The Old Dark House
Release year: 1932
Director: James Whale
Screenplay: Benn W. Levy, J.B. Priestly (based on the novel by)
Starring: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Raymond Massey
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #327, week 41 2020
During a horrible storm five strangers seek shelter in the gloomy mansion of the Femm family estate. Here the strangeness of their hosts, dark family secrets and a brutish butler (Karloff) make the night one to remember.
Legendary horror director Whale reunites with his Frankenstein monster for this atmospheric and dark tale of family secrets unveiled during a storm. Karloff, most famous for his turn as the monster in Whale’s beforementioned Frankenstein (1931) is almost unrecognizable as the creepy butler but his intimidating presence is present throughout the movie. Together with Moore (Scotland Yard Investigation, 1945) as the unwelcoming Rebecca Femm and Thesiger (Bride of Frankenstein, 1935) as her brother, the mood is set for an interesting evening. Douglas (Being There, 1979) and Laughton (Spartacus, 1960) are the most dominant of the travellers and if you find you have heard Stuart’s name before, then she is the woman who became the oldest to be nominated for an Academy Award when she was nominated for her part as old Rose in Cameron’s Titanic (1997). The creeky old house with shadows everywhere, windows opening by the force of the wind and locked doors almost become a character as the dark secrets within makes it comes of almost as if it is a haunted house. The dialogue is swift and lively and the characters both gloomy and intense, making this a well-executed character driven horror thriller by one of the masters.
The elderly Femm father, Sir Roderick, is played by the female Elspeth Dudgeon.
A movie poster for The Old Dark House sold at Christie’s in New York in December 1991 for $48,400, making it at the time the most valuable poster ever sold.
A quarrel broke up the friendship between Boris Karloff and James Whale, who never spoke again. The former partners would only communicate via messages delivered by other cast members.