The Old Dark House

Watch The Old Dark House

"Five persons in the houseā€¦ Strangers cut off from the world by thunderstorms and landslide... Terror of the unknown draws them together."
  • Passed
  • 1932
  • 1 hr 11 min
  • 7.0  (12,138)

In the 1932 horror film The Old Dark House, directed by James Whale and based on the novel Benighted by J.B. Priestley, a group of travelers gets stranded in a stormy night in the remote countryside of Wales and seeks shelter in an old decaying mansion. The mysterious and unsettling atmosphere of the house and its eccentric, isolated inhabitants soon reveal hidden secrets and obsessions and put the guests in peril. The movie opens with a long tracking shot of a rain-soaked and windswept road leading to an isolated mansion, while ominous music creates a sense of foreboding. Inside, the butler Morgan (Boris Karloff) greets the unexpected guests with a mix of obsequiousness and menace, warning them that the master and mistress of the house are absent and that they should better leave before it's too late. However, the travelers have no choice but to stay, as their car has crashed and they have nowhere else to go. They include a cynical and humorous businessman named Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton), his romantic and kind-hearted friend Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), a glamorous and flirtatious showgirl named Gladys (Lilian Bond), and a timid and religious couple, Philip (Raymond Massey) and Margaret Waverton (Gloria Stuart). As the night progresses, the guests start to discover the strange and unsettling aspects of the house and its inhabitants. They meet Horace Femm (Ernest Thesiger), a neurotic and obsessive-compulsive man who claims to be the owner of the house, and Rebecca Femm (Eva Moore), his fanatically religious and deaf-mute sister. They also encounter Sir Roderick Femm (Elspeth Dudgeon), a frail and bedridden ancestor who adds a touch of Gothic horror to the proceedings. Meanwhile, Morgan's behavior becomes more erratic and dangerous, and tensions among the guests escalate, leading to unexpected revelations, physical confrontations, and a climactic chase. The Old Dark House blends elements of horror, humor, and social commentary into a quirky and suspenseful cocktail that showcases the talents of its remarkable cast and director. Boris Karloff, who had recently risen to fame as the monster in Whale's Frankenstein, steals the show as the menacing and enigmatic butler, whose motivations and loyalties remain ambiguous until the end. His makeup, which accentuates his scarred and sunken features, combines with his distinctive voice and gestures to create a memorable character that subverts and surpasses the expectations of the horror genre. Melvyn Douglas, in one of his earlier roles, provides a suave and grounded counterpoint to Karloff's flamboyant villainy, while Charles Laughton delivers a hilariously pompous and self-important performance that satirizes the upper class as much as it amuses. The female characters, though less developed and prominent, add some color and contrast to the predominantly male ensemble, with Lilian Bond providing some erotic tension and Gloria Stuart some emotional depth. Eva Moore's portrayal of Rebecca Femm, with her wild hair and expressive eyes, becomes an eerie and unforgettable presence that enhances the Gothic and uncanny aspects of the story. James Whale, who had already established his reputation as a master of horror with Frankenstein and would later direct The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, shows his versatility and inventiveness in The Old Dark House, which features a mix of expressionistic cinematography, creative sound effects, and black humor that anticipates some of the later works of Tim Burton and the Coen brothers. The use of shadows, angles, and movement adds a sense of spatial disorientation and claustrophobia to the already confined and decaying setting of the house, while the interplay of light and dark creates a sense of ambiguity and contrasts that reflect the shifting moods and motives of the characters. The use of sound, especially the creaking of doors, the cracking of thunder, and the barking of a dog, emphasizes the isolation and vulnerability of the guests, who are trapped in a world that seems to be controlled by invisible forces. The humor, often based on witty one-liners or ironic situations, punctuates the suspense and horror without diluting it, and highlights the absurdity and capriciousness of human behavior. Overall, The Old Dark House is a classic of horror cinema that deserves a rediscovery and appreciation by modern audiences. Its combination of atmospheric tension, quirky characters, and subversive humor provides an unforgettable and multi-layered cinematic experience that transcends the limitations of its genre and era.

