Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Fenella Fielding and Tom Poston
THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1963). Produced and directed by William Castle. A Hammer Film.

Car salesman Tom Penderel (Tom Poston) is invited to his flat-mate Caspar Fenn's (Peter Bull) family mansion, but when he arrives finds his friend ensconced in a coffin in the parlor. Seems there was an accident ... Tom learns that members of the Fenn family are virtual prisoners in their decaying mansion due to the bizarre terms of a will, which states they must live on the estate and be back by midnight every night or forfeit their share of the interest. While Tom gets to know Caspar's cousins, Cecily (Janette Scott) and the man-hungry Morgana (Fenella Fielding), he discovers that one of the heirs won't stop at murder ... William Castle joined forces with Hammer films for this black comedy remake of the macabre thirties movie (which was in itself a black comedy, as I recall). The Old Dark House is less beloved than other William Castle films (such as House on Haunted Hill), but this time around I found it generally fast-paced and amusing, with a couple of genuinely hilarious murder sequences. Although not a zany comedian along the lines of Bob Hope or Jim Carrey, Poston's more sober portrayal works well as played against the weirdness of the mansion's other inhabitants. Peter Bull [Dr. Strangelove] is fun in a dual role, as are Robert Morley as an uncle, and Joyce Grenfell as an aunt, both of whom are rather peculiar. Mervyn Johns [Never Let Go] and Danny Green [The Ladykillers] also score as two other members of the strange family. As for the ladies, Scott is lovely and adept, and Fielding makes her mark as the predatory Morgana. The picture becomes a little too silly with all this business of one relative building an ark on the property, but The Old Dark House is still entertaining.  Benjamin Frankel's quirky score is a decided plus, and helps add needed suspense to the climax. Poston and Castle also teamed up for the dreadful Zotz the year before.

Verdict: Minor but fun Castle flick. **3/4.


angelman66 said...

Never knew they made this - I am a very very big fan of the 1932 original which, as you note, was also a black comedy. Will keep an eye out for this sixties remake...
- Chris

William said...

It's on DVD and youtube. Most people prefer the original.