The Old Dark House (1963 film)

The Old Dark House is a 1963 American 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.

The Old Dark House
Directed byWilliam Castle
Produced byWilliam Castle
Anthony Hinds
Written byRobert Dillon
StarringTom Poston
Robert Morley
Janette Scott
Joyce Grenfell
Music byBenjamin Frankel
CinematographyArthur Grant
Edited byJames Needs
William Castle-Hammer
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
30 October 1963 (U.S.)
16 September 1966 (UK)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States

Plot synopsis

Tom Penderel, an American car salesman in London, delivers a car to an old mansion on 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 cousins, 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 neck. 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.



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]

Home video

In the US, the film was originally released by Sony Pictures on an anamorphic 1.85 aspect ratio DVD, with the only extra being the original theatrical trailer. It was later paired on disc with Mr. Sardonicus and included in two separate William Castle box sets. The original disc was later reissued as a DVD-R burn-on demand release from Sony Pictures Choice Collection. The film has also been released on DVD in Spain, retitled La vieja casa oscura, both separately and as part of a William Castle box set.

See also


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


  • 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.
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