The Old Dark House (1932)

Movie Title: The Old Dark House

Year Released: 1932

Rated: Not Rated

Runtime: 1h 12min

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Director: James Whale

Writer: Benn W. Levy (based on the novel by J.B. Priestley)

Starring: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Elspeth Dudgeon, Brember Wills,

Review: A group of travelers seek refuge from a severe storm in a strange old house occupied by the eerie, eccentric, and possibly evil, Femm family. Can the weary travelers survive until dawn or will they fall victim to their mysterious hosts? To find out you'll just have to spend the night in The Old Dark House.

Director James Whale made some remarkably memorable motion pictures, like Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, and many more. The Old Dark House is definitely his forgotten gem. That's mainly due to the fact that Universal Studios lost the rights to the original story in the 1950s, and the original version of the film literally went missing until Director Curtis Harrington, a friend of Whale, discovered the film in the late 1960s, and restored the original negative.

Film fans have sought out The Old Dark House for decades, me being one of them, and I recently got my hands on a new 4K restoration Blu-ray copy of it put out by the Cohen Media Group. It looks and sounds fantastic; probably better than it did when released back in 1932!

This thriller has its moments of both horror and comedy, but it often feels a bit unfocused. That might just be due to the fact that there really isn't much of a plot to speak of. The basic story is a group of travelers held up in a spooky manor with a strange family that would creep out just about any rational person. And as the night goes on, startling discoveries are made, madmen reveal themselves, and an unexpected romance blooms from out of this crazed and clueless congregation. It's a simple story that is filled with unforgettable moments, unconventional characters, and an eerie atmosphere that will certainly get you to look over your shoulder as chills run up and down your spine.

What makes this movie so memorable, besides the strong direction, gothic sets and striking cinematography, is the stellar cast! You have Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart, Lilian Bond, Raymond Massey, and Charles Laughton as our weary travelers, but then you add the creepy expressions of Ernest Thesiger, the much too talkative Eva Moore, and the towering and nightmarish appearance of Boris Karloff's Morgan. And there's a few more Femm family members that I wouldn't dare spoil to you potential viewers. Everyone brings a unique personality to this movie as the stormy night goes from bad to worse. Thesiger looks and acts especially otherworldly. He's so odd and creepy, and yet sympathetic. And Karloff is so menacing as he stares down the gorgeous Gloria Stuart. There's real tension among this unusual group and the audience really feels the dread as the evening goes on.

Another great aspect is that you're not quite sure where this chance encounter is going. Is it simply a gothic horror story or a comedy of errors... or both? And the dark, damp old house is one of the most visually arresting sets in horror movie history. The giant fireplace, the steep staircase, the long, curtain-filled hallway, and the rain-soaked, mud-caked entryway into this nightmarish manor. It all looks amazing and certainly has a sinister quality to it! It was without a doubt influenced by German expressionism that flourished in the films of the 1920s. And the lighting and spooky shadows helps to set the mood for this atypical tale.

This formerly lost film has a great mix of horror and humor that makes for a lost cult classic that needs to be rediscovered. If you're looking for a foreboding and ominous overnight then may I suggest a stay at the... The Old Dark House.

Stars (out of 4):

Fun Fact: This was Boris Karloff's first credited starring role. His name had been left off the Frankenstein (1931) publicity packages and only credited in the end credits of that film.


Free Newsletters   |    Go Shopping   |    Where Are They Now?   |    GopherArchives   |    EVTV1

© 2021 GopherCentral and