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>
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 »
Truly one of Universal greatest unsung horror films, The Old Dark House is a unique blend of gothic setting, quirky characterizations, wicked black and dry humour, a great ensemble cast, and the workings of the mind of James Whale. Whale made the film the year after Frankenstein. He was again paired with Karloff. But unlike their first association, Karloff's star is far less brighter in this film as his performance, although good and servicable, is over-shadowed by atmosphere, Whale's direction, witty dialogue, and a cast of scene stealers such as Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Eva Moore, and Ernest Thesiger. Others in the notable cast include lovely Gloria Stuart, Lillian Bond, and Raymond Massey. Thesiger and Moore, as the brother and sister imposed upon by travellers in the stormy night, are fantastic as they interact and play out their eccentricities to perfection. Thesiger has the choice lines in the film as the effeminate Horace Femm, a cowardly man that cowers to his deaf sister. He is a joy to watch and each of his lines oozes with oil. Moore is also very good as she bellows repeatedly, "N beds! No beds! They can have no beds!" The story is based on a novel by J. B. Priestly. The plot is somewhat antiquated now, but Whale's direction puts a lot of life into it. And let's not forget Karloff, however small his part, still turns in a great menacing performance as a lecherous, drunken servant named Morgan ogling Gloria Stuart from the moment he sees her. The Old Dark House is a great film, and it should be more highly touted by Universal!
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