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Oranges and lemons...
John Weybrew1 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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The Old Dark House ready for return to television?
noyb cutshall17 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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Humpty Dumpty had a great fall….
Coventry17 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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Not exactly good, but worth seeing...
silvrdal8 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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Amusing and entertaining camp horror-thriller!
Snake-66615 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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An old, dark and disappointing house!
The_Void5 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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It's supposed to make you laugh....I didn't.
MartinHafer26 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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Can William Castle Make a Bad Film? Seems Not.
gavin694221 February 2010
Tom Penderel (Tom Poston) is invited to stay at the Femm household... which seems all fine and good until a big storm comes and it is revealed that the family has its share of eccentricities. Not the least of which is the idea that it's time to build an ark.

Director and producer William Castle seems to do no wrong. He has taken an old story, one that was previously made into a dark film in the 1930s, and added his own brand of humor and madness. And who better than Tom Poston to be the star? His slapstick comedy blends in perfectly as he interacts with the amorous Morgana and makes good use of trap doors.

If you're looking for a horror film, this really is not the film for you. There's nothing scary about it. But it is a fine film from a horror master, and there is the threat of death. For, you see, an inheritance is on the line and it would be to each family member's advantage if the others were not to survive.

Please pick up the William Castle box set from Sony and Columbia Pictures. There is not a bad film in the box.
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A Dead-End "William Castle" Whodunit/Comedy.
Dalbert Pringle3 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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Not James Whale, but worth a look for William Castle fans
kirksworks15 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Of course this film doesn't hold a candle to the James Whale film from 1932, but if you put that film out of your mind and go into this William Castle film and take if for what it is - a William Castle film - you'll probably enjoy it. Like no other film I can think of, this "Old Dark House" is like a Mad magazine movie satire come to life. Actually, it's more like Mad magazine when it was a comic book back in the 1950s. It has none of the sophistication and witty dialog that mark the James Whale film, and neither does it have much to do with the J. B. Priestly book 'Benighted' that the earlier film followed so closely, but it does have a highly surreal wackiness that has more in common with a Tex Avery cartoon than a live action horror comedy.

As a Hammer Film, it is also sumptuously art directed, with nicely dressed, if overly-lit, sets. Whereas the original film was about a group of travelers who find themselves stuck in a strange house inhabited by some insane, and in some cases, psychotic and dangerous family members, the William Castle film focuses on a single visitor, played by Tom Poston, who delivers a car to the Femm mansion to give the roommate friend who happens to be a member of the family.

Upon arriving at the mansion, the car is ruined and Penderel is instantly "invited" into the house via a trap door at the front porch (that becomes a running gag); and he proceeds to watch family members killed off one by one. Each family member, you see, must stay in the house, or forfeit the family fortune. Does it make any sense? Only in weird William Castle logic. The film does have a bit of the Charles Addams black humor to it, particularly when the family keeps lowering the flag at half mast every time one of their members dies.

These family members, while not as frighteningly bizarre as in Whale's film, are indeed a strange bunch. There's Roderick Femm, avid gun and canon collector, played by Robert Morley; Petiphar Femm, who plans on saving the world by building a new ark and populating it with Tom Penderel (Poston) and Morgana Femm (Fenella Fielding), as the ark's human specimens; Tom's roommate friend Caspar Femm and his twin brother, Jaspar, both played by Peter Bull eventually laying side by side dead in coffins, one strangled by fireplace stokers; crazy knitter Agatha Femm, played by Joyce Grenfell, who is offed by her own knitting needles; totally crazy and psychotic Morgan Femm (Danny Green), who seems to fill the threatening role of crazy Saul from the first film; but it is Cecily Femm, played by the sexy and beautiful Janette Scott (of "Day of the Triffids" fame) who brings the biggest surprise by being revealed as the actual psycho murderer amongst this crazy bunch.

