Monday, October 14, 2019

Movie Review: "The Old Dark House" (1932)

Movie poster for Universal Pictures's 1932 classic horror film The Old Dark House, starring Gloria Stuart, Boris Karloff, Melvin Douglas, Charles Laughton, and Lilian Bond
Image Source
Movie"The Old Dark House"
Director: James Whale
Year: 1932
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 12 minutes

When several motorists seek shelter from a terrible storm in an old remote house, the bizarre family that lives there puts them on edge for a dangerous night they will not soon forget, one that will leave them wondering what was truly safer: the storm or the shelter.

A young Gloria Stuart stares into a mirror revealing her disfigured face in a movie scene for Universal's "The Old Dark House"
"This is an unlucky house." (Image Source)
Director James Whale is known for making many of the most well-known Universal horror classics, including "Frankenstein," "Bride of Frankenstein," and "The Invisible Man." "The Old Dark House" is one of his lesser-known (or at least lesser talked about) films. At one time, it was almost thought to be a lost horror movie. It is written by Benn W. Levy and is based on the novel "Benighted" by J. B. Priestley. The film starts as many horror stories do: on a dark and stormy night. A few people (Gloria Stuart, Raymond Massey, and Melvyn Douglas) on a road trip get caught in a bad storm. With mudslides happening on the roads in front of and behind them, they fear for their safety and desperately want to find shelter. They come across none other than an old, dark house, and request that the owner help them out to shield them from the rain. The owner is reluctant at first, but eventually, she agrees. The family that lives there, however, is quite eccentric, and the weather-weary travelers start to wonder if the storm may have been the safer choice than the scary house.
Boris Karloff plays the menacing, brooding butler Morgan in the 1932 classic The Old Dark House
"Your time will come, but it hasn't come yet." (Image Source)
We didn't know anything about "The Old Dark House" when we sat down to watch it other than it's 3/4ths of a century-old. We didn't really know what it was about, and we weren't all that aware of its existence. We watched it on a whim, more or less. Most classic horror films from the 1930s aren't particularly scary or gory, and this one is no exception. We will say that there is a bit of tension as the characters have to figure out exactly what's going on with the people residing in the house where they are staying. Boris Karloff's moody, menacing presence as Morgan the butler also helps add to the anxiety, as does the excellent makeup work that has been done on him. Shockingly, this movie is much funnier than we expected. At first, we didn't know if the comedy was intentional or unintentional. Some of the humor could