Comedy

Spend a Night in… – The Old Dark House (1963)

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For a Hammer film, and with a title like this, The Old Dark House is not all that dark.  Perhaps it would have seemed more so if the comedy had been toned down and the horror ramped up, but as it is, the picture was fairly enjoyable, if a bit silly.  That is something you rarely hear about any Hammer picture and while there might be a few that have moments that may come close; none of them are flat out as ridiculous as this one.  the old dark house11Another interesting facet about this movie is that it stars American actor Tom Posten instead of some British stalwart.  As a comedy, there are a few laughs to be had, numerous smirks and even a number of smiles, but a lot of the humour was fairly dry as well and would fall a little flat.  Combining that humour with some decent performances and a fairly zany script and the picture would turn out to be not all that bad.

Though comedy is all well and good, when you watch a movie that has the Hammer name attached to it, you expect a little horror and what this picture did deliver was more disturbing than straight-up scary.  the old dark house7Poston’s character Tom Penderel finds himself trying to complete the last wishes of his friend by delivering a car to his family, but upon arriving at the mansion, he finds that the Femm family is not all there in more ways than one and that getting out of the house is easier said than done.  This family is strange with each one having some sort of weird quirk about them.  Perhaps being cooped up with each other for decades will do that and while the reasoning for such is given a little later in the film, most people would go insane being trapped in a house without any social contact other than your relatives.  The Femm’s are a slightly creepy bunch, but when it comes down to it, they are simply eccentric though maybe a bit more than the usual.

Poston does a good job with the material, being both funny and charming.  His character is a simple man and most of the comedy comes from him being thrust into the middle of a family that is anything but.  Robert Morley stars as Roderick, the de facto head of the family and there are, of course, a couple of beautiful women present as well as portrayed by Janette Scott and Fenella Fielding.  At the end of the day, the cast is the only thing you are really watching this film for in the absence of any fright.  Simply put, if you are looking to watch a horror movie, this is not that film.  The Old Dark House is a good film; you just have to accept it for what it is.

3 out of 5
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