The Old Dark House (1932)

Article #107 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-1-2001
Posting date: 11-14-2001

Five travellers get trapped by a landslide and are forced to spend the night at a strange mansion peopled by eccentric (and possibly dangerous) characters.

Though I’ve done a lot of talking about “old dark house” movies lately, this hard-to-find classic doesn’t quite qualify; there are no mysterious murders, no secret passages, and no red herrings. If anything, it’s like an early, subtle ancestor to “The Addams Family”; the Femm family is one of the oddest set of characters you’ll find in any movie. Boris Karloff is wasted in the least interesting role, the mute scarred butler Morgan, but that hardly matters as the rest of the characters are fascinating and so much fun, especially Ernest Thesiger’s fussy and cowardly Horace Femm, and Eva Moore’s religious zealot Rebecca Femm. It also has an impressive cast: Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart and Raymond Massey are all on hand, as well as Elspeth Dudgeon as the old-beyond-belief Sir Roderick Femm. I’ve seen the movie three times now, but I’m confident I could watch it several more times and continue to find new and interesting things about it. This is another feather in the hat for James Whale, who remains my favorite horror director to this day.


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