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 <email@example.com>
Although this was the only film with both Raymond Massey and Boris Karloff, Massey would go on to play Karloff's role in the film of "Arsenic and Old Lace" because the producers of the Broadway show, which was still running when the film was shot, wouldn't release Karloff. See more »
If the road was blocked both ahead and behind (as Mr. Waverton said, and is shown), where did Charles Laughton and Lilian Bond come from? See more »
[picking up a bunch of flowers]
My sister was on the point of arranging these flowers.
[He tosses them into the fire]
See more »
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 »
While perfectly enjoyable as a camp comedy of manners (that element comes courtesy of director James Whale) and as an elegant, low-key horror, The Old Dark House can best be appreciated when you know a little about JB Priestley, author of the source play Benighted. (Or was it originally a novel? It definitely exists as a stage play, at any rate.)
Priestley was an English playwright, novelist, radio broadcaster and journalist who became very well known in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s for presenting a kindly, commonsensical version of socialism and community spirit to a nation battling through the Great Depression, the Second World War and its aftermath. Several of his plays combine a supernatural or at least mysterious strain with an allegorical message about the importance of unselfishness and people working together to help one another. If you watch The Old Dark House with these points in mind you may see it in a more moving and profound light. Dangerous Corner and An Inspector Calls are similar examples of his work, still popular in Britain with amateur drama groups and touring theatre companies.
If you can, see Old Dark House and Whale's later Bride of Frankenstein as a home video double bill and compare Ernest Thesiger's delightfully feline and remarkably similar performances as Horace Femm and Dr Praetorius. "Have a potato" and "Have some gin" may well become part of your private family language for ever after.
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