Film Review – THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932, USA, 72m, PG) ****
Comedy, Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. James Whale; w. Benn W. Levy (based on the novel by J.B. Priestley); pr. Carl Laemmle Jr.; ph. Arthur Edeson (uncredited) (B&W | 1.37:1); ed. Maurice Pivar (uncredited); pd. Charles D. Hall.
cast: Boris Karloff (Morgan), Melvyn Douglas (Penderel), Charles Laughton (Sir William Porterhouse), Lilian Bond (Gladys), Ernest Thesiger (Horace Femm), Eva Moore (Rebecca Femm), Raymond Massey (Philip Waverton), Gloria Stuart (Margaret Waverton), Elspeth Dudgeon (Sir Roderick Femm (as John Dudgeon)), Brember Wills (Saul Femm).
Alternately funny and chilling, this thriller sees three travellers, driving through a brutal thunderstorm in Wales, take refuge in an eerie house owned by the Femm family. Reluctantly admitted by Horace Femm (Thesiger), the three sit down to a strange dinner. Horace is neurotic; mute butler Morgan (Karloff) is an alcoholic; and Horace’s sister, Rebecca (Moore), raves about chastity. When the storm brings in an industrialist and chorus girl Gladys DuCane Perkins (Bond), Morgan’s lust and Rebecca’s ire are ignited. Whale injects the adaptation with his unmistakable brand of the camp and the macabre. Whilst some of the performances are dated in their dialogue delivery. there is plenty of atmosphere created by Edeson’s lighting of the scenes and Hall’s gothic production design of the house. Karloff commands the screen with his physical presence and it is interesting to see Laughton playing his Lancastrian aristocrat with a broad accent.

Film Review – ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932)

Island of Lost Souls (1932; USA; B&W; 70m) ****  d. Erle C. Kenton; w. Waldemar Young, Philip Wylie; ph. Karl Struss; m. Arthur Johnston, Sigmund Krumgold.  Cast: Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Kathleen Burke, Stanley Fields, Arthur Hohl, Paul Hurst, George Irving, Tetsu Komai, Hans Steinke. An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations. Laughton is terrific in this creepy and atmospheric horror movie. It may seem a little creaky by today’s standards and tension would have been built even more with a full music score, but this remains an unsettling and memorable viewing experience. Special nod goes to make-up man Wally Westmore for his creations. Burke is billed at “The Panther Woman”. It was not passed for release by British censors until 1958 – and even then, with cuts. Based on the novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells. Remade in 1977 and 1996. [PG]