Film maker William Castle was known as the king of B-movies, a shlock master who used gimmicks and tricks in his works. With his long face and massive cigar, he was almost as well known a director as Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s.
Very early in his career, William learned the value of promotional stunts. His first play was Not for Children. When Nazi Germany sent him an invitation to perform the play in Munich, he refused and used his leading lady by calling her “The Girl who said ‘No’ to Hitler”. To up the ante, he painted swastikas on the outside of the theater. It added greatly to the success of the play.
Eventually, William went to work for Columbia Pictures and then decided to branch out on his own. He financed his first movie Macabre with his own money. As a gimmick, he offered a $1,000 life insurance policy if anyone died of fright from seeing the picture. He also stationed nurses in the lobby and hearses outside the theater.
He made the Vincent Price flick The Tingler. It’s big gimmick was random seats wired with electric buzzers. At the end of the film, those buzzers would go off and shock audiences. Director John Waters said that he would get to the theater early just to find the right seat to feel The Tingler.
In his career, he made The House on Haunted Hill filmed in Emergo and 13 Ghosts filmed in Illusion-O.
This style of motion picture is gone but not forgotten. The 1993 film Matinee had John Goodman play a character that was based on William Castle.