The Old Dark House
Description
In the 1932 horror film The Old Dark House, directed by James Whale and based on the novel Benighted by J.B. Priestley, a group of travelers gets stranded in a stormy night in the remote countryside of Wales and seeks shelter in an old decaying mansion. The mysterious and unsettling atmosphere of the house and its eccentric, isolated inhabitants soon reveal hidden secrets and obsessions and put the guests in peril.

The movie opens with a long tracking shot of a rain-soaked and windswept road leading to an isolated mansion, while ominous music creates a sense of foreboding. Inside, the butler Morgan (Boris Karloff) greets the unexpected guests with a mix of obsequiousness and menace, warning them that the master and mistress of the house are absent and that they should better leave before it's too late. However, the travelers have no choice but to stay, as their car has crashed and they have nowhere else to go. They include a cynical and humorous businessman named Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton), his romantic and kind-hearted friend Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), a glamorous and flirtatious showgirl named Gladys (Lilian Bond), and a timid and religious couple, Philip (Raymond Massey) and Margaret Waverton (Gloria Stuart).

As the night progresses, the guests start to discover the strange and unsettling aspects of the house and its inhabitants. They meet Horace Femm (Ernest Thesiger), a neurotic and obsessive-compulsive man who claims to be the owner of the house, and Rebecca Femm (Eva Moore), his fanatically religious and deaf-mute sister. They also encounter Sir Roderick Femm (Elspeth Dudgeon), a frail and bedridden ancestor who adds a touch of Gothic horror to the proceedings. Meanwhile, Morgan's behavior becomes more erratic and dangerous, and tensions among the guests escalate, leading to unexpected revelations, physical confrontations, and a climactic chase.

The Old Dark House blends elements of horror, humor, and social commentary into a quirky and suspenseful cocktail that showcases the talents of its remarkable cast and director. Boris Karloff, who had recently risen to fame as the monster in Whale's Frankenstein, steals the show as the menacing and enigmatic butler, whose motivations and loyalties remain ambiguous until the end. His makeup, which accentuates his scarred and sunken features, combines with his distinctive voice and gestures to create a memorable character that subverts and surpasses the expectations of the horror genre.

Melvyn Douglas, in one of his earlier roles, provides a suave and grounded counterpoint to Karloff's flamboyant villainy, while Charles Laughton delivers a hilariously pompous and self-important performance that satirizes the upper class as much as it amuses. The female characters, though less developed and prominent, add some color and contrast to the predominantly male ensemble, with Lilian Bond providing some erotic tension and Gloria Stuart some emotional depth. Eva Moore's portrayal of Rebecca Femm, with her wild hair and expressive eyes, becomes an eerie and unforgettable presence that enhances the Gothic and uncanny aspects of the story.

James Whale, who had already established his reputation as a master of horror with Frankenstein and would later direct The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, shows his versatility and inventiveness in The Old Dark House, which features a mix of expressionistic cinematography, creative sound effects, and black humor that anticipates some of the later works of Tim Burton and the Coen brothers. The use of shadows, angles, and movement adds a sense of spatial disorientation and claustrophobia to the already confined and decaying setting of the house, while the interplay of light and dark creates a sense of ambiguity and contrasts that reflect the shifting moods and motives of the characters. The use of sound, especially the creaking of doors, the cracking of thunder, and the barking of a dog, emphasizes the isolation and vulnerability of the guests, who are trapped in a world that seems to be controlled by invisible forces. The humor, often based on witty one-liners or ironic situations, punctuates the suspense and horror without diluting it, and highlights the absurdity and capriciousness of human behavior.

Overall, The Old Dark House is a classic of horror cinema that deserves a rediscovery and appreciation by modern audiences. Its combination of atmospheric tension, quirky characters, and subversive humor provides an unforgettable and multi-layered cinematic experience that transcends the limitations of its genre and era.

The Old Dark House is a 1932 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 11 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.0.

Where to Watch The Old Dark House

The Old Dark House is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, Apple TV Channels, FlixFling, The Roku Channel, Apple TV, FlixFling VOD, Amazon and Google Play. Some platforms allow you to rent The Old Dark House for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.

  • Release Date
    1932
  • MPAA Rating
    Passed
  • Runtime
    1 hr 11 min
  • Language
    English
  • IMDB Rating
    7.0  (12,138)