Directed by James Whale who made Frankenstein the year before, this gem of a film manages to be creepy, funny, quirky and gothic all at once!
Starring: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton
Directed by: James Whale
Ratings: Internet Movie Data Base; 7.3/10 …Rotten Tomatoes; 100%
Our Rating; 8.5/10
The Old Dark House 1932. Beginning with a furious storm which is almost the entire backdrop to the movie, three friends are attempting to drive through it to find some safe shelter.
They eventually stumble upon the “Femm” family home and are reluctantly let in but abruptly told that they cannot have beds for the night.
As they dry themselves by the fire they are shown some degree of welcome by elderly siblings, Horace and Rebecca Femm. Along with their alcoholic, mute butler, Morgan (Boris Karloff). It’s Morgan who initially opened the door to the unfortunate lot and who mumbles something at them which screams Twin Peaks!
Horace (Ernest Thesiger) is immediately worried when he learns they may be holed up in their own house because the road outside has been blocked off. He’s mocked by his sister who also starts to condemn her new female guest for being so young and attractive.
Karloff Goes on a Bender!
They sit down to dinner as two more desperate travellers come knocking at the door. William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and his lady companion are bought in and shown the same kind of unwilling welcome as the others.
The guests are soon getting to know one another when it’s announced that their menacing looking butler, Morgan is at the bottle again. And quite drunk.
In the meantime it’s explained that the father, Roderick Femm (played by a woman!) is upstairs, an invalid. So too is the family’s most shameful secret…their brother Saul. Locked up like a prisoner, it’s his potential escape that holds the family in a state of constant dread.
An escape which is imminent now that Morgan is determined to release him!
…An excellent yet lesser-known classic from Universal which has a brilliant and unforgettable cast of characters played expertly by all. Thesiger is an absolute genius as always, as is Laughton and Eva Moore (Rebecca Femm).
Special mention from me goes to Brember Wills (Saul) as the mad brother who is downright compelling as a cunning, maniacal psychotic.
The film’s gothic atmosphere is magnificent and gives you a sense of being trapped within the house yourself… One to watch on a cold, wet, windy night!
Have you seen The Old Dark House 1932? If not, it comes highly recommended as a hugely entertaining and influential masterpiece of the period. Feel free to leave your opinion or comments in the space below.