The Old Dark House (1963 film)

The Old Dark House
Directed by William Castle
Produced by William Castle
Anthony Hinds
Written by Robert Dillon
Starring Tom Poston
Robert Morley
Janette Scott
Joyce Grenfell
Music by Benjamin Frankel
Cinematography Arthur Grant
Edited by James Needs
William Castle-Hammer
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
30 October 1963 (U.S.)
16 September 1966 (UK)
Running time
86 min.
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English

The Old Dark House is a 1963 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.

Plot synopsis

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.


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."[1] 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".[2] The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films called it "one of the oddest pictures [Hammer Film Productions] ever made", but "strangely endearing."[3]

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.

See also


  1. Butler, Craig. "The Old Dark House review". Allmovie. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  2. John Walker (ed.) Halliwell's Film and Video Guide 2000, London: HarperCollins, 1999, p.611
  3. Hearn & Barnes 2007, p. 75.
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