Reviews for The Old Dark House ( 1963 ) 1080p

Enjoyable, but there are better horror spoofs out there.

By: Midgegirl
I know that "comparisons are odious" but I spent the whole of this film thinking, "I'd love to see Carry On Screaming again".It's pleasant enough fun, and Robert Morley, Joyce Grenfell & Fenella Fielding go a long way towards making it more fun and memorable than it deserves to be. But for me, it suffers from having a lead (Tom Poston) who just reminded me how of good Bob Hope was in The Cat & the Canary, or Harry H Corbett/Jim Dale were in Carry on Screaming.But the twist on the killer's identity was a nice surprise, and the happy/not happy ending raised a ghoulish smile as well.All in all, the film has a great 60s kitsch comedy horror vibe, but now I'm just itching to re-watch Carry On Screaming, if only to see Fenella Fielding turning up the vamp-setting to 11.

Watch The Original Instead

By: Rainey-Dawn
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.


Some mild laughs and chills in this one.

By: Hey_Sweden
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.

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

By: strong-122-478885
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.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall?.

By: Coventry
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.


By: AaronCapenBanner
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!

Castle of Kooks

By: wes-connors
In a London casino, American car salesman Tom Poston (as Thomas "Tom" Penderel) accepts an invitation to visit an eccentric English friend's dilapidated old mansion. He arrives at "Femm Hall" during a rainstorm, hoping to meet some of his friend's female cousins. "I like girls," Mr. Poston says. Poston arrives to discover his host in a coffin. Equally eccentric Robert Morley (as Roderick Femm) invites Poston to stay, exclaiming, "It's not every day that we have an American for dinner..."

Poston is nearly seduced by both attractive blonde Janette Scott (as Cecily) and perpetually aroused Fenella Fielding (as Morgana). There is some hint Poston might re-populate the Earth, after copulating with one of these women - but nothing comes of it. Due to the extended rain, Bible-believing Mervyn Johns (as Potiphar) is collecting animals for his ark. He hopes to include Poston as a human specimen. But murder takes priority in this story, as family members begin to meet their maker...

The storyline deviates wildly from the original J.B. Priestley novel (and similarly titled 1932 film). Though produced and directed by William Castle, for the horrific "Hammer" studios of Great Britain, this is a broad comedy. As such, it gets a little more tiresome every quarter hour. The low point may be Poston being joined in his bed by "Penelope the hyena" - a special effect which evokes the wrong kind of laughter. "The Old Dark House" picks up after petering out, with a lively ending.

***** The Old Dark House (10/30/63) William Castle ~ Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Fenella Fielding, Janette Scott

Stalin dies, and a million fans of this film are born

By: LobotomousMonk
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.

Fun outing

By: ctomvelu1
Campy comedy about an expatriate American who sells cars in England and gets invited by an eccentric millionaire to visit the man's ancestral estate. The ancestral mansion turns out to be something right out of a Charles Addams' cartoon (Addams in fact drew the opening sequence) and it is chock full of oddball relatives. One by one, during a torrential storm, they are knocked off by unseen hands. I'd not seen this film before, but it was easy enough to spot the killer. Tom Poston plays the befuddled American, and Robert Morley plays a gun-toting member of the nutty clan. Plenty of slapstick bits but no scares, as one might have expected from the title. Director William Castle helmed this remake of a 1937 classic, and has a lot of fun with it. Great musical score, and some fetching females to keep up the interest. Excellent sets and color. Worth a look.

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

By: Bunuel1976
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!

Can William Castle Make a Bad Film? Seems Not.

By: gavin6942
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.

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

By: MartinHafer
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.

Oranges and lemons...

By: Jweybrew
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.

An old, dark and disappointing house!

By: The_Void
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!

Not exactly good, but worth seeing...

By: silvrdal
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!

The Old Dark House ready for return to television?

By: cutshall0
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.

Just silly--kids might like it

By: preppy-3
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.

Better than given credit for

By: carolyn-25
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.



Amusing and entertaining camp horror-thriller!

By: Snake-666
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

In this house, fun, mischief and riddles remain.

By: sageaqua
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.