The Old Dark House – 1966
A William Castle-Hammer production released by Columbia Pictures
Copyright MCMLXII Columbia Pictures Corporation – All rights reserved
MPAA Approved Certificate No. 20056
The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious and any similatity to the name, character, or history of any person is entirely accidental and unintentional
RCA Sound Recording
Produced at Bray Studios England
Eastmancolor 86 mins
Comedy thriller. American Tom Penderel is invited by his friend Casper Femm for a weekend at his family’s remote mansion on darkest Dartmoor. Once there, he meets the other members of Casper’s family, who all seem to be teetering on the verge of insanity. He also discovers that Casper has been killed just before his arrival!
Watch the trailer on YouTube
With typical immodesty, William Castle allowed himself a credit for Producer/Director and then another one solely for Director. On the other hand, it might just have been an error on the part of those responsible for the titles.
Hammer seemed to be having a bit of a rough ride at this time. “The Phantom of the Opera” was not doing good business at the box office and they still had two completed films (“The Damned” and “Cash on Demand”) awaiting release. “The Old Dark House” made the total three and in Britain it had to wait until 1966 before it escaped into cinemas as the second half of a double bill with the spoof western “Big Deal at Dodge City”.
Janette Scott, who is the daughter of actress Thora Hird, got a bit of a shock when she walked into her bathroom at Bray Studios on the first day of shooting. As a gesture of welcome, William Castle had filled it with dead flowers! Castle himself was one of Hollywood’s great showmen and revelled in gimmicks and tricks he played on cinema audiences. He started reasonably conventionally by using 3-D in his western “Fort Ti” (1953), then progressed to more outlandish ideas:-
1). “Macabre” (1958) carried a $1,000,000 insurance policy for anyone dying of fright while watching it;
2). “House on Haunted Hill” (1958) was presented with “Emergo”‘, a device by which a cardboard skeleton was swung above the heads of the audience at appropriately scary moments;
3). “Percepto” was used for showings of “The Tingler” (1959). It involved certain cinema seats being wired up and electrical jolts being administered to their unfortunate occupants;
4). “13 Ghosts” (1960) came complete with “Illusion-0” and audiences were equipped with “ghost viewers” (anaglyph spectacles) so that they could see the phantoms on the screen;
5). A clock which appeared on-screen during the “fright break”‘ in “Homicidal” (1961) allowed the audience to flee the cinema before the film proceeded to its horrific climax;
6). Audiences to “Mr Sardonicus” (1961) were invited to take part in the “Punishment Poll” and vote thumbs up or thumbs down to decide the villain’s fate. In reality, of course, the film only had one ending anyway!
Castle’s other work includes “The Night Walker” (1964), starring Barbara Stanwyck, and two films starring Joan Crawford – “Strait-Jacket” (1963) and “I Saw What You Did” (1965). All his films are worth seeing, if only to wonder at the sheer bare-faced cheek of the man!
Details were complied viewing the actual film.
Source of viewing copy – The Hammer Graveyard Collection