American movie producer, director, and showman (1914-1977). Real name: William Schloss Jr. Castle directed horror movies, many of them pretty good, but he's best known as a producer of memorable gimmicks.

He was orphaned at 11, and lived for a time with his older sister. When he was 13 years old, he watched a production of the play "Dracula," starring Bela Lugosi, and loved the hell out of it. He watched multiple performances and even got to meet Lugosi himself, who ended up recommending him to be the assistant stage manager for the road company tour of the play. Castle dropped out of school at 15 so he could take the job and spent the rest of his teenage years working on Broadway -- everything from set-building to acting

In an early preview of his skills at gimmickry and promotion, he once hired Ellen Schwanneke, a German actress, for a play, and was told that the current theater guild regulations said that German actors could only appear in plays that had originally performed in Germany. So he claimed he'd hired her for the play "Das ist nicht für Kinder," a play that didn't actually exist. He then spent the next weekend writing the play and having it translated into German. Later, when Schwanneke received an invitation from Nazi officials to attend a performance in Munich, Castle faked up a telegram turning down the request, promoted the actress as "the girl who said no to Hitler," and even secretly vandalized his own theater with swastikas -- the publicity was sensational, and the play ended up being a resounding success. 

Castle started work in Hollywood when he was 23, learning as many aspects of the film business as he could, eventually directing low-budget movies, beginning with "The Chance of a Lifetime" in 1943. He gained a reputation in Hollywood as a man who could be counted on to finish making a movie quickly and under budget

Castle grew tired of doing to bidding of the studios and decided to start making independent films. He mortgaged his house to finance his first movie, "Macabre," from 1958. And since he didn't have a big-budget studio to set up publicity and advertising, he worked up his own public relations scheme: he gave every moviegoer a certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London if they died of fright during the movie. He also parked hearses outside the theaters and stationed nurses in the lobbies. It was an absolutely ridiculous publicity stunt, and audiences loved it, turning "Macabre" into a box-office success. 

Audacious publicity stunts became Castle's trademark. In 1959's "House on Haunted Hill," a skeleton with red-lit eye sockets flew over the audience near the end of the film. In "The Tingler" in 1959, the film's monster attaches itself to the spinal cord and can only be destroyed by screaming; Castle attached vibrating motors to the undersides of some theater seats to simulate the creature's attack. In 1960's "13 Ghosts," moviegoers got a handheld ghost viewer -- if they looked through the red cellophane on the viewer, ghosts on the film would be more visible, or they'd be hidden if they looked through the blue side. "Mr. Sardonicus" in 1961 featured a "punishment poll," where audiences could vote on whether the villain should die or be cured. In 1964's "Strait-Jacket," cardboard axes were presented to audiences.

Castle dreamed of getting to direct something other than B-movies, and he again mortgaged his home to get the film rights to Ira Levin's novel "Rosemary's Baby" before it was even published. But Paramount Pictures insisted on letting Roman Polanski direct, and Castle had to settle for producing the film. And he suffered kidney failure soon after the movie hit theaters, so he wasn't able to build on the film's success, so he was back to directing B-movies after that. 

Castle died in 1977 and was buried in Glendale, California

Filmmakers John Waters and Robert Zemeckis both considered themselves huge fans of Castle and his films. And his daughter, Terry Ann Castle, was co-producer on the remakes of "House on Haunted Hill" in 1999 and "Thir13en Ghosts" in 2001. Also, in the 1993 movie "Matinee," John Goodman plays Lawrence Woolsey, a film producer clearly based on Castle.

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