S2E17: “Castle Of Horror”

The movie biz attracts all kinds. The horror biz attracts the most unusual among the movie biz. And those who succeed in the horror biz? They’re a truly special breed.

The House On Haunted Hill… The Tingler… 13 Ghosts… These were all competently made horror movies. What made them noteworthy and keeps them noteworthy is the man who made them: William Castle. A master showman, Castle understood one thing above all else: he knew how to sell tickets. It isn’t necessarily about how good or bad your play or movie is (Castle succeeded in the theater before he succeeded in the movies), it’s how good you are at promoting it. And, when it came to promoting his movies, no one could match Castle for panache, imagination or sheer chutzpah.

There’s A Gimmick!

If you’ve never encountered Castle before, you’re in for a treat!

Standing in for the maestro is his daughter Terry Castle (alas, William Castle died in 1977). Terry and Gil worked together when Gil produced a couple of Castle remakes (“House On Haunted Hill” and “13 Ghosts”) for Dark Castle Productions – the production company Joel Silver and Bob Zemeckis started specifically to remake Castle. Boy, does Terry Castle have a story to tell!

Despite being orphaned at 11, Castle rode life’s vicissitudes with remarkable improvisational skill. He quitting school at 15 to work for Bela Lugosi, got additional career help from Orson Welles (who became a lifelong friend) and ended up in Hollywood where he was one of the few people Columbia Pictures’ notoriously bad boss Harry Cohn actually liked. Castle directed dozens of B pictures before leaving Columbia for life as an independent producer.

As always, his flair for the dramatic guided him. His last big project (he produced it because the studio wouldn’t let him direct it): Rosemary’s Baby. That’s a lot of great movie-making over the course of one life. What’s crystal clear from our chat with Terry Castle is that her dad was a genuinely nice man who loved what he did for a living.

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