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The Old Dark House
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Old Dark House More at IMDbPro »

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21 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

The Old Dark House ready for return to television?

9/10
Author: noyb cutshall
17 August 2005

The Old Dark House does not provide the gore and R-rated material seen in today's horror movies but it does reflect a more simple time when comedy and horror could be matched while maintaining a family rating.

As a child I saw The Old Dark House over one hundred times, I remember being on the edge of my chair during the entire movie every single sitting.If only the local television stations would be able to air this movie, a new generation of viewers could enjoy, The Old Dark House.

The film may be the last of the "old age" comedies that were popular during that time. Tom Poston does a good job of not only showing fear but does so in comedy style to allow us, the viewers, to use our imagination.

While The Old Dark House may not live up to today's standards, it was a "movie of the day" in 1963.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Oranges and lemons...

6/10
Author: John Weybrew from San Francisco, California
1 June 2008

Owing little to either James Whale's 1932 chiller, or to J.B. Priestly's original source novel, "Benighted", THE OLD DARK HOUSE is a small, off-beat and pleasantly daffy scare-comedy, a change-of-pace for director William Castle. Filmed and set in England, Tom Poston stars as a hapless American who, on a visit to a curious roommate's even curiouser family home, is caught up in a murderous merry-go-round of mayhem, nursery rhymes, love and (very possibly) the end of the world (including an Ark!). British stalwarts Robert Morley, Joyce Grenfell, Mervyn Johns, and Peter Bull have a charming good time playing the various members of the Femm family, along with Janette Scott and an unforgettably slinky Fenella Fielding as romantic interests. None of the usual Castle gimmicks for this release--just a bit of eccentricity and a pleasant, creepy, multi-murder mystery, with a puzzle to solve, a couple of surprises, and some good solid chuckles.

A note to fans of Charles Addams--the film's poster and its main titles contain some choice Addams artwork.

An additional note: the film was shot in color, but released in a very faintly tinted black-and-white version. The color version of the film was only seen on subsequent television release.

This movie really does deserve a DVD release, not only for its place in the William Castle canon, but for the performances and the fun.

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18 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Amusing and entertaining camp horror-thriller!

6/10
Author: Snake-666 from England
15 August 2003

In this creepy horror-comedy directed by William Castle we meet Tom Penderel (Tom Poston), an American residing in England from where he sells cars. During a visit to a casino, where he informs his eccentric flatmate Caspar Femm (Peter Bull) that Tom has now acquired for Caspar a brand new American car, Tom is invited to Femm House, home of Caspar and his family. Reluctantly he accepts the invitation and makes his way to Femm House, only to find murder and very creepy family.

The rating on IMDb for 'The Old Dark House' (1963) simply is not an accurate assessment of this films quality in my opinion. Though quite obviously camp and with a unique charm all of its own this movie delivers an entertaining storyline and amusing comic scenes from beginning to end. Upon encountering the oddball charm of Caspar it becomes apparent that this horror movie is not going to be an all out scarefest, in fact its quality lies in the intermingling of a tight `whodunit' thriller with so many humorous sequences.

Tom Poston is cast perfectly as the nervous American trying desperately to make sense of the madness going on around him and his continuing encounters with overprotective and psychotic father Morgan Femm (Danny Green) make for some of the best comedy I have seen in a horror movie for a long time. The whole Femm family have a distinctly creepy charm to them from the gun-nut Uncle Roderick (an inspired performance from Robert Morley) to the charmingly deranged Petiphar (Mervyn Johns). Also worth noting is the performance from Janette Scott (The Day of the Triffiads) as the sweet and innocent Cecily Femm.

