Wicked Wednesday: The Old Dark House (1963)

Remakes: they’re a source of contention with many horror fans. My favourite type of remake is one that really goes balls-to-the-wall and tries something different.

For most people, William Castle’s version of The Old Dark House will not be an improvement over Jame Whale’s 1932 original adaption. But for me, it was a great laugh that really pushed the slapstick humour.

Tom Penderel is a hapless car salesman in London. He shares his flat with a mysterious Casper Femm, who is only around during the day and goes home to his family estate in Dartmoor at night.

Casper asks a favour of Tom, to drive Casper’s car to the estate. When Tom arrives, the car is destroyed by a statue, forcing him to stay at the home. But once inside, Tom realises that his roommate has died.

Tom, now a guest at the home, meets Casper’s eccentric family, including the young Cecily. He learns from them that the family must meet at the home at midnight every night or forfeit their inheritance.

At the first midnight, Tom and the famiyl realise that the mother Agatha hasn’t arrived. They find her soon after with knitting needles in her throat. And soon, one-by-one, the rest of the Femms are picked off.

It’s a silly version of the story, for sure. Even more surprising, this is a Hammer Horror production! The usual air of dignity is long gone. And yet…while I enjoyed the original, I found myself still enjoying this remake for very different reasons. I love that Castle really leaned into how stupid it was.

There isn’t the usual Castle gimmick here, unfortunately, but I could definitely see one working. Is there a stage production of this thing? Someone quick! Get one made!

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