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Him Wit-h An
Castle Of Horrors
The man behind Percepto, Coward's Corner and Illusion-O.
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Q: Wow! Am I excited! I just fled, the Tingler could be killed
heard that the wonderfully talent- only when a person screams.
"In the film, the Tingler
ed William Castle — certainly a gi-
breaks loose in a movie theater
ant among film directors — was and kills the projectionist," Mr.
Jewish. Tell me it's so, Tell Me Waters writes. "In real theaters
where the film was playing, the
A: This is your lucky day, my screen would go white at this
friend, because William Castle, point and a voice would an-
born in 1914 in New York, was nounce, 'Attention! The Tingler
is loose in this theater. Please
His original name was scream for your life.' "
Mr. Waters was especially
Schloss (German for "castle"),
and he gained fame (or notori- delighted with Mr. Castles's
ety) as a master of low-budget "Percepto," and he went to see
horror films during the 1950s. The Tingler every day just to
Who could forget the won- enjoy it. "As I sat there experi-
derful Tingler, for example, encing the miracle of Percepto,"
when movie goers actually were he writes, "I realized that there
shocked (via an electrical could be such a thing as Art in
charge, called the
"Percepto," rigged to
the bottom of their
chairs) during scary
ous but certainly orig-
inal" is the way critic
Leonard Maltin de-
scribes this gem.)
Or how about the
Macabre, where Cas-
tle had audiences in-
sured by Lloyd's of
London, lest they drop
dead from fright.
(Hearses were parked
movie theaters.) In
the tradition of
another genius, Ed
Wood Jr., Castle
filmed Macabre in
nine days and at a William Castle: Now that was art.
cost of $90,000.
Other Castle creations in- the cinema." There were prob-
cluded the "Coward's Corner" lems. In one city, the projec-
where wimps, too fearful to see tionist decided to test the
scary scenes, were forced to sit, electric buzzer on a group of old-
and "Illusion-O," a 3-D "ghost er women watching The Nun's
viewer" for his brilliant 13 Story. "I'm sure Audrey Hep-
burn never got such a vocal re-
And while, tragically, many action before or after this
have forgotten Mr. Castle, it's `electrifying' scene."
Mr. Castle died May 31,
good to know that his genius
continues to inspire some of the 1977, of a heart attack.
leading film makers of today.
John Waters, whose works
Q: I was in Israel recently and I
include Pink Flamingos, Poly-
ester and Serial Mom, says in think I must have seen 200 differ-
Crackpot that Castle was his ent newspapers: in Hebrew, in Eng-
lish, in Russian. That got me
"Without a doubt, the great- thinking about exactlywhat the first
est showman of our time was
William Castle," he says. "His Hebrew-language paper published
films made me want to make daily in Israel was — can Tell Me
films. I'm even jealous of his Why help out?
work. In fact, I wish I were
A: The first Hebrew daily
William Castle." Mr. Waters published in Eretz Yisrael was
regards The Tingler Mr. Cas- Ha-Zevi, started by Eliezer
tle's "masterpiece." The story of Ben-Yehuda and his son,
a curious entity that lives in the Ithamar.
spinal column and comes to life
Ben-Yehuda was the man
only when someone was terri- largely responsible for bringing
Hebrew to Israel. He arrived in
Palestine in 1881, when he
joined the staff of the paper
But Ben-Yehuda found the
Hebrew there archaic, and so
he began to develop the
language for modern usage.
In an effort to create a spoken
Hebrew for all Jews (one
language, he believed, would
serve to unite the disparate
elements of the Jewish
community), Ben-Yehuda be-
gan compiling a modern He-
brew dictionary and left
Havazzelet to start his own pa-
Ha-Zevi was originally a
weekly, then appeared sever-
al times a week, and finally in
1908 became a daily.
And while Ben-Yehuda and
his son knew nothing of the
National Enquirer, it didn't
take them long to figure out
what sold well. Unlike the
stodgy, erudite publications
usually found in Eretz Yisrael,
Ha-Zevi had sensational head-
lines — and terribly sentimen-
tal pieces that brought readers
Neither Havazzelet nor Ha-
Zevi are around today, but a
Hebrew daily started more
than 75 years ago still is.
Founded in 1919, Haaretz from
the start attracted leading He-
brew writers and journalists
(Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was a reg-
ular contributor). Today, it is
probably Israel's most respect-
Q: Why is it that the scholar
Moses Maimonides is also known
as the Rambam?
A: "Rambam" is an acronym
for Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon.
Born in 1135 to Joseph Mai-
mon, a leading scholar in
Cordoba, Spain, Moses Mai-
monides was one of the great-
est rabbinic authorities of all
times. The author of the Mish-
neh Torah (a systematic com-
pilation of Jewish law,
completed in 1180) and the
Guide to the Perplexed (1190),
he also was renowned as a
court physician in Egypt.
Maimonides died in about
1204. His tomb — a white,
curved structure covered with
tzedakah boxes — is in
Tiberias, Israel. ❑
Send questions to "Tell Me Why"
c/o The Jewish News, 27676
Franklin Rd., Southfield, MI
48034 or send fax to 354-6069.