The Old Dark House (1963 film)
|The Old Dark House|
|Directed by||William Castle|
|Produced by||William Castle
|Written by||Robert Dillon|
|Music by||Benjamin Frankel|
|Edited by||James Needs|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|30 October 1963 (U.S.)
16 September 1966 (UK)
The Old Dark House (1963) is a comedy-horror film directed by William Castle. It is a remake of the 1932 film of the same name directed by James Whale. The film was based on the novel by J. B. Priestley originally published under the name Benighted, and the new screenplay was written by Robert Dillon.
Tom Penderel, an American car salesman in London, delivers a car to an old mansion in Dartmoor and discovers that his eccentric former roommate, Casper Femm, is dead. The car is damaged by a falling statue in a raging storm, and Tom is invited to stay at the house by members of Casper's family, including his twin brother Jasper, his nieces, the demure young Cecily and the seductive Morgana, and his Uncle Potiphar, who has been building an ark in anticipation of another great flood.
Each of the relatives is required to return to the dilapidated mansion before midnight each evening or forfeit his share of the family fortune. During the night, one of the Femm family dies every hour. First Agatha Femm, Casper's mother, is discovered with her knitting needles stuck in her throat. Casper's twin brother, Jasper, is the next victim, followed by Roderick, the head of the family.
Tom stumbles upon the fact that the killer is a woman, and he suspects Morgana, but discovers that Cecily is guilty just before she confesses, explaining that she wanted the entire family estate. Cecily runs from the house, and Tom discovers that she has placed time bombs in all of the clocks in the house. Racing against time, he frantically defuses each of the bombs. With moments to spare, he hurls the last bomb out of the window, and it explodes at Cecily's feet.
- Tom Poston as Tom Penderel
- Robert Morley as Roderick Femm
- Janette Scott as Cecily Femm
- Joyce Grenfell as Agatha Femm
- Mervyn Johns as Potiphar Femm
- Fenella Fielding as Morgana Femm
- Peter Bull as Caspar/Jasper Femm
- Danny Green as Morgan Femm
- John Harvey as Club Receptionist
- Amy Dalby as Gambler (uncredited)
Reputation and DVD release
The remake has not been as well received by modern critics as the original film. Craig Butler of the film database Allmovie wrote of the 1963 film, that "When compared with the James Whale original upon which it is based, this remake of The Old Dark House is pretty sorry stuff." Halliwell's Film and Video Guide 2000 describes this film as "a travesty which has nothing to do with the 1932 film and possesses no merit of its own. The cast is left floundering". The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films called it "one of the oddest pictures [Hammer Film Productions] ever made", but "strangely endearing."
On 20 October 2009, The Old Dark House was released on DVD by Sony Pictures as part of a William Castle boxset, although it had previously been issued as a single disc. All these editions are Region 1 only.
- Hearn, Marcus; Barnes, Alan (September 2007). "The Old Dark House". The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films (limited ed.). Titan Books. ISBN 1 84576 185 5.
- The Old Dark House at the Internet Movie Database (1963)
- The Old Dark House at AllMovie
- Classic-Horror review