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.