Ghoulish gimmicks! : William Castle

William Castle

Like every other director in the early Hollywood horror years mr Castle had a touch childhood after being orphaned at the age of only 11. I could use this time to go into detail about his past and how he became the great director we know for the B movies but his film and marketing techniques intrigued me more.

So forgive me as I will skip the mans personal intro and cut straight to the industry and his beginnings. Before I do as always…check out some of his collection,

Yes we’ve jumped ahead into the era of Colour and horror along with the comical and satirical elements both in the a-typical sense and with Castle his marketing techniques.

It was imperial when working in the movie business at this time that many were racing towards making it big and with more horror directors , films and ideas the pot was thick with competition. This would make it hard for better themes for horror and also hard to draw audiences in to see similar movies with similar plots etc.

However this is where William Castle came into his own and began a gimmick empire with each one of his films.

It began when he first entered the theatre scene in New York City where he had written a play he wanted Orson wells to read, approve and open to the public. This would have been seen as ok if the small town playwright was actually known,but he wasn’t. He basically showed up with a script pushed into Orson wells hands and told him he wanted it ASAP. Amused by his sheer enthusiasm and confidence mr Wells said yes inspired to see what the young writer could do.

I suppose he thought he was so big in the industry it wouldn’t be a huge risk for him, after all he could just stop production of his work wasn’t up to scratch.

However what Wells didn’t know was that Williams only had an idea and in fact no script! Madness indeed.

With the approval William set out and write the play in just under 48hrs and production began. I guess faking it til you make it does work from time to time, but I’m guessing mr castle knew his talents and strengths by that time.

Not only did he write the play in 48 hrs he then translated it to German as was the theme of the play and created the ingenious idea of changing the entire theatre to a WWII extraganza with all German memorabilia strung around and posters depicting symbolism from the theatre building itself. There was also a disclaimer which stated that the play was “Not for children.”

The show was an instant success. And so began his directing career aswell as his technique for drawing audiences.

William castle on set of “Bug”

His films are up in the thrones along with the greats that I’ve mentioned before in previous horror blogs(link below) , but it was this recognition for drawing crowds in with sheer curiosity and mystic that packed out the cinema for his movies.

Everyone wanted to know what all the fuss was about and so would go to check it out. Here are a list of his films and then the infamous gimmicks of William Castle.

1.Macabre (1958)

Being one of his greatest masterpieces mr castle advertised his movie with disclaimers left right and centre in order to create a buzz in the industry. For this film he decided it would be a great move to mortgage his own house…why you ask? . Insanity perhaps or stroke of genius mr Castle did this in order to provide $1000 to the first customers who watched the film so they could purchase life insurance incase they….get this…die of fright!

So it would seem the big risk paid off. So many people heard about this outrageous risk that they were willing to watch the movie to see in fact if the movie was as death rattling as the director claimed and of course

nobody died.

2. House on haunted hill (1959)

Movie poster

Another spine tingling sensation and for this movie it was all about the ghouls and the dead so what else better than to have the audience suspended in terror as to what would happen in the final scene and while they are on edge swoop a huge skeleton down from the theatre roof with glowing red eyes . Well that what William did, it became a regular occurrence for the movie goers that younger teens and kids made a game from it each time they see the film. Aiming for it with cans of coke or sweets etc …boys will be boys I guess .

3. The Tingler (1959)

The tingler disclaimer notice.

Yep there was a notice upon entry and this was not the only gimmick that the genius director had invisioned to scare the movie goers.

He decided to spare no expense and place vibrating motors under various seats throughout the theatre. When a scene would play within the film the motors would be set off and audiences would scream and shout and jump throughout the film. It not only drew crowds for the experience but also for the jokes they played on friends and girlfriends most of them trying to find a seat with a motor placed just to watch their reactions. Priceless for a laugh and William was laughing all the way to the bank.

At Disneyland and Orlando studios this method for using physical sensations along with visual ones are pricey attractions within the complexes. I found myself watching “Honey I shrunk the kids” whilst feeling mice through my feet and bats in my hair. It does high ten your senses and I only wish that they brought Mr Castles genius idea to mainstream. Would definitely help drive more people to go to the cinemas if only for the sensations.

4. 13 Ghosts (1960)

This is one that has been remade and retaken by so many horror directors that it’s hard to know where the origin began if you weren’t aware of William Castle before .

For this original masterpiece by Castle he used a simple technology of 3D viewing. It was an early form allowing viewers to see ghosts in the movie by using a blue or red film to see through. Many did claim that you could still faintly see the ghosts on the screen without the film but it added a fun element none the less.

5. Homicidal (1961)

Greeting to the consumers

A notable slasher film by Mr William Castle he decided yet again to start the buzz within the community as always with the technique of fear.

Castle gave the option for 45 seconds at the end of the films final moments for the viewers to leave if they were too scared, or didn’t think they could watch the ending. As always teenagers and men alike saw this as a challenge and would go purposefully just to see what actually happens.

Not only was there an option to leave but within the theatre were arrows including the yellow line that guided you out during the 45 second interval called the cowards corner. They would then receive a badge or card which would state they where a ‘bonafide coward!’

So obviously people would stay a to watch the entire movie to avoid embarrassment and stay scared. Ingenious gimmick providing an option that wasn’t really there.

6. Mr Sardonicus (1961)

One of his last type of gimmicks before he changed lanes in the industry to more mainstream genres was the option for fans to vote on the ending of the movie and whether the subject or victim towards the end of the film would live or die. The overwhelming votes meant that one of the scenes where never shown in theatres and inevitably stayed on a reel in the movie archives. People have tried to find the alternative ending and once it was found it was a bit of an anti climax. Sometimes Pandora’s box best left closed guys.


So there we have it guys the man that first invented how to use marketing and curiosity in order to bring popularity and money…..and you gen x and gen z all think that the kardashians invented it. It’s the Old dogs that hold all the tricks and that’s why they are legendary in the Hollywood film world.

And with that take a bow William Castle for changing the game…

Thanks for reading

The Yenner 📰

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