'The Old Dark House' is a wonderfully accomplished camp, horror-thriller in my opinion. The storyline is entertaining throughout and the comedy does not seem forced but instead works as a light-hearted diversion from what was actually an interesting and slightly complex plot. All this is complimented by a beautifully arranged and often apt musical score. While not really delivering any scares 'The Old Dark House' delivers entertainment and is certainly worth watching in my opinion. Despite some rather suspect special effects (though considering the year it was made one can hardly hold poor effects against it) and camp quality I recommend this to horror fans. My rating for 'The Old Dark House' (1963) - 7.5/10

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A Dead-End "William Castle" Whodunit/Comedy.

3/10
Author: Dalbert Pringle from New Zealand
3 September 2014

Just like Castle's movie "Zotz!", The Old, Dark House was yet another inane farce that easily proved just how clueless this guy was at directing Comedy (more so than he was with directing Horror).

Once again (just like with "Zotz!") this less-than-funny, hare-brained story had the distinctive feel of being an imitation (a very poor imitation) of a typical Disney, family movie of the early 1960s. This film's targeted audience was that of children under 10 who obviously had very low expectations about what was entertaining and what wasn't.

This film certainly had all sorts of potential to be a really fun and humorous story for all ages. But it seemed that at the hands of such a clueless amateur like William Castle, its story just didn't come anywhere near to living up to that potential.

At every opportunity to generate some genuine laughs, Castle missed the mark, over and over again, and let its story fall flat on its face and flounder around in what seemed like a literal no-man's land of B-grade mediocrity.

I believe that The Old, Dark House was one of the few Castle films that was actually shot in colour.

This film's story is something of a "Whodunit". It involves the peculiar specifics of a family Will, the 7 eccentric relatives who all reside at Femm Hall (a grand, old, English mansion falling into ruin), and an American outsider who inadvertently gets dragged into an unpleasant family affair that goes way beyond his power of control.

One of this film's biggest downfalls was Castle's inability to build suspense, sustain drama and be humorous, all at the same time. Long before it's actually revealed, the viewer will have no trouble guessing the identity of the killer who's been bumping off all of the Femms at Femm Hall.

This is not a good movie. I don't even recommend it as entertainment for young children. Let's face it, William Castle just didn't have the knack for creating memorable Comedy.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Not exactly good, but worth seeing...

7/10
Author: silvrdal from OKC
8 October 2005

Hadn't expected the rigmarole I'd have to go through to snag this film on video, several years ago. I'd seen this two or three times as a child and reveled in the dark comedy of it. The plot is silly, but it's not nearly as important as the production itself.

The charming performances by the many delightful character actors are the highlights of "The Old Dark House" -- Robert Morely, Joyce Grenfell, Peter Bull. Who would ever think that Tom Poston would appear as the romantic (?!) hero of a movie, but there he is. And Oo, that Fenella Fielding! What a dish!

This film isn't for everyone, but I'll never forget it, and neither will you!

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

An old, dark and disappointing house!

5/10
Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
5 February 2007

Well, I'm a big fan of William Castle and of Hammer Horror, so I figured that this meeting between the two would be damn good. William Castle's The Old Dark House is not a remake of the classic James Whale film, and this is actually unfortunate because if it was, it no doubt would have been a better film. Instead, what we have is a plot involving an American car dealer who goes to an old house after receiving an invitation from a friend of his, who he shares a house with. While there, he is introduced to a host of strange characters, as well as a plot involving a huge inheritance. The film is obviously intended to be a comedy, but it would seem that Castle should have stuck to horror as little in this film is actually funny, and I was really bored before the ending - not something I expect from William Castle! Considering the film focuses on an 'old dark house', there's very little in the way of atmosphere and I'm guessing that Castle wanted this film to appeal to a younger audience, and for that reason - there's not much here for the older movie fan. The plot rambles on until the conclusion and by then I didn't really care what happened. Overall, this is a sub standard William Castle film if ever I saw one. Straight-Jacket, Homicidal, Mr Sardonicus, The Tingler, House on Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts come highly recommended - this one doesn't!

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

It's supposed to make you laugh....I didn't.

