House of the Damned (1963)

housedamnedI assume the real estate listing for this film’s titular abode would go something like this: “Spacious Rochester Castle, private drive, lakeside view, 50 doors, basement dungeons, built-in elevator and black cat. Full disclosure: is damned.”

In the hourlong House of the Damned, architect Scott Campbell (Ron Foster, Private Lessons) has been hired to do a survey of the California place, abandoned without notice by a crazy old heiress. It’s a weekend of work, so Scott brings along not only its ring of 13 keys, but his wife, Nancy (Merry Anders, Legacy of Blood).

housedamned1“Isn’t this something?” Scott says upon crossing the threshold, to which Nancy replies, “If you like Early Dracula!”

Vampires are nowhere to be seen, but while the Campbells snooze, some … thing hobbles into the bedroom. I won’t reveal the castle’s altogether-ooky secrets; I’ll only say that although 7-foot-2 Richard Kiel (007’s Jaws) is among the cast, he is not among its strangest.

The black-and-white B picture generates a great deal of good-natured fun from its unusual take on the haunted-house premise and William Castle-esque sensibilities. Directed by Maury Dexter (Raiders from Beneath the Sea) and written by Harry Spalding (Curse of the Fly), it makes for an slight, but efficient sleeper from the separate-beds era. —Rod Lott

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