During WWII, Army Major Matthews (Hugh Arnald) falls to his death near Castle Glennye in Scotland.  A witness says she saw a phantom push the man off the cliff.  The castle has a legend about a ghost that haunts the castle and grounds.  Army Intelligence Agent Neale (James Liggat) is sent to investigate.  By the time he gets there, another agent, Captain Fairfax (Lucien Bore), has been killed.  Neale’s contact is the proprietor of the local inn, McTavish (Alastair Hunter).

McTavish explains some of the family dynamic to Agent Neale.  The old laird died leaving his wife, The Marchioness (Mara Russell-Tavernan) and two sons, Nigel (Robert Essex) and Michael (John Gauntley).  Michael was the oldest and remained at the castle.  Nigel, the youngest, joined the service.  Michael and Nigel are half-brothers, and their relationship is contentious.  Michael’s mother was the previous Marchioness of the estate.  While home on leave, a riding accident injures Nigel’s leg, and he returns home to recuperate.   

Things at the castle are tense.  The arrival of one of Nigel’s friends, Major Selwyn (Karl Meir) adds more dimension to the strange events happening at the castle.  More appearances of the phantom are seen on the grounds and in the castle itself.  Unknown by most of the residents in the area is that a German spy is among the visitors to the castle and that there is something more solid to the phantom than there is otherworldly.  The secrets of the castle are many, and deadly. 

“Castle Sinister” was released in 1948 and was directed by Oscar Burn.  It is an obscure British thriller with some old dark house elements.  The opening credits state that the film was based on the play “Mark of Judas” by Vance Youden.  Information on both the play and Mr. Youden are sparse.    

Much of the 48-minute run time is devoted to chit chat and establishing characters.  Not only does that drag the movie down, but by the time you’re done watching you still don’t know much about the characters other than that the family dynamic is tense.  Most of the film is told in flashbacks.  It seems that the main take away from the film, according to critics, is that the theme of it is where Scooby-Doo got his start.  Perhaps that’s a little simplistic.  The plot is a little more involved than that, but the result is similar.

This quota quickie thriller seems to have a lot going against it.  It’s sort of a low budget one off.  Many of the actors were never in another film.  It is quite dark in some places so seeing the action is difficult.  It also feels much like a film that was shot as a silent but had sound dubbed later in post-production.  It was set in Scotland but shot in the Kent region of England on the Isle of Thanet.

The acting is not all that great, and the sound is slightly annoying.  On the plus side it’s got a lot of moody atmosphere that stems from some noir touches.  The movie isn’t an ‘on-the-edge-of-your-seat’ thriller, and it is a little slow, but it’s not too bad if you are a fan of Scooby-Doo. 

The film was remade in 1954 as “The Devil’s Jest”.   It too stars Mara Russell-Tavernan as the family matriarch.

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