3/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
26 October 2009

As this film begins, you are bound to notice the wonderful opening credits done by Charles Addams. I do wonder if the hand is that of Addams, though! You have to see it to understand what I mean.

The film begins with an American (Tom Poston) being invited by his English friend to come to spend the weekend at his ancestral home in Dartmoor. However, once he arrives, he finds that his friend is dead--lying in state in the creepy old mansion. But, like any scary old house film, the car is damaged and unable to take him home AND the rain is so bad that he really can't leave. That is when the murders begin and it becomes obvious that the house is filled with a bunch of nuts.

The film is supposed to be a comedic remake of the classic 1932 film. However, I use the words 'supposed to' because rarely is the film particularly funny and the humor seems very, very forced. In many ways, it looks like a film that Sherwood Schwartz or Hanna-Barbera would have made--with perhaps the Brady kids or even Scooby Doo and Shaggy investigating. This combined with the fact that there have been too many old scary house films (such as AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, THE MONSTER, NUMBER SEVENTEEN, THE BLACK CAT and many, many others) make this one you don't need to rush out to see.

By the way, in one of the low-points of the film, a hyena is supposedly menacing Tom Poston. However, the camera shots of the hyena from the front clearly show it's a stuffed animal!! The rear shots are a dog!! Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall….

5/10
Author: Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
17 July 2014

One would expect a collaboration between the American director William Castle and the British production studios Hammer to result in a terrific must-see film, considering they were both horror genre giants in their respective continents during the early sixties. Castle became world famous and appreciated thanks to his morbidly themed but nevertheless light-headed Gothic horror spectacles ("House on Haunted Hill", "Mr. Sardonicus", "13 Ghosts"…), and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Hammer studios boomed with the gruesome re-imaging of the legendary Universal classics from the thirties ("Dracula", "The Mummy", "Frankenstein"…). Knowing this, "The Old Dark House" seems to be the ideal marriage, since it's more or less a remake of the underrated 1932 Universal masterpiece and a great opportunity for a director like Castle to showcase his creativity. Strangely enough, however, the film is somewhat of a disappointment and it's only rescued from inglorious mediocrity thanks to a handful of nice gags and an entertaining final act; including a surprising plot-twist and an exciting race against the clock – literally! The rest of the film clumsily bounces back and forth between talkative mystery and immature comedy. Please don't get me wrong, "The Old Dark House" is never boring and I still prefer it over most of the soulless horror junk being released nowadays, but I simply expected a little bit more… American car salesman Tom Penderel drives out to the god-forsaken British countryside in order to deliver a car at the request of his odd pal Caspar Femm. The two share an apartment, but they never see each other since Caspar always mysteriously vanishes before midnight. When he arrives at the sinister Femm country estate, he learns that all the eccentric family members are obliged to stay at the house and gather at midnight, or otherwise they lose the rights to their part of the inheritance of their notorious ancestor (a pirate). Synchronous with Tom's arrival, the family members are being killed off one by one. Tom should leave while, but he fell for the charming cousin Cecily and the remaining Femms suspect him to be the killer. "The Old Dark House" begins delightfully, with animated opening credits by none other than Charles Addams – the creator of the immortal blackly comical series "The Addams Family – and brings forward several great Gothic aspects, like a moody old castle and never-ending thunderstorms. Some of the supportive characters are also uniquely bizarre, like the crazy uncle who's building an arc or the grandmother that doesn't stop knitting, but overall the film isn't absurd or spooky enough. The actual "horror" footage in the film is limited, a few inventive death scenes and a laughably inept moment with a stuffed hyena.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Remake.

