The Old Dark House
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

The Old Dark House is based on the 1927 novel Benighted by English novelist J.B. Priestley [1894-1984]. It was adapted for the screen by English scriptwriters R.C. Sherriff and Benn Wolf Levy. It was directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemmle Jr, who also worked together on such classic horror films as Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). A remake, also entitled The Old Dark House, was released in 1966 (though filmed in 1962), and Haunted Honeymoon (1986) was made as a spoof.

He may be hard to recognize under all the hair, but Boris Karloff plays the role of Morgan, the deranged, drunken, and mute butler. A message before the credits states that, in order to forestall any arguments among the audience, Morgan is indeed played by Karloff, the same actor who played Frankenstein's monster the previous year.

It was a dark and stormy night in the Wales countryside. Philip (Raymond Massey) and Margaret (Gloria Stuart) Waverton and their traveling companion, Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), were lost, the roads were flooded, and there were roadslides behind them when they came upon the Femm house and requested shelter for the night. The same thing happened to Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) and his companion, Gladys DuCane (Lilian Bond).

Sir Roderick Femm (Elspeth Dudgeon), the old, bedridden man, is the father of Horace (Ernest Thesiger), Rebecca (Eva Moore), and Saul (Brember Wills).

Saul attacks Roger Penderel, and they battle it out until they each knock the other out. Morgan carries Saul back to his bedroom, and Gladys rushes to Penderel's aid. Everyone sleeps through the night. In the morning, they are awakened by Horace. The storm has stopped, and birds can be heard singing outside. The Wavertons go on their way. In the final scene, Gladys is still cradling Penderel's head in her lap. He looks up into her eyes and asks her to marry him. Gladys gives him a big kiss.

Not any more. It was withdrawn from circulation when Hammer Films produced the remake (directed by William Castle in 1962, but not released until 1966), and was eventually assumed lost, but a surviving copy was found in the Universal vault in 1968.

The film follows the novel very closely. A notable difference in the novel is in the character of Penderel, who is given more backstory and who is shown to be bitter from various losses that affected him during WWI. The biggest difference is in the book's ending where Penderel falls and breaks his neck.


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