Review: William Castle at Columbia – Vol 2

Blu-ray: William Castle at Columbia – Vol 2

Zotz! (1962)

A professor of ancient languages; Jonathan Jones (Tom Poston) comes into possession of an old coin with a strange inscription upon it.

He translates the inscription and now finds himself gifted (or cursed!?) with 3 powers: if you point to someone, the person feels a sharp pain; if you say “zotz!” to someone, the person goes into slow motion; if you point to someone and say “zotz”, it kills the person.

Of course these powers can’t stay hidden for too long, and before you can say ‘Zotz!’ a 2nd time, Soviet agents are hunting down professor Jones to acquire the coin and use its powers for their own nefarious means.

Zotz! raises many smiles as Jones first begins to find out about his new powers, and this is attributed to the fantastic performance from Tom Poston. Wide-eyed and giddy from finding out that he now has ‘super-powers’, Poston elicits a childlike sense of wonder that you can’t help but endear yourself to.

The visual effects certainly haven’t stood the test of time, but have an aged charm to them that just adds to the ‘smile factor’ while watching; a ‘Matrix-Like’ slow-mo bullet effect had me laughing out loud, but I absolutely loved it.

Plenty of fun for all the family…watch with your kids and then give them a coin. I bet they will occupy themselves afterwards running around pointing at things/people and shouting ‘zotz!’.

13 Frightened Girls (1963)

My least favourite in the set, but far from being a bad movie, 13 Frightened Girls features a group girls (all different nationalities) in a boarding school for the daughters of diplomats.

Candice Hull (Kathy Dunn) is the American student, and when a spy who works for her father (whom she has a crush on) is in danger of losing his job, she uses the international students to gather Intel and secretly complete his missions, thus becoming a super-spy called the kitten.

As with most William Castle movies, 13 Frightened Girls has its tongue firmly set in its cheek. The narrative plays like an even more harmless Nancy Drew adventure, and there are no big surprises along the way.

The Old Dark House (1963)

Not to be confused with the 1932 version of The Old Dark House, this story has little in common with its predecessor.

Blessed with a great cast that includes Tom Poston, Joyce Grenfell, Robert Morley and the fantastic Fenella Fielding, this plays out like a theatrical farce version of ’10 Little Indians’.

Tom Penderel (Tom Poston) is a car salesman lured to an old dark house where a family are in a longtime standoff to see which of them will inherit the family fortune. The rule being that every surviving member of the family must meet in a room in the house at midnight every evening. Anyone who is even 1 second late forfeits their right to their share of the money.

Unfortunately, upon the arrival of Tom, family members begin to die.

Is this all a coincidence, or is foul play afoot?

Lighthearted and genuinely very silly at times, The Old Dark House, while certainly not a horror movie, works well as a slapstick ‘whodunnit’.

Straight-Jacket (1964)

Lucy Harbin (Joan Crawford) returns home to find her husband in bed with another woman, and so does what anyone else would do…and hacks them both to pieces with a very large axe.

Unfortunately for Lucy, her daughter Carol witnesses the horrific event.

Cut to 20 years later and Lucy is released from an asylum and returns to her daughter who has been brought up by foster parents and is now in a relationship with the son of a very wealthy family and wanting to marry him.

It is when the families are all together that people begin losing their heads…literally.

Has Lucy gone loco again?

My favourite of this boxset, Straight-Jacket is a blast from beginning to end. Joan Crawford chews up the scenery every time she is on screen, and there is a wonderful character part by George Kennedy (who will always be Joe Patroni to me).

The narrative twist is telegraphed within the first 10 minutes, yet despite there being no huge surprises, the onscreen shenanigans kept me glued to the screen right through to the end credits.

Some low budget beheadings raise many a smile, but this is all about Joan…and she’s fantastic.

The movies are accompanied by superb special features which are very informative and entertaining.

• High Definition remasters of all four films
• Original mono audio
• Alternative presentations of The Old Dark House – the black and white 1963 US theatrical presentation (87 mins); the cut-down A-certificate 1966 UK presentation (77 mins); and the complete uncut colour presentation (87 mins)
Zotz! audio commentary by Diabolique Magazine’s editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger
13 Frightened Girls audio commentary by Daughters of Darkness’ Samm Deighan
The Old Dark House audio commentary by celebrated horror and fantasy authors Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
Strait-Jacket audio commentary film historians Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood
Stephen Laws Introduces ‘Zotz!’ (2018): an appreciation by the acclaimed horror author
Kim Newman on Ray Russell (2018): an appreciation of novelist and writer of Zotz! by the critic and author of Nightmare Movies
13 Frightened Girls: William Castle’s original ‘The Candy Web’ opening / closing ‘Danger Card’ messages
13 Frightened Girls: four alternativee opening sequences created for international release versions
Jonathan Rigby on ‘The Old Dark House’ and ‘Strait-Jacket’ (2018): new appreciations by the author of American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema
‘The Old Dark House’ in Eastmancolor (2018): Paul Frith, Senior Research Associate, School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA discusses the film’s cinematography
Joan Had Me Fired! (2018): an interview with actor Anne Helm
On the Road with Joan Crawford (2018): an interview with publicist Richard Kahn
Battle-Axe: The Making of ‘Strait-Jacket’(2007, 15 mins)
Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests (1964, 4 mins)
Joan Crawford – Axe Test (1964, 1 min)
How to Plan a Movie Murder (1964, 5 mins): star Joan Crawford, director William Castle and author Robert Bloch discuss making Strait-Jacket in this vintage piece
• Super 8 version of Strait-Jacket
• Isolated music & effects track on all four films
• Original theatrical trailers
Strait-Jacket trailer commentary with David DeCoteau
13 Frightened Girls original UK trailer introduction
• Alternative 13 Frightened Girls ‘The Candy Web’ trailer
• Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited Edition box set exclusive booklets for each film with new essays by Joe Jordan, Rachael Nisbet, James Oliver and John Oliver, archival interview materials, contemporary reviews and film credits
• World and UK premieres on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition box set of 6,000 numbered units

You can buy  William Castle at Columbia – Vol 2 by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes.

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from discs kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.