No, this is not a classic, but the atmospheric surroundings, a stuffed animal being shaken by someone off screen to suggest a fearsome hyena (the audacity of the cheapness!), the weird Noah's ark thing, and the sheer oddness of the whole production makes it very watchable. And it has a very good score by Benjamin Frankel, of all people. Only William Castle could have put something together so utterly surreal as this. Truly bizarre. Don't expect James Whale, and know what you're getting yourself in for and you'll probably have a good time.
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Some mild laughs and chills in this one.
Scott LeBrun2 October 2015
In this second screen version of J.B. Priestleys' book, Tom Poston plays Tom Penderel, an American living in London who makes his living as a car salesman. He shares a flat with Caspar Femm (Peter Bull), who uses the place in the daytime while Tom sleeps there at night. One day Caspar implores Tom to come visit him at the Femm estate, which is up for grabs. Tom is then forced to deal with the wacky Femm family for one every eventful evening.

One would have expected a collaboration between gimmick master William Castle and Britains' legendary Hammer Studios to be more fun. It's more of a comedy than a horror film, and only a fitfully amusing one. There are some funny gags, but it just falls flat a lot of the time. It basically serves to make fun of the entire "old dark house" genre, complete with the expected tropes (like a dark, stormy night). It's decent light entertainment, but is eminently forgettable. It looks great, which is what the viewer expects from Hammer films (a lot of the crew are the usual Hammer suspects). But it doesn't have the level of atmosphere that's really required for most stories of this type.

The likable Poston leads a sterling British cast that helps to keep this version of "The Old Dark House" watchable for 87 minutes. Robert Morley is gun nut Roderick Femm, Janette Scott the striking blonde Cecily, Joyce Grenfell the doddering matriarch Agatha, Mervyn Johns the upbeat Potiphar, Fenella Fielding the slinky Morgana, and Danny Green the hulking, silent Morgan. (If Popeye had been turned into a live action feature in the 60s, Green might have made for a good Bluto.)

This kills time without too much pain, but it's far from grade A Castle *or* Hammer.

Title illustrations by Charles Addams.

Six out of 10.
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Just silly--kids might like it
preppy-313 May 2004
Tom Poston ends up in an old dark house in England during a huge storm. Inside lives a very weird family called the Femms. They're all hoping to get a huge inheritance--but only one must still be living. During the night, they all start getting killed off. The phones are dead, the roads are washed out--who will survive till day?

I had good memories seeing this as a kid on Saturday afternoon TV. I remembered it being funny and only scary at the very end when someone has a machete held to their throat! Seeing in now I can't figure out why I liked it.

The plot is dumb and ALL of the comedy is either childish or stupid--I didn't crack a smile once. The murders are bloodless and supposed to be funny (they aren't). Some of the acting is good. Poston is very good playing the straight man basically. Robert Morley hams it up as the head of the household. Janette Scott has the thankless "good girl" part (but plays it well) and Fanella Fielding REALLY chews the scenery as the bad girl Morgana. The script drags, the revelation of the killer is no surprise and there's tons of very unfunny slapstick. It's also VERY loud. Kids might like this--adults probably won't. I expected more from a co-production between William Castle and Hammer Studios.

