The Old Dark House (1932)

TV-G  |   |  Comedy, Horror  |  20 October 1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 5,017 users  
Reviews: 105 user | 59 critic

Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers are in for a bizarre and terrifying night when the stumble upon the Femm family estate.



(from the novel by) (as J.B. Priestly) , (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Sir William Porterhouse
Gladys (as Lillian Bond)
Horace Femm
Eva Moore ...
Rebecca Femm
Philip Waverton
Margaret Waverton
Elspeth Dudgeon ...
Sir Roderick Femm (as John Dudgeon)
Brember Wills ...
Saul Femm


Seeking shelter from a pounding rainstorm in a remote region of Wales, several travellers are admitted to a gloomy, foreboding mansion belonging to the extremely strange Femm family. Trying to make the best of it, the guests must deal with their sepulchral host, Horace Femm and his obsessive, malevolent sister Rebecca. Things get worse as the brutish manservant Morgan gets drunk, runs amuck and releases the long pent-up brother Saul, a psychotic pyromaniac who gleefully tries to destroy the residence by setting it on fire. Written by Doug Sederberg <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Beware the night!


Comedy | Horror


TV-G | See all certifications »




Release Date:

20 October 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Casa Sinistra  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Gloria Stuart said in a 1988 interview that she and Melvyn Douglas were decidedly outnumbered as the English cast never once asked them to join them for their tea breaks. Despite this, she thought Boris Karloff to be a very charming man. See more »


Towards the end of the movie when Saul and Penderel are talking at the table, Saul uses his fingers to make the number two his palm is towards Penderel. Next shot the back of Saul's hand is towards Penderel. See more »


Rebecca Femm: They were all godless here. They used to bring their women here - brazen, lolling creatures in silks and satins. They filled the house with laughter and sin, laughter and sin. And if I ever went down among them, my own father and brothers - they would tell me to go away and pray, and I prayed - and left them with their lustful red and white women.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the introductory credits there is a 'producer's note' (but it comes before EVERYTHING, including the studio logo, on the version shown by Turner Classic Movies): 'Karloff, the mad butler in this production, is the same Karloff who created the part of the mechanical monster in "Frankenstein". We explain this to settle all disputes in advance, even though such disputes are a tribute to his great versatility.' See more »


Spoofed in Haunted Honeymoon (1986) See more »


Oh! Mr. Porter
By George Le Brunn
Improvised on by Melvyn Douglas
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Laughter and Sin!
16 May 2005 | by (Biloxi, Mississippi) – See all my reviews

Tales about sinister, creepy mansions were already clichéd by the time director James Whale directed THE OLD DARK HOUSE--and instead of presenting the piece as a straight-forward thriller he mixed the film's very atmospheric cinematography with a wild strain of parody. The result is a movie with a bizarre camp humor that foreshadows Whale's slightly later and even more bizarrely camp THE BRIDE OF FRANKESTEIN.

The plot, very based loosely on a J.B. Priestly novel, is perfunctory, existing only to throw together an ensemble cast of already-famous and soon-to-be-famous stars. Five motorists are trapped in the wilds of Wales during a horrific storm and are forced to seek shelter at, of course, an old dark house... but their unwilling hosts are a neurotic Ernest Thesiger, his religious fanatic sister Eva Moore, and their hulking, deformed, and mute butler Boris Karloff. Before the night is over the storm-weary travelers experience everything from a hellish meal to religious lectures--not to mention assault, attempted rape, mysterious cackling, a bit of arson, and a touch of homosexual hysteria (courtesy of Thesiger, Moore, and a surprise male character who is actually played by a woman) thrown in for good measure.

The cast is exceptional; in addition to Karloff, Thesiger, and Moore, we have Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart, and Lilian Bond, and they wring the most from the covertly wicked script, with Eva Moore ranting about "laughter and sin," Thesiger inviting Raymond Massey into his room "to see a few things," and one of the most socially awkward meals ever put to film. But the film's real power is its cinematography: when they say old DARK house, they really mean it, and the look of the film is just as disorienting for viewers as for the characters; particularly noteworthy is the scene in which Moore lectures Gloria Stuart, with their faces distorted by the bedroom mirror, and the sequence in which Karloff pursues the white-clad and wind-whipped Gloria Stuart with mayhem in mind.

Viewers who expect "Universial Horror" fare will probably be disappointed by THE OLD DARK HOUSE, and director James Whale would create a still more memorable combination of horror and high-camp with THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTIEN. But THE OLD DARK HOUSE is an overlooked jewel of unusual quality: a sardonic parody of a famous theme, well played, filmed and scripted. Recommended.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer

27 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Any more like it? Jpebony123
Where do you get a decent print of this? drzom
Reminds one that horror can be more than teenage angst films fluffymonk
I don't think Eva Moore played Rebecca Femm...... mamamk
Morgan Oldphan
Faithful adaptation 16mmRay
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