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The Spirit Is Willing (1967)

Unrated | | Comedy, Horror | July 1967 (USA)
A couple and their teenage son rent a haunted New England seaside house, and their summer vacation turns into a ghost-hunt.


William Castle


Ben Starr (screenplay), Nathaniel Benchley (novel)


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Complete credited cast:
Sid Caesar ... Ben Powell
Vera Miles ... Kate Powell
Barry Gordon ... Steve Powell
John McGiver ... Uncle George
Cass Daley ... Felicity
Ricky Cordell Ricky Cordell ... Miles Thorpe
Mary Wickes ... Gloria Tritt
Jesse White ... Fess Dorple
Robert Donner ... Ebenezer
Mickey Deems Mickey Deems ... Rabbit Warren
Nestor Paiva ... Felicity's Father
Doodles Weaver ... Booper Mellish
Jay C. Flippen ... Mother
Jill Townsend ... Jenny / Priscilla / Carol
John Astin ... Dr. Frieden


When Ben and Kate Powell (Sid Caesar and Vera Miles) rent a haunted New England house by the sea, their son Steve (Barry Gordon) gets blamed for the destruction caused by three unruly ghosts. Another of 'exploitation king' William Castle's supernatural films, this one is studded with familiar character actors including Harvey Lembeck, Mary Wickes, John McGiver, Doodles Weaver, Jesse White and John ("Gomez Addams") Astin. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The first picture to face the biggest problem of our time: the sex life of ghosts! See more »


Comedy | Horror


Unrated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

July 1967 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Trois fantômes à la page See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The novel this movie was based on, "the Visitors" by Nathaniel Benchley, was published with art by Charles Addams, whose "Addams Family" comics were the basis for the TV series which made "Spirit is Willing" co-star John Astin a star. Furthermore, director William Castle previously worked directly with Addams, as the cartoonist provided drawings for Castle's 1963 film "The Old Dark House". See more »


When Ben is in the bathroom preparing to go to bed the first night, he walks out wearing slippers, when he enters the bedroom he is bare foot. See more »


Ben Powell: Look, you can't afford a new car.
Steve Powell: But dad, neither can you but you drive one.
Ben Powell: I'm too poor to drive an old car.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The people in this movie are fictitious. Only the ghosts are real. See more »


Referenced in All the Way Down (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

Original, well-done comedy, flawed by two performers
4 September 2001 | by richard.fuller1See all my reviews

Ninteenth Century. A lone seaman stands on a cliff. An elderly captain approaches. He points to the house and the seaman looks through his telescope, spying the captain's spinster daughter, Felicity. When we are shown Felicity, grinning broadly through the telescope, we hear a squawking seagull. She has great inner beauty, her father says. The man who marries her would be in charge of my entire fleet, he promises. The seaman looks through the telescope again and when we see Felicity, grinning and waving, the seagull sqawks once more.

Felicity was played by an old comedic actress named Cass Daley, who was Olive Oyl come to life, pure cartoon. Even more the seaman who marries her for her money is none other than Robert Donner, best known for the madman Exedor on Mork and Mindy. On their wedding night, as Felicity frolicks in bed waiting for her man, Donner has gone to the maid's room, just off the kitchen and beside the basement. With no dialogue in this entire prologue, the whole scene is compelled by music.

Finally, Felicity, realizing what has happened, comes downstairs and gets the meat cleaver and enters the maid's room. Amid thunder and lightning outside, we hear the maid and the seaman scream, then Felicity drags the maids body out of the bedroom and into the basement, banging her head on each step. Then the seaman staggers out of the bedroom, the meat cleaver in his back, and grabs another knife and enters the basement. We hear Felicity scream, more thunder and lightning, then the wedding march concludes the scene. But wait, three ghostly apparitions emerge through the basement door, one at a time.

Years later, a little family of Sid Ceasar, Vera Miles and Barry Gordon move in. Gordon is a cynical teen ager who takes the vacant bedroom off the kitchen because "it has it's own john." Then the basement door begins to open on its own.

The opening song is truly one of a kind, as another post points out. The phrase, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, comes from the Bible, the book of Matthew. Gordon is superb as the teen ager, Steve, who the ghosts torment. John McGiver (the assassinated Senator in 'Manchurian Candidate', Lord Beasley on a 'Gilligan's Island' episode) is amusing as always as Uncle George, who keeps getting his ship sunk by the ghosts.

The two flaws are from Jill Townsend, who plays the maid, Jenny, but also for some reason plays two of Jenny's descendants, who seem to know everything that happens. Yes, the town could know the place was haunted, but these sisters would finish Sid Ceasar's and Barry Gordon's sentences. To make matters worse, there was a child, Ricky Cordell, that my brother and I could never figure out why he was there. Was he the director's son? Was he the producer's girlfriend's son? Was he to appeal to a younger audience? When my brother and I recorded this show once, we edited out all the scenes with the sisters and the little boy. Other than that, the movie was a delight. Gordon gets the biggest laughs, none of the ghosts speak (interestingly still, Cass Daley had no lines before or after she "died" nor did the maid, Jenny, ever speak). At times, the music gets as bad as Petticoat Junction or the Monkees serial music. I saw another movie "Perils of Pauline" with Pat Boone and Terry-Thomas that had the same annoying music, but the opening song is still a winner.

Plus appearances by Mary Wickes, Jesse White and John Astin are nice too. Felicity wants a man of her own so then the three ghosts can live in peace. One funny moment is when Felicity is holding Jesse White at the bottom of the lake with an anchor on top of him, waiting for him to drown.

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