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Friday, January 12, 2018

William Castle's Flying Leap At The Boxoffice

Zotz! Is Kiddie Lure For Summer '62

Never knew William Castle was a coin enthusiast, but arrive he did to Evansville, Ill. opening of Zotz! with a collection valued at $42,000 (so Bill claimed). The Evansville Drive-In, with parking space for 700 cars, got first-run on Zotz!. We could wonder if it was really worth Bill's time to fly in for that, but then, aspirations were simpler in 1962, or perhaps he understood that where bally went, there was no such thing as minor engagements. Castle had learned how small rocks could form a pile, as Indiana wind might blow far the word of a drive-in lot filled to capacity that August weekend. His precise ETA, 9:58 on Saturday morning, came with invitation to all Evansville for meet/greet. Was there risk in announcing that he would disembark with that $42,000 coin collection? Whatever doubts Castle had about peers in the industry, he at least could trust his fans. It would be a busy weekend, Bill "staying over" to ride in the Sesquicentennial parade. Did not know what this meant until online refresher. Turns out it indicates a one hundred and fifty year landmark, as in Evansville's 150th year. At first, I thought it had something to do with a Sasquatch, but would William Castle be in town to recognize someone else's Bigfoot movie?




Good News, Evansville. Bill's Staying Over!
The Evansville Drive-In gave away "lucky Zotz! coins" that night, presumably not from Bill's private collection. Turns out the Zotz! giveaway was hard plastic, but "bronze-looking," with a hole at center top so you could use it for a bracelet or pendent. To own one was to qualify as a "Zotznick," for which I assume there was onscreen explanation. The coin figures into the movie because Tom Poston finds one with magical power that enables him to, among other things, fly. Assuming Castle stayed overnight, we could figure him sharing space in the booth and personally handing out the souvenir as patrons drove in. Bill's success came of personal outreach to his public. I've read how he'd breeze into towns, pick up a phone book, and start calling one-and-all to come see his show. Castle might have been President had he turned a same initiative toward politics. The fact he could indulge a collecting hobby that ran up value of $40K demonstrates just how well House On Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, and Homicidal had done. Distributing Columbia would not have stayed in bed so long with the producer were he not in steady profit. To the Evansville's Drive-In bill, note Mothra playing in support, also a first-run. That's two fairly high-profile genre releases from Columbia seeing initial play outdoors. Had Castle hoped for hardtop hospitality for his newest? Zotz! is available on DVD.

More Castle Conquests at Greenbriar Archive: Macabre, Hollywood Story, and The Night Walker.

9 Comments:

Blogger Mike Cline said...

Remember going to see ZOTZ! when first released. Heavy TV ad campaign the week before Thursday opening.

No memory of receiving a coin.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

The spectacle of high voltage huckster Bill Castle trying to transform low key comic actor Tom Poston into a movie star in ZOTZ and THE OLD DARK HOUSE is much funnier than either of the two films in question. By time he tried the same thing with Sid Ceasar both producer and comic seemed equally worn out and maybe a better match.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Matthew Clark said...

According IMDB, Zotz is about a professor, Tom Poston, who finds a magic coin which gives him the power to "inflict pain, slow down time, or kill". Sounds more like a Bert Gordon Lewis concept. Could this be Castle trying to do a Disney film like the Absent Minded Professor?
It is Margaret Dumont's next to last movie.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Sorry to change the subject -- but what movie is that snow scene from atop the page? It certainly reminds me of what we Northeasterners have been going through lately.

5:29 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

That is the opening shot of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. Seemed appropriate for the weather we've been having.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Itslefty said...

I had my ZOTZ coin for years. Can't seem to find it now. Saw ZOTZ with Mothra.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

I hate to say "I thought so," but... I thought so.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Robert Fiore said...

I remember seeing this movie on TV as a child and loving it, especially the part about saying "ZOTZ!" I haven't seen it since, and I understand it's viewed as being one of the worst movies ever made.

12:36 PM  
Blogger rnigma said...

"Zotz!" was based on a novel by Walter Karig, the technical advisor on "Victory at Sea." Karig also illustrated the book with simple, Thurber-ish cartoons.

6:50 PM  

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