Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: House of the Damned (1963)

Poster for House of the Damned (1963)House of the Damned (1963) by #MauryDexter
#RonFoster #MerryAnders #RichardKiel

While doing survey work for a friend, an architect and his wife encounter bizarre activity in a mansion built by an eccentric heiress.

“13 keys to unleash the living dead.”

“We Dare You To Enter”


I’ve always liked haunted house movies – ever since seeing Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hold That Ghost (1941) when I was a kid. House of the Damned (1963) is not a movie that I saw back then. In fact, I’d never even heard of it before picking up a DVD some years back. The funny thing is, it’s not really a haunted house movie – but then again, neither is Hold That Ghost

House of the Damned (1963) is about an architect, played by Ron Foster, and his wife, played by Merry Anders, who travel to a remote mansion (more like a castle) somewhere in California. Scott, the architect, has been asked to survey the house for a lawyer friend (presumably to see what might be done with it or what it might be worth). Strange things start to happen, including keys mysteriously vanishing – like the previous tenant of the house did. Scott and his wife decide to investigate and see what’s behind the locked doors that someone – or something – doesn’t want them to see.

House of the Damned is a fun movie with a lot of great atmosphere. Beautifully shot, it manages to generate some suspense and intrigue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really pay off in the end. At 62 minutes long – or perhaps I should say 62 minutes short – it feels incomplete. It ends rather abruptly, in a mostly unsatisfying way. I don’t really want to say what happens, because I don’t want to spoil any surprises. But suffice it to say, that it’s not a great ending.

I will say that it’s a fairly unique idea, and it’s kind of like an unauthorized sequel to Freaks (1932), which is a far superior movie.

I was very pleased to see Richard Kiel in an early role. Most will remember him fondly as the Bond villain Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). I always loved Richard Kiel in those movies, and his presence here was a definite plus. And incidentally, at 7’2″, he’s a much bigger “giant” than Buddy Baer was in last week’s Giant from the Unknown (1958).

All in all, I enjoyed House of the Damned (1963). It’s #NotQuiteClassicCinema that perhaps earned its forgotten status by simply not being very memorable. But it’s a good natured, entertaining way to pass an hour when you’re stuck somewhere in between the first and last feature on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.