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The Old Dark House (1932)

7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 4,176 users  
Reviews: 99 user | 49 critic

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

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Title: The Old Dark House (1932)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Penderel
...
Sir William Porterhouse
Lilian Bond ...
Gladys (as Lillian Bond)
Ernest Thesiger ...
Horace Femm
Eva Moore ...
Rebecca Femm
...
Philip Waverton
...
Margaret Waverton
Elspeth Dudgeon ...
Sir Roderick Femm (as John Dudgeon)
Brember Wills ...
Saul Femm
Edit

Storyline

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 <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Beware the night!

Genres:

Comedy | Horror

Certificate:

TV-G | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 October 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Old Dark House  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was Boris Karloff's first credited starring role. His name had been left off the Frankenstein (1931) publicity packages and only credited in the end credits of that film. See more »

Goofs

One of Gloria Stuart's elaborate earrings is missing about mid-film, it reappears for 2 close up shots and disappears again in medium and long shots. See more »

Quotes

Roger Penderel: There's someone outside.
Rebecca Femm: They can't come in!
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 »


Soundtracks

Singin' in the Rain
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung by Melvyn Douglas a cappella, with modified lyrics
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


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