Friday, October 5, 2012

Boo X 2 Part 2: "Thirteen Ghosts"

Poster for the 1960 Version
Never one to miss an opportunity for exploitation, Castle's 1960 thriller 13 Ghosts used 3D as its gimmick, though Castle called it "Illusion-O!" and was too cheap to shoot the whole movie stereoptically. Instead, he came up with a way to shoot only certain scenes in 3D, requiring both his actors and audience to us special glasses to see the ghosts.

Cyrus Zorba inherits a house from his occultist Uncle Plato. Moving his young family in, Cyrus discovers that the house comes with a housekeeper (played by the Wicked Witch of the West herself, Margaret Hamilton), a buried treasure and 12 ghosts which can only be seen using the goggles developed by Plato. Of course, the real villain turns out to be the family lawyer, who wants the money for himself. When he tries to kill Cyrus' young son Buck, Plato's ghost appears and kills the lawyer, making him the 13th ghost who sets the other 12 free. It's a rather silly movie with cheap effects, though some of the ghosts (a murderous chef, a headless lion timer and a flaming skeleton among them) are fun. And the 3D viewers used by the audience were shaped like ghosts. I wonder if any of them are still around?

With the success of the House on Haunted Hill remake, Terry Castle and Dark Castle entertainment tried to recreate the same success with a 2D remake, not-so-cleverly titled Thir13en Ghosts. This time, Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) is the occultist, attempting to capture a junkyard ghost called 'The Juggernaut' with his assistant, Dennis (Matthew Lillard). When Cyrus is killed by a stack of falling cars, he leaves his house to his impoverished widowed nephew Arthur (Tony Shaloub), who moves in with his children and their nanny. The house is an improbable mansion made almost entirely of glass etched with strange Latin phrases and runes. The ghosts are tapped in the basement and are horrifying monsters who can also only be seen using the special glasses invented by Cyrus. It turns out that house is actually a machine powered by the 13 ghosts of the "Black Zodiac" and is intended to open the Eye of Hell (yes, really). It also turns out that Cyrus faked his death to lure Arthur to the house to become the 13th ghost (Arthur's wife is already one of the 12) and turn the machine on.

The ghosts are quite gruesome, but the over-complicated plot and ridiculous acting by some normally gifted actors combine with the most ridiculous set ever to make Thir13en Ghosts an abject failure. I saw this movie with my sister in Florida (one of the few we've seen together since she moved) and we looked at each other after it was over and just laughed at how stupid the it was.

I do have to admit, I was surprised that even while shooting on a glass set, no crew reflections were caught on camera (or if they were, they were digitally removed in post). This time, I suggest that you stick with the original for silly fun and avoid the remake for just plain silliness.

More, anon.

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