Trivia note: For some reason this was released theatrically in black &'s in color on TV.
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In this house, fun, mischief and riddles remain.
sageaqua21 June 2002
The last time I saw this film was 22 years ago. I still remember it with a smile. For those folks that like a riddle or two, this films for you. Some where a killer is killing their family, watch this film to find out who is doing it. But more important to me and the reason I remember this place, is the strange people that live there.
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AaronCapenBanner14 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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THE OLD DARK HOUSE (William Castle, 1963) **
MARIO GAUCI24 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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Stalin dies, and a million fans of this film are born
LobotomousMonk25 February 2013
Zotz!.. another William Castle and Tom Poston lighthearted dark adventure for all ages. Amusing quips and snappy banter abound. There are some plot contrivances (typically par for the Castle course). The Old Dark House would surely have been better suited for black and white film stock as the milieu is inherently sinister. That being said the full color palette does tend to heighten the humor elements of the story as Poston's pink puppy dog cheeks remind us of how sweet and naive a witless hero can be. However, the chromatic compromise confounds establishment of mood and thus character motivation. A third of the duration of the film passes prior to the formation of a real clue about the plot (which according to other reviewers holds little sway in the realm of fidelity to the original Priestly story or Whale film from the thirties). The staging/blocking and mobile framing are not constructed with any technical finesse or creative flair. I tend to find that Castle's best directing efforts are inspired by higher quality scripts he works with. For Castle, when the storytelling stammers his direction staggers and his authorial voice goes mute. There are shades of this crutch in The Old Dark House. Similar to Zotz!, Poston plays a character that reminds one of Leonid Gaidai's Shurik character - fumbling and bumbling through the simplest of tasks, getting himself into trouble way over his head, and gallantly dodging sexy, seductive women who throw themselves at him bosom to face. If you wanted to probe and plumb this film for some deeper value, try a psychoanalytic approach (either Freud or Lacan will do). Personally, I wouldn't bother... but you never know. As it stands, this is an amusing film that is best watched while doing something more important.
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There goes a cherished childhood memory
KillerCadugen7 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I have three great memories of watching horror movies when I was a kid - the first was seeing House of Dark Shadows in the movie theater and having an incredibly, intense nightmare and sleepwalking episode that night. The second was seeing House on Haunted Hill on Creature Features and shivering throughout the movie because I was so scared. Both of those memories have stood up after seeing those movies again. The one that did not was my memory of The Old Dark House by William Castle. I remember the day I watched it and how deliciously scared it made me with people being bumped off left and right and Tom Posten (SPOILERS AHEAD) running around near the end of the movie looking for the bombs hidden in the clock. I even remember being shocked when the mastermind behind all the killings was blown up at the end. Well, I finally saw the movie for the first time in more than 30 years and while it was mildly amusing, I found it to be amazingly dull. The original - with Boris Karloff - is a great spooky house chiller, but in the remake Castle went more for humor and gimmickry and it failed badly. When the movie was over, all I could think was, "There goes a cherished childhood memory."
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One half of a good movie
horrorfilmx26 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Although supposedly a remake of the James Whale film (and the J. B. Priestley book on which it's based) William Castle's OLD DARK HOUSE really has nothing in common with either except the titular domicile and a few character names. This movie starts out very promisingly, with Charles Addams' delightful credits complimented by Benjamin Frankel's lovely score, both eerie and lyrical. The opening scenes remind one of the darker Ealing comedies (KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, THE LADYKILLERS), what with the great cast of British character actors led by the wonderful Robert Morley, and the production values are up to the usual Hammer standard. Then about halfway through, starting with the scene where Tom Poston is "menaced" by a stuffed hyena, the movie goes downhill and never recovers. Now, I understand the difficulties of making a movie with limited resources but how anyone ever thought they could pass off this refugee from a taxidermist's as a real animal boggles the mind. And the Ark sequence, while promising in concept, is very badly executed. The miniature work is just too obvious to pass muster and the interior of the ark looks like it was shot at a broken down zoo somewhere, with little effort made to transform it into a boat interior. And so it goes, right down the toilet. A big disappointment.
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Amusing film with good assortment of character actors
kolob5 October 1999
I've only seen Tom Poston in two films, this one and "Zotz". This is a funny, entertaining film that never really gives one a good scare, but does do a good job of keeping you amused. Robert Morley is always a joy to watch. The twins (Casper & Jasper) are a strange lot, as well as the other characters in this old dark house. They would probably fit in well at the Addams' home- if it weren't for the fact that they start dropping like flies. Who is the killer? Will Poston live long enough to find out? Watch this and then see "Ten Little Indians", which this film emulates in several ways.
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Watch The Original Instead
Rainey Dawn25 January 2017
This version of the story is altered from the original somewhat but that's not the worst of it. The worst part of it is the fact it's an obvious comedy (that isn't very funny). The original not only had a much better story it also hid the comedy, making it a subtle comedy.

Basically, the original 1932 film hid behind the mask of a really good horror movie with some comical splashed into it - making the film a really good horror movie overall. This "remake" wants you to know that's it's a comedy upfront.

This film I would say is worth a one time watch if you like a blatantly obvious comedy-horror and scary old houses. The 1932 film is highly recommend viewing, this 1963 "remake" I could never recommend.

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Spoilers follow ...
Nigel P20 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
JB Priestley's 1927 novel 'Benighted' was adapted very loosely into 1932's classic 'The Old Dark House', which was directed by James Whale in his own very distinct style. This in turn has been adapted equally loosely by Director William Castle for Hammer films.

