Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Old, Dark House

James Whale

Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Lillian Bond, Ernest Thesiger, Gloria Stuart, Raymond Massey, Eva Moore, Brember Wills and Elspeth Dudgeon 

10 and up

In a rainstorm, five travellers in two separate vehicles seek shelter in a mansion belonging to the Femm family. The travellers are greeted unwelcomingly by the scarred butler Morgan (Karloff), who can be dangerous when drunk. The travellers have dinner with two members of the Femm family, Rebecca (Moore) and Horace (Thesiger), while 102-year old Roderick (Dudgeon) is bedridden upstairs and scripture-quoting Saul (Wills) is locked up. Over the course of one horrific night, the plot unfolds.

Still of Boris Karloff as Morgan
Why it’s good
It’s a wild movie. Although the film was not as well made as the rest of the Universal films like "The Mummy" (1932), there are many unforgettable characters and such funny dialogue which could tickle your funny bones and actually scare you at the same time.

The rest of the Universal horror films were more serious and scary, and this one isn’t scary at all. The scares come from Morgan, the butler, and if not, from Brember Wills who comes out only at the last minute as if he came in and said ‘Boo!’. Then he stays for just 5 minutes throwing knives like a maniac and rushing up and down the steps.

The cast playing the five disoriented travellers are magnificent. It includes Gloria Stuart, who played the old lady in 1997’s Titanic. Raymond Massey was the guy playing Jonathon Brewster in "Arsenic and Old Lace", as the lookalike of Boris Karloff (who appears here).

Parent’s guide
A knife comes through the air when Brember Wills goes crazy. A lot of scares for young children including the scene where Lillian Bond and Eva Moore have a fight.

James Whale, the subject of the film Gods and Monsters, considered this film to be the best of his own works.

If you like this…
James Whale directed other horror movies and thrillers for Universal in the early 1930s, including The Invisible man (1933), Frankenstein (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). 

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