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The Old Dark House (1932)

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

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Writers:

(from the novel by) (as J.B. Priestly), (screen play)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

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


Certificate:

TV-G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

20 October 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El caserón de las sombras  »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$25,678, 2 November 2017
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Gloria Stuart recalled on the film's DVD commentary that Melvyn Douglas and Raymond Massey hated filming the opening sequence, which was a very cold, wet night shoot. She, however, thought it was a lot of fun, and even if she had not been enjoying herself, she was so new to the film business that she didn't want to cause any trouble by complaining. See more »

Goofs

Roger and Gladys go to a barn to get liquor from the car stored there during the driving rainstorm. When they are coming back to the house, there is a large puddle of water in front of the house but no rain is falling. Roger, carrying Gladys gets almost to the door when the water is turned back on. Rain pours near the door but not on the rest of the area in front of the house. See more »

Quotes

Margaret Waverton: It's a dreadful night.
Rebecca Femm: What?
Margaret Waverton: I said it's a dreadful night.
Rebecca Femm: Yes, it's a very old house. Very old.
Margaret Waverton: It's very kind of you to let us stay.
Rebecca Femm: What?
Margaret Waverton: I say you're very kind.
Rebecca Femm: Yes it is a dreadful night. I'm a little deaf.
Margaret Waverton: I understand.
Rebecca Femm: Yes. No beds!
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the introductory credits there is a 'producer's note' (on some prints it appears before the studio logo) : '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.' But the current release (September 2017) from Cohen Media Group omits this credit completely. See more »

Connections

Featured in Stairs (1986) 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

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User Reviews

Superb sets and photography but ultimately just a well played farce
7 June 2006 | by See all my reviews

Director James Whale and his cast probably had a good time making this film. After the opening credits there's a "producer's note": '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.'

So you're know what you're in for, at least modern audiences should. Back then it must have been quite daring to openly "expose" and perhaps even undermine the potential scariness of the film, especially Karloff's role as the butler. I think many executives at Universal frowned upon this as well, in particular Carl Laemmle Sr., but Carl Laemmle Jr. probably shared the same kind of humor as Whale, so they let him get away with it.

The film is very loyal to J.B. Priestley's novel "Benighted" and took most of the wonderful dialogs and one-liners directly from the book. As one would expect from James Whale en co, the sharply written dialog is definitely one of the highlights with the best lines being handed to Thesiger, as in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. This supposedly being a send-up of Universal's horror conventions, it's not particularly engaging as a horror film. Eerie things do happen, absolutely, but they are so bizarre and sometimes so utterly over the top, that you either stop caring about the characters or simply lose track of the proceedings at all. But no complaints about the acting, especially the incomparable Ernest Thesiger who is a standout in a first rate cast. And the sets and photography are absolutely superb as is the whole atmosphere in general, largely due to the continuously (and well timed) stormy soundtrack, which greatly adds to the fun.

Many have pointed out that Whale presents us some kind of parody of the horror movie or some kind of archetypal English household. This seems a very modern, almost anachronistic vision to me. What things did he attempt to mock or make fun of? Essentially THE OLD DARK HOUSE is a well acted sometimes very funny stagy farce with a horror atmosphere at best. He certainly had the last laugh because he probably never intended it that way, although most of the critical acclaim came after his death.

A final note on the Special Collector's Edition DVD: Besides the obligatory stills gallery, nothing of particular interest. A six-minute interview with Curtis Harrington about him saving the original copy of the film. Good thing he did it but that's all we need to know. And truly worthless commentary tracks, James Curtis comments like he's reading a list with all kinds of facts about the movie. Suitable for a booklet, not for an audio commentary.

Camera Obscura --- 8/10


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