The Spirit Is Willing (1967)

94 mins | Mystery, Comedy | July 1967

Director:

William Castle

Writer:

Ben Starr

Producer:

William Castle

Cinematographer:

Hal Stine

Editor:

Edwin H. Bryant

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler

Production Company:

William Castle Enterprises
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HISTORY

The Paramount Pictures adaptation of Nathaniel Benchley’s 1964 novel, The Visitors, was initially named after the book. However, the film project, headed by writer-director William Castle, was re-titled The Spirit Is Willing, as noted in the 29 Mar 1966 DV. With Sid Caesar cast in the leading role of “Ben Powell,” Joanne Dru was brought on to play his wife, “Kate Powell.” The following month, an 18 Apr 1966 LAT item announced that Dru had been forced to drop out “due to minor surgery,” and that she would be replaced by Vera Miles.
       A DV production chart published on 29 Apr 1966 stated that principal photography began one day earlier at the Paramount Pictures studio lot in Hollywood, CA. There, filming took place on Stage 9, according to the 3 May 1966 DV. Location scenes were shot at Fort Bragg, CA. The completion of filming on 26 May 1966 was announced in that day’s DV.
       William Castle discussed a possible television series based on the film with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), as noted in a 6 Oct 1966 DV brief. Sid Caesar was said to be uninterested in reprising his role for the television version.
       The Spirit Is Willing was cited in the 7 Jan 1967 LAT as one of fourteen films Paramount planned to release between Jan and Aug 1967. The 12 Jul 1967 Var indicated that the picture had opened sometime the previous week at San Francisco, CA’s Esquire Theatre. A Los Angeles, CA, release followed the week of 2 Nov 1967 at ... More Less

The Paramount Pictures adaptation of Nathaniel Benchley’s 1964 novel, The Visitors, was initially named after the book. However, the film project, headed by writer-director William Castle, was re-titled The Spirit Is Willing, as noted in the 29 Mar 1966 DV. With Sid Caesar cast in the leading role of “Ben Powell,” Joanne Dru was brought on to play his wife, “Kate Powell.” The following month, an 18 Apr 1966 LAT item announced that Dru had been forced to drop out “due to minor surgery,” and that she would be replaced by Vera Miles.
       A DV production chart published on 29 Apr 1966 stated that principal photography began one day earlier at the Paramount Pictures studio lot in Hollywood, CA. There, filming took place on Stage 9, according to the 3 May 1966 DV. Location scenes were shot at Fort Bragg, CA. The completion of filming on 26 May 1966 was announced in that day’s DV.
       William Castle discussed a possible television series based on the film with Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), as noted in a 6 Oct 1966 DV brief. Sid Caesar was said to be uninterested in reprising his role for the television version.
       The Spirit Is Willing was cited in the 7 Jan 1967 LAT as one of fourteen films Paramount planned to release between Jan and Aug 1967. The 12 Jul 1967 Var indicated that the picture had opened sometime the previous week at San Francisco, CA’s Esquire Theatre. A Los Angeles, CA, release followed the week of 2 Nov 1967 at the Tower Theatre on Broadway, as noted in an advertisement in the 2 Nov 1967 Los Angeles Sentinel.
       Items in the 6 May 1966 and 10 May 1966 DV named Robert Board and Bryan Foulger as cast members. Chet Stafford was listed as a gaffer in the 3 May 1966 DV. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1966
p. 6.
Daily Variety
1 Apr 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1966
p. 11.
Daily Variety
3 May 1966
p. 6.
Daily Variety
6 May 1966
p. 9.
Daily Variety
10 May 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
26 May 1966
p. 43.
Daily Variety
6 Oct 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jul 1967
p. 3, 6.
Los Angeles Sentinel
2 Nov 1967
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
31 Mar 1966
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1966
Section D, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1966
Section C, p. 27.
Los Angeles Times
14 Oct 1966
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jan 1967
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
9 Nov 1967
Section E, p. 21.
Variety
20 Apr 1966
p. 26.
Variety
12 Jul 1967
p. 9, 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A William Castle Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus comp & cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Visitors by Nathaniel Benchley (New York, 1964).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Visitors
Release Date:
July 1967
Premiere Information:
San Francisco opening: week of 11 July 1967
Los Angeles opening: week of 2 November 1967
Production Date:
28 April--26 May 1966
Copyright Claimant:
William Castle Enterprises
Copyright Date:
31 December 1966
Copyright Number:
LP34615
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
94
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Ben Powell, his wife, Kate, and their teenaged son, Steve, rent a New England seaside house for their summer vacation. Unknown to them, the house has been haunted ever since the day, 100 years ago, that Felicity Twitchell accidentally met her death while axing her unfaithful bridegroom Ebenezer and their servant girl Jenny. The three ghosts, infuriated that their private domain is being invaded, go on a spree of destruction, for which young Steve is blamed. Although the spirits eventually materialize before Steve, his parents and his millionaire Uncle George persist in believing that he is a troublemaker. The situation becomes desperate when the ghosts sink Uncle George's yacht and Steve once more is held responsible. Frantic, he seeks the aid of two local sisters, Priscilla and Carol, direct descendants of Jenny, who advise him to bribe the ghosts with gifts. After the unearthly trio has sunk a second yacht belonging to Uncle George, Steve purchases cosmetics and lingerie for Felicity and Jenny, an act which prompts his uncle to call in a psychiatrist, Dr. Frieden. Priscilla then suggests that Steve give a costume party so that the ghosts may materialize in their nineteenth-century clothes. The party, however, turns into a shambles when Felicity becomes so enamored of Uncle George that she pushes him off a cliff in order to make him her ghost-husband. Finally, as one of Uncle George's yachts rises miraculously from the depths and Dr. Frieden races off to seek the aid of a psychiatrist himself, the Powells decide to leave their summer home. The old Twitchell place is left to the spirits of Ebenezer and Jenny, and the ghosts of Felicity and Uncle George are ... +


Ben Powell, his wife, Kate, and their teenaged son, Steve, rent a New England seaside house for their summer vacation. Unknown to them, the house has been haunted ever since the day, 100 years ago, that Felicity Twitchell accidentally met her death while axing her unfaithful bridegroom Ebenezer and their servant girl Jenny. The three ghosts, infuriated that their private domain is being invaded, go on a spree of destruction, for which young Steve is blamed. Although the spirits eventually materialize before Steve, his parents and his millionaire Uncle George persist in believing that he is a troublemaker. The situation becomes desperate when the ghosts sink Uncle George's yacht and Steve once more is held responsible. Frantic, he seeks the aid of two local sisters, Priscilla and Carol, direct descendants of Jenny, who advise him to bribe the ghosts with gifts. After the unearthly trio has sunk a second yacht belonging to Uncle George, Steve purchases cosmetics and lingerie for Felicity and Jenny, an act which prompts his uncle to call in a psychiatrist, Dr. Frieden. Priscilla then suggests that Steve give a costume party so that the ghosts may materialize in their nineteenth-century clothes. The party, however, turns into a shambles when Felicity becomes so enamored of Uncle George that she pushes him off a cliff in order to make him her ghost-husband. Finally, as one of Uncle George's yachts rises miraculously from the depths and Dr. Frieden races off to seek the aid of a psychiatrist himself, the Powells decide to leave their summer home. The old Twitchell place is left to the spirits of Ebenezer and Jenny, and the ghosts of Felicity and Uncle George are sitting in the rumble seat of the Powell car as it heads back to the city. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.