The Old Dark House (1962)
"The murder mystery with a difference:
YOU DIE LAUGHING"
An American car salesman in England, Tom Penderel one stormy night finds an eccentric millionaire client, Casper Femm, murdered in the old, dark house he shared with weapons-collector Roderick Femm; Casper's mother Agatha; his twin brother Jasper; two young cousins, Cecily and Morgana, both of whom are attracted to Tom; and Morgana's father who would willingly murder the American for even looking at the girl.
Agatha, Jasper and Roderick are brutally slain an hour apart, on the hour. Suspected of murder and simultaneously the unsuspecting victim of various murder traps, Tom uncovers the real killer in time to prevent total destruction of the old dark house and its few remaining survivors.
Plot summary from The Old Dark House hand bill, 1966.
"House haunting? It's all in good fun, of corpse - mostly the murderous kind!"
The following review is based on the 76 minute, A certificate version of The Old Dark House which was released in the United Kingdom in 1966. An 83 minute, X certificated version of the film was first distributed in Great Britain during 1996, when the film was licensed for PAL VHS home video.
The touch of the master-maker of thrillers, William Castle, is non-existent here. This is due, no doubt, to the fact that the scissors have been rigorously applied to the original and the result is, to say the least, disappointing. The stage is all set for chills, but these have been sacrificed in favour of occasional knockabout and mild humour. Tom Poston is passable in the role of the invited one, but his performance doesn't quite warrant his journey from America. Quite the most imposing member of the cast is Robert Morley, who dominates the queer family and Janette Scott is most disarming in a part which provides a really surprise climax. Joyce Grenfell is, as always, very amusing and Fenella Fielding once again does her speciality, the would-be seductress. Others are good and the acting generally flatters the material.
Kinematograph Weekly, 25 August 1966
Director William Castle is best remembered for the promotional stunts associated with his early films. He insured the audience of Macabre against death by fright, House on Haunted Hill featured a flying human skeleton propelled by the "Emergo" process and unsuspecting cinema goers received mild electric shocks during the climax of The Tingler.
Castle was the inspiration for the film Matinee.
Tom Poston - Tom Penderel
Robert Morley - Roderick Femm
Janette Scott - Cecily Femm
Joyce Grenfell - Agatha Femm
Mervyn Johns - Potiphar Femm
Fenella Fielding - Morgana Femm
Peter Bull - Casper and Jasper Femm
Danny Green - Morgan Femm
John Harvey - Club Receptionist
The following player received no on-screen credit:
Amy Dalby - Woman Gambler
Production Designer Bernard Robinson
Supervising Editor James Needs
Production Manager John Draper
Assistant Director Douglas Hermes
Sound Recordist Jock May
Sound Editor James Groom
Continuity Pauline Wise
Make-up Artist Roy Ashton
Hair Stylist Frieda Steiger
Wardrobe Supervisor Molly Arbuthnot
Wardrobe Mistress Rosemary Burrows
Special Effects Les Bowie
Drawn by Charles Addams
Title Backgrounds Copyright Charles Addams
Camera Operator Moray Grant
Director of Photography Arthur Grant, BSc
Music Composed and Conducted by Benjamin Frankel
Screenplay by Robert Dillon
Based on Benighted by J.B. Priestley
(See also the J. B. Priestley Society)
Associate Producer Donna Holloway
Produced and Directed by William Castle