Gimmick UP, Movie Pants

HEY. Earth to Hollywood: 3-D is STUPID. If your movie sucks, don't gimmick it up with another dimension. That just makes it a sucky movie with a Z-axis (sucky being the technical term). Like a bunch of other parents with a limited budget, Da-da will never take his kids to see a 3-D movie. Same goes for 3-D TVs, which are such a myopic waste of rare earth minerals it slags Da-da's bile meter. So, Hollywood, you can do one of two things to secure future amounts of Da-da's moolah:
  1. Stick with 2-D, or...
  2. Go William Castle.
If you're going to make mediocre movies with recycled story lines and drive-thru dialog, at least take a page from old-school-schlock producer William Castle. Review the following schlossian tactics for each movie and gimmick employed (courtesy wikipedia, lightly edited by yours truly); Da-da doesn't normally like to quote this much material, but it's very good, as you'll see. Each link is a William Castle film (duh):
  • Macabre (1958): A certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London was given to each customer in case they should die of fright during the film. Showings also had nurses stationed in the lobbies and hearses parked outside the theater.[1]
  • House on Haunted Hill (1959): Filmed in "Emergo." An inflatable, glow in the dark skeleton attached to a wire floated over the audience during the final moments of some showings of the film to parallel the action on the screen when a skeleton arose from a vat of acid and pursued the villainous wife of Vincent Price.[2] The gimmick did not always instill fright; sometimes the skeleton became a target for some audience members who hurled candy boxes, soda cups or any other objects at the skeleton.[3]
  • The Tingler (1959): Filmed in "Percepto." In the film a docile creature that lives in the spinal cord is activated by fright, and can only be destroyed by screaming. In the film's finale one of the creatures removed from the spine of a mute woman killed by it when she was unable to scream is let loose in a movie theatre. Some seats in theatres showing the Tingler were equipped with larger versions of the hand-held joy buzzers attached to the underside of the seats. When the Tingler in the film attacked the audience the buzzers were activated as a voice encouraged the real audience to "Scream -- scream for your lives!"[4] Articles regarding this often incorrectly state the seats in the theatre were wired to give electrical jolts.
  • 13 Ghosts (1960): Filmed in "Illusion-O." A handheld ghost viewer/remover with strips of red and blue cellophane was given out to use during certain segments of the film. By looking through either the red or blue cellophane the audience was able to either see or remove the ghosts if they were too frightening.[5]
  • Homicidal (1961): This film contained a "Fright break" with a 45 second timer overlaid over the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. [Talk about picking up the pace.] A voiceover advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. To ensure the more wily patrons did not simply stay for a second showing and leave during the finale Castle had different color tickets printed for each show.[6] In a trailer for the film, Castle explained the use of the Coward's Certificate and admonished the viewer to not reveal the ending of the film to friends, "or they will kill you. If they don't, I will."[7] About 1% of patrons still demanded refunds, and in response:
"William Castle simply went nuts. He came up with 'Coward's Corner,' a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn't take it anymore, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward's Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stenciled message: 'Cowards Keep Walking.' You passed a nurse who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, "'Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward's Corner'!" As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity -- at Coward's Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, 'I am a bona fide coward.' Very, very few were masochistic enough to endure this. The one percent refund dribbled away to a zero percent, and I'm sure that in many cities a plant had to be paid to go through this torture. No wonder theater owners balked at booking a William Castle film. It was all just too damn complicated."[8]
  • Mr. Sardonicus (1961): In this gothic tale set in 1880s London, a baron's face is frozen into a permanent, grotesque, hideous smile after digging up his father's grave to retrieve a lottery ticket left in the pocket of his father's jacket. The audiences were allowed to vote in a "punishment poll" during the climax of the film -- Castle himself appears on screen to explain to the audience their options. Each member of the audience was given a card with a glow in the dark thumb they could hold either up or down to decide if Mr. Sardonicus would be cured or die during the end of the film. Supposedly, no audience ever offered mercy so the alternate ending was never screened.[9]
  • Zotz! (1962): Each patron was given a "Magic" (gold colored plastic) coin which, of course, did absolutely nothing.[10]
  • 13 Frightened Girls (1963): Castle launched a worldwide hunt for the prettiest girls from 13 different countries to cast in the film.[9]
  • Strait-Jacket (1964): Advised by his financial backers to eliminate gimmicks, Castle hired Joan Crawford to star and sent her on a promotional tour to theatres. At the last minute, Castle had cardboard axes made and handed out to patrons.[9]
  • I Saw What You Did (1965): The film was initially promoted using giant plastic telephones but after a rash of prank phone calls and complaints, the telephone company refused Castle permission to use them or mention telephones. So he turned the back rows of theatres into "Shock Sections". Seat belts were installed to keep patrons from being jolted from their chairs in fright.[11]
  • Bug (1975): Castle advertised a million-dollar life insurance policy taken out on the film's star, "Hercules" the cockroach.[12]

C'mon, Hollywood, there are TONS of weird, fringey, unemployed people (like Da-da) who'd giggle like little girls to be given the $10/hr. opportunity to touch people in dark movie theaters with long plastic skeleton arms and other marital aids. Can you afford not to?? No. To (badly) paraphrase an old William Castle line, "SCHEME -- scheme for your lives!"

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