The Old Dark House (1962)

DIRECTOR: William Castle

CAST: Tom Poston, Janette Scott, Robert Morley, Fenella Fielding, Mervyn Johns, Joyce Grenfell, Danny Green, Peter Bull

Gimmicky American horror director William Castle (The House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, The Tingler, Homicidal) had long been planning a remake of the 1932 Universal classic The Old Dark House (directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff). When Hammer had the same idea, and heard about Castle's film, they decided to collaborate, and the result was this patchy, but endearing comic horror.

It has little in common with the 1932 film, which was in turn based on the book Benighted by JB Priestley. A few of the characters are the same, Danny Green's Morgan Femm being the most like the original, as played by Karloff. Otherwise, it's quite different territory. The story concerns an American (Poston) invited to spend the night at the Femm family home, on Dartmoor. The Femms are bumped off one by one as someone - but who? - tries to get at the family inheritance.

There are occasional amusing lines of dialogue, but the slapstick is leaden and embarrassing. The film's biggest delights are the Charles-Addams-designed title sequence, Benjamin Frankel's whimsical score, and two memorable turns by Fenella Fielding and Joyce Grenfell.

Otherwise the film is likeable, but failing somewhat as both a comedy and a horror.

Distribution problems meant the film did not receive a proper theatrical release until 1966. Nowadays it is a rarely seen oddity in the Hammer canon.

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David L Rattigan 2005
 

 

 

 

 

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