'The Old Dark House' stars Tom Poston, an American actor with a wonderful permanently harassed expression as Tom Penderel, a car dealer who delivers a car to a large mansion for Casper Femm, whom he subsequently discovers is dead. He meets Cecily Femm (Jeanette Scott) who warns him to leave before 'the family' find him. 'The family' are spoken of in dread tones.

The worst excesses of this production are demonstrated with the arrival of Fenella Fielding's Morgana. As she floats down the stairs to greet Penderel, the 'comedy music' (an unnecessary irritation in my view – if something is funny, the audience will laugh; if we need music to tell us something is funny, there is something wrong. Here, it works directly against any dark vein of humour events may be trying to evoke) accompanies the camera's lingering obsession with her breasts. A sign of the times of course, but worlds away from the original Universal version.

There are positives and negatives about this, but the overall effect is disappointing. The cast is made up of uniformly excellent, eccentric performers that seem curiously underwritten. The story is a drawing room mystery, and I have no problem with that, but it is 'enlivened' by comedy routines so pedestrian (although enthusiastically played) they hardly fulfill the promise of the publicity that 'you'll die laughing.' If the flamboyant cast had been directed by an equally unconventional director, things could have been pushed into a less in-house style. Having said that, William Castle went onto produce the acclaimed 'Rosemary's Baby' five years later.
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The Old, Dark, and Slightly Boring House...
Warning: Spoilers
Being a huge fan of Castle and of Hammer films, I had high expectations for this one. On top of that, I'd seen the original Old Dark House which was quite spooky and entertaining. Unfortunately, this version was a little on the dull side for me. Don't get me wrong, I'd definitely recommend a viewing, although make certain that it's early in the day. I made the mistake of watching at my usual post-11pm horror film slot. I fell asleep (which I rarely do) and had to watch the end the next morning. The cast is quite good and the vibe is sufficiently moody. I loved the eccentric Femm clan. They're all a bunch of nut jobs and their antics are quite humorous in the beginning, but it becomes dull and predictable about halfway through the film. It's also very obvious near the start that the killer is the sweetest, most innocent member of the family. Add to that the fact that, for a campy comedy, there is not much camp or solid comedy and you have a film that has great potential, but doesn't quite live up to it. All in all, I'd give this a 6/10.
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Better than given credit for
carolyn-2528 November 2003
While many critics don't like this version of the Old, Dark House, in fact, some of them prefer the Boris Karloff version; I have to confess I like this version.

I first saw this when I was a kid, and found myself absorbed by the mystery and surprised by the identity of the killer. As an adult, I can confess who it is--is a pretty obvious, but still I liked this film and I think Tom Poston is underrated for his work in this film.

It's sort of like the Addams Family, with a murder mystery added to it. It should be out on video or DVD, and I hope William Castle fans will try to get it out a bit more to the public.

A horror film, that doesn't have any blood and gore, just some comic suspense, and the revelation of the killer is well-played out.

I liked it.


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fabulous farce!
rickart9 July 2002
I haven't seen this movie in almost forty years but I remember it as an hilarious British farce. The plot is a bit of a stretch but the British character actors are superb. Tom Poston fits in very well and handles this inane comedy with aplomb.
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Silly horror farce
JLRVancouver23 November 2017
Bearing little resemblance to James Whale's 1932 film of the same name and provenance, schlock-meister William Castle's "The Old Dark House" is a light-weight horror-comedy that is neither particularly scary nor particularly funny. Tom Poston is an American car salesman stranded in the ancestral home of the dysfunctional Femm family. As various claimants to the estate's wealth mysteriously die, usually by means related to victim's personal obsession, Poston's character realises that he too is on the hit list. Poston is fine (delivering many of his lines as if he was doing a Jimmy Stewart impression) as the frightened 'fish out of water' and the rest of the cast features a number of recognisable British character actors (e.g. Robert Morley, Peter Bull) but no one is given much to work with, as the story is basically a series of silly situations strung together. Unfortunately, director Castle elected to play the comedy broad, with ridiculous scenes involving an Ark or an attack by an obviously stuffed hyena, as well as a number of slapstick chase sequences, all of which diminished the potentially amusing dark-comedy. Kids, nostalgic boomers who saw the film when they were kids, and fans of Castle may find the movie worth-watching but most people will likely not see it as worth the viewing time.
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