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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The rights to this film reverted to novelist J.B. Priestley after 25 years. The film was then purchased by Raymond Rohauer, whose company still owns it, administered by Douris Corp. See more »
After Horace drops the glass flower vase on the floor and it shatters, no effort is made to clean it up, nor is Morgan told to do so, yet the rest of the characters walk around as if there's no shattered glass covering the floor. See more »
[feels the fabric of Margaret Waverton's low-cut gown]
... fine stuff, but it'll rot.
[touches Margaret's skin above the neckline]
... finer stuff still, but it'll rot too!
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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