise was fooling nobody.