Taurus Apr 24, 1914 New York City Actor, Director, Producer and Writer
William Castle (April 24, 1914 – May 31, 1977) was an American film director, producer, screenwriter, actor and writer. Castle was known for directing films with many gimmicks which were ambitiously promoted, despite being reasonably low budget B-movies. Castle's official website is www.williamcastle.com.
Castle was born William Schloss in New York City to a Jewish family. Schloss means "castle" in German, and Castle probably chose to translate his surname into English to make it easier to pronounce. He spent most of his teenage years working on Broadway in a number of jobs ranging from set building to acting. This stood him in good stead when he became a director, and he left for Hollywood at the age of 23, going on to direct his first film six years later. He also worked an as assistant to director Orson Welles, doing much of the second unit location work for Welles' noir classic, The Lady from Shanghai, based on a novel If I Die Before I Wake that Castle found and shared with Welles.
Castle began directing films in the early 1940s, and later television, before moving on to his favorite genre, horror films. Five of these were scripted by Robb White. Two of his films have been remade, House on Haunted Hill in 1999, and Thirteen Ghosts in 2001 (the latter retitled Thir13en Ghosts).
He also produced, and had a brief non-speaking role in, Roman Polanski's film Rosemary's Baby (1968). Castle is the grey-haired man lurking outside the phone booth while Mia Farrow is attempting to get in touch with the obstetrician. According to Castle's autobiography STEP RIGHT UP!...I'm Gonna Scare The Pants Off America (now back in reprint), Castle had wanted to direct the film as well, but the studio insisted on hiring another director.
Promotion and marketing was in Castle's blood. For his films, Castle often employed gimmicks to entertain his audiences:
• Macabre (1958): A certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case they should die of fright during the film. Showings also had nurses stationed in the lobbies and hearses parked outside the theater.
• House on Haunted Hill (1959): Filmed in "Emergo". An inflatable glow in the dark skeleton attached to a wire floated over the audience during the final moments of some showings of the film to parallel the action on the screen when a skeleton arose from a vat of acid and pursued the villainous wife of Vincent Price. The gimmick did not always instill fright; sometimes the skeleton became a target for some audience members who hurled candy boxes, soda cups or any other objects at hand at the skeleton.
• The Tingler (1959): Filmed in "Percepto". In the film a docile creature that lives in the spinal cord is activated by fright, and can only be destroyed by screaming. In the film's finale one of the creatures removed from the spine of a mute woman killed by it when she was unable to scream is let loose in a movie theatre. Some seats in theatres showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream - scream for your lives."
• 13 Ghosts (1960): Filmed in "Illusion-O". A hand held ghost viewer/remover with strips of red and blue cellophane was given out to use during certain segments of the film. By looking through either the red or blue cellophane the audience was able to either see or remove the ghosts if they were too frightening.
• Homicidal (1961): This film contained a "Fright break" with a 45 second timer overlaid over the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. A voiceover advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. To ensure the more wily patrons did not simply stay for a...