The Old Dark House (1932)

old dark house poster 1932 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting : 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Like the atmosphere

Classic film isn't for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Old Dark House

Studio:  Universal Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  October 20, 1932

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

old dark house boris karloff

It was a dark and stormy night…

A dark and stormy night has left travelers Philip Waverton (Raymond Massey), his wife Margaret (Gloria Stuart), Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton), and Gladys DuCane (Lilian Bond) stranded at the home Femm home.  The Femms are different and odd and hiding a secret in their old dark house.  With the storm raging, the secret will come out…and it could be dangerous.

Directed by James Whale, The Old Dark House is a horror film with comedic aspects.  The film adapts the 1927 novel Benighted by J.B. Priestley.  The movie was considered “lost” in 1968 when a copy was discovered in Universal Studio’s vaults and restored.  The film is now considered a classic of early horror by many critics.

old dark house cast melvyn douglas gloria stuart charles laughton lilian bond eva moore

Who is in the attic?

The Old Dark House has all the earmarks of a Universal horror movie.  It has Bela Lugosi (in an early role) along with a classic cast and a dark and brooding house complete with moody lighting.  While the movie does have a lot of comedic aspects and performances, the movie really rises the creep factor.

Though it doesn’t really have a mystery, the movie feels a lot like a classic Agatha Christie set-up.  It has strangers in a strange house…but without the murder.  Instead you have a mystery building to a climax, and a great creepy old man brandishing a knife.  It is all a strange hodgepodge of events and characters and that is what makes it good.

The cast is great.  The “normal” people of the film are solid actors for the type of film that The Old Dark House was.  The film features the first American film of Charles Laughton (playing a very Charles Laughton character).  Boris Karloff plays a big bruiser type character again (not unlike his Frankenstein monster), but I think Brember Wills steal the show as the maniacal Saul Femm who is unleashed upon Melvyn Douglas in the last act of the film.

old dark house killer saul femm bremer wills

I’m kooky…and I have a knife!

The movie is really aided by the skills of James Whale.  It has a true atmosphere with candlelight and dark corridors.  The title The Old Dark House may seem like a lazy title, but it sets up the atmosphere.  The movie oozes gothic horror which adds to the story and cast.

The Old Dark House is an old movie.  It has an old movie style of storytelling, an old style of acting, and an old look.  This may not be for everyone, but if you are a fan of classic horror or cinema, it is definitely worth checking out.  The film was adapted again in 1963 by William Castle and the comedy aspect of the story was amplified even more…but if you have a choice, stick with the original.

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The Old Dark House (1963)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

4 Comments on "The Old Dark House (1932)"

  1. J. Thomas Googster October 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    Bela Lugosi was not in “The Old Dark House.” You may be thinking of Boris Karloff (billed simply as “Karloff.” in the credits), who played the butler, Morgan, under pounds of crepe hair and greasepaint. Nice review of a great film!

    • JPRoscoe October 17, 2018 at 12:37 am - Reply

      Thanks…I knew that but had just rewatched The Island of Lost Souls so Lugosi was on the brain…corrected.

  2. Michael October 17, 2018 at 8:03 am - Reply

    It’s o on TCM tonight. Looking forward to it.

    • JPRoscoe October 17, 2018 at 10:41 am - Reply

      Fun movie…enjoy

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