2/10
Author: AaronCapenBanner from North America
14 October 2013

William Castle directed this remake, co-produced with Hammer Studios, of the 1932 original directed by James Whale, which had starred Boris Karloff and Charles Laughton. Based on the novel by J.B. Priestly, this version casts Tom Poston as Tom Penderil, an American car salesman in England who is invited to a castle inhabited by the eccentric Femm Family, who are also reclusive. There is a strain of madness and murder in this home, and Tom may not make it out alive... Dreadful and instantly forgettable film is far too reliant on unfunny comedy, poorly executed, with bizarre and ineffectual horror. A complete and total waste of time. Watch the original instead!

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (William Castle, 1963) **

4/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
24 February 2011

I used to take people to task when they said that, being fond of a particular film, they would not watch some other version of the same source material…but, while I am a fan of Hammer Horror and (to a lesser extent) genre exponent William Castle, I have to admit to being guilty of this fault (or, if you like, bias) myself when it came to my all-time favorite movie – James Whale's similarly-titled 1932 adaptation for Universal of J.B. Priestley's "Benighted"! For this reason, I have postponed viewing the by-all-accounts "best forgotten" remake (Castle apparently did, because he fails to mention it in his memoirs...and, apparently, Boris Karloff declined to participate in it for being overly jokey!) for the longest time but, in view of my ongoing Whale marathon, I thought it was high time I got around to it! By the way, though I recall coming across a copy of the novel as a kid (that is, long before I watched the original film), I have been searching high and low ever since catching up with it – given that I was intrigued enough by the back-story to wish to concoct a veritable prequel!

According to "The Leslie Halliwell Film Guide", the Whale picture had adhered fairly closely to the text albeit "omitting the more thoughtful moments"; the Hammer version, then, is nothing like Whale's but it does include a nice 'exclusive' subplot involving one character's attempt to reproduce Noah's Ark! In most other respects, however, the film is a dismal failure (a pitifully poor sequence supposedly depicting a hyena attack must be seen to be disbelieved!): comedy does not suit Castle (despite his tendency towards Camp), much less Hammer (their recognizable style only coming through here in the overall look, aided by Charles Addams' evocative animated title sequence; the latter is said to owe his choice of career to a viewing of Whale's original!) and the end result barely raises a chuckle – with none of the subtle wit that so characterized the classic original! One grave mistake is the fact that only a single interloper is made to contend with the family of eccentrics, and resistible American comic Tom Poston at that; for the record, he had already collaborated with the director on the previous year's ZOTZ! (which I also own but have yet to check out).

The Femms, on the other hand, are incarnated by a promising gallery of actors but to little effect: Robert Morley, Joyce Grenfell, Janette Scott, Fenella Fielding (who would play a similar role in CARRY ON SCREAMING [1966]), Peter Bull, Mervyn Johns and Danny Green; incidentally, Fielding and Bull would later appear together again in the period romp, LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS! (1969) – which I have just acquired. The Whale film had no young women, crazy or otherwise, within the household but there were indeed 2 among the stranded travelers. Whereas Morley is supposed to replace Elspeth (billed as John!) Dudgeon, Grenfell stands in for Eva Moore, Bull has a dual role (which, again, is a new addition) while Johns more or less emulates Brember Wills (since he is perhaps the looniest – that said, his murderous inclinations are transferred onto one of the ladies, which is an agreeable novelty in itself!) and Green doubles for Karloff's giant mute butler (though, in this case, his dumbness is merely a ruse!).

Even if the original was relatively uneventful (a criticism leveled at it by hardened horror-movie buffs not satiated by its inherent stylized quirkiness), this one takes the form of an Agatha Christie whodunnit, with characters being eliminated one by one (among the murder methods are having water replaced by acid and, most ingeniously, a shotgun going off 'accidentally') over an inheritance – even Poston is linked with (and suspected of) this, which detaches it all the more from Whale's infinitely superior rendition! As if to emphasize this shift from Gothic horror to murder mystery, Hammer released the film theatrically in black-and-white (as per their current standard for thrillers) despite having shot it in color…with the latter prints only cropping up as TV screenings (which is how I came across my copy) and, fairly recently, DVD!

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