THE OLD DARK HOUSE, 1932
Starring: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, and Elspeth Dudgeon
When a rainstorm has rendered their car useless in rural Wales, three young travelers seek shelter in an old dark mansion, now they must survive the night.
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The movie starts out with a heavy rainstorm pounding the car of three travelers (Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, and Gloria Stuart) in a remote rural area of Wales. It is so bad that they are forced to stop. Luckily for them they end up at an old dark mansion. They knock on the door seeking shelter, it is answered by a hulky brute named Morgan (Boris Karloff), who after an incident in his youth had his tongue cut off, and left mute, after some smooth talking the three are let in to find the masters of the home, an odd looking bunch named the Femms (Ernest Thesiger and Eva Moore).
Horace Femm (Thesiger), receives the wary travelers rather openly, understanding that the conditions outside are very bad, but warns the three to leave more for their safety than anything else. On the hand Rebecca (Moore) wants them to leave because she feels that they have come there to cause trouble and does not trust them.
Once again, after some convincing, the three travelers persuade the Femmís to letting them stay until the storm lets up. Knowing the travelers must be tired, Horace offers them a drink and some food around a massive fireplace. As them is going on, Margaret Waverton (Gloria Stuart) is led into a bedroom in order to change, where several odd incidence take place, such as the window blowing open, candle burning out and the feeling of being watched.
It is about this time that there is a knock at the door, and two more travelers enter, a very loud, chubby man named Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and his friend Gladys DuCane Perkins (Lilian Bond) are let in. They too are offered a drink and food, much to the protest of Rebecca.
After they finish their meal, the clan once again gathers around the fireplace and we find out the reasoning behind Rebecca and Horaceís oddness, which only increases as the story progresses. Rebecca, a religious person, believes that the family is cursed because of past activities (wild parties and sins of the flesh and such) that their other brother Saul (Brember Wills) had gone crazy. This story is backed up when the master of the house, Sir Roderick Femm (Elspeth Dudgeon) (bed-stricken and very ill), tells them a similar story.
The Old Dark House was Whale and Karloffís follow up to the monster hit (no pun intended) Frankenstein, which they had done a year earlier. The film received mixed reviews when it was originally released mostly talking about the strong acting and good directing but having a weak story. Box office reception started strong but quickly dropped off after negative word of mouth.
Today, however, the film has received much more positive praise, especially with younger filmmakers. Much of this praise stems from the modern dark humor that is found in much of the film as well as the expressionist sets used.
On a personal level, I do like this film. It is can be weird and lets face down right silly at points but the humor and overall gothic feel more than makes up for that. Out of the four major Universal Horror films that Whale did, this is the worst one of them all but it is hard to top Frankenstein, Bride and The Invisible Man, so I would be more than happy to put this film on my resume. This isnít a very long film at all, running time only being 72 minutes, so it can be punched out in a sitting. Also, listen for Melvyn Douglas singing Singiní in the Rain, a funny little note. Anyway, I highly suggest this film to anyone, especially if you are a fan of the classic horror genre. Enjoy.