rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href=""/>

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Narrative: Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story (2007) Review

Fig.1 Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story Film Poster

Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story is a documentary which is about William Castle, who without a doubt was, the last great American showman and the King of the Gimmicks.  The documentary by Jeffrey Schwarz, shows the career of one of the legendary Producer/Directors who made an impact on the film industry with his gimmicks. Spine Tingler, is a kind picture, but more importantly, it shines needed light on a man in love with cinema, using his dedication to exaggeration to keep audiences screaming for more.” (Orndorf, 2011)

Fig.2 William Castle Portrait
Castle was orphaned at a young age and quickly learned that the one at a early that the one thing that made him happy was making a audiences respond to some he was responsible for and his ultimate joy was their applause. This is something you can see in every aspect of his career, he loved and lived for the response of an audience, some would say he thrived on their response. Castle started off his career by producing B-movies that could be made quickly and made cheaply. Throughout the 1950's and 60's, William Castle produced and directed over a series of about 60 films. Eventually he became tired of this and having learned every aspect of filmmaking. He soon realized that what an audience really wanted from a film was to be scared. Castle’s films that he is most remembered for are his horror films, they are Known for their outrageous promotions and audience participation gimmicks associated with them and audiences loved every minute of it.

Fig. 3 William Castles The Tingler Film Poster

Castle felt that a simple scary movie was not enough; each of his flicks came with its very own 'in-cinema' gimmick. He knew that getting people in the seats in the first place was a hard part of the movie business. Castle knew that making a film into a fun experience for an audience so it was more than just about seeing the film. So with every new film, he would whole-heartedly dive into making his films but also coming up with a gimmick to sell it to audiences.

He used several gimmicks that wouldn’t give the same effect to today’s audience but in the 50s and 60’s, these things really shook up Castle's audiences. Such as Castle film Macabre (1958), he felt the film needed more promotion than just newspaper ads, so he decided the movie need a gimmick to sell it to the public. He issued an insurance policy which guaranteed a $1000 payout to the beneficiary of any audience member, who died of fright while watching the film. The movie was a hit, and the start to William Castle’s career, as the Master Showman. Castle came up with other gimmicks, such as the idea of “Emergo”, used in The House on Haunted Hill (1959).  This was nothing more than a large plastic skeleton, which would emerge from the screen during the film and fly over the audience’s heads on wire. Once again, the film was a hit as much for the gimmick as the movie itself, and this encouraged Castle when making his next film. The Tingler (1959) where he came up with “Percepto”, involving a device which was attached to various theatre seats that would vibrate, giving the patron sitting there a tingling sensation during the a certain part of the film. Castle had another hit on his hands and with his next film was 13 Ghosts (1960), Castle introduced “Illusion-O”, where the audience were given “Ghost Viewers” which the person could see or remove anything to frightening. One thing that is noticeable is that Castle with every new film there had to be a bigger and better gimmick than the film before. Castle never had the confidence in his films and believed that this was the way to get audiences to come and watch his films.

Fig. 4 Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story Film Still  

One thing that is for certain, is that Castle loved his fans and mightily respected them and their opinions. All he really wanted was to make going to the movies a fun experience for audiences. Once in a interview Castle stated, “We all have a common interest, bigger and more horrible monsters – and I’m just the monster to bring them to you.” (Power, 2011) All Castle truly wanted was to please his audiences and he often had a fear of failure. That is why with every new film castle made he thought there had to be a gimmick to go along with the film, to get audience to come and watch his films. But his fans will always say that his films never failed to please them. And it was “Through pure showmanship and the force of his own personality, he made audiences feel they were part of something truly unique that they would remember for the rest of their lives. As this film can attest, they’re still talking about it today.” (Ziskind, 2011)


Orndorf, Brian (2011) DVD Review: 'Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story'. (Accessed on 15/10/2011)
Power, Patrick (2011) Hollywood Icons: William Castle-Master Showman. (Accessed on 15/10/2011)
Ziskind, Linda (2011) Guest Post by Jeffrey Schwarz: “Event-izing By The Master or How To Put Butts In The Seats”. (Accessed 0n 15/10/2011)

List of Illustrations
Figure 1. Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story (2007) Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story Film Poster. (Accessed 16/10/2011)
(Accessed 16/10/2011)
Figure 3. Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story (2007) William Castle's The Tingler. (Accessed 16/10/2011)
Figure 4. Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story (2007) Spine Tingler: The William Castle Story Film Still. (Accessed 16/10/2011)

No comments:

Post a Comment