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>
While most of the cast was dressed in English tweeds, James Whale wanted Gloria Stuart to wear a pale pink satin dinner dress because he wanted her "to look like a beautiful flame" when Karloff chased her down the halls. See more »
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.
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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 »
If you're expecting a horror movie, forget it - that aspect doesn't really kick in until the last couple of reels and was probably pretty old hat even in 1932. What you get is something altogether more unexpected and much more welcome - one of the greatest comedies of manners ever made.
Those who don't like their wit dry need not apply, but those who do are in for a real treat. Charles Laughton's blustering but good natured Yorkshireman channels more than a pinch of George Formby, but it's Ernest Thesiger who steals the show even more wholeheartedly than he did in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - never has one man got so much comic mileage with so little visible effort from the words "Have a potato." Forget Dr. Pretorius, this is the absolutely unique Thesiger's finest hour. There are plenty of good lines to go round the rest of the tremendous cast ("Not even Welsh should sound like that," notes Melvyn Douglas when confronted with Karloff's grunting), the characters are really rather likeable for a change, and even the wildly unconvincing casting of an actress to play the family patriarch does not detract. Not a horror classic, not a prototype slasher movie (despite its obvious influence on the genre), but a truly great comedy. Sit back, pour yourself a gin and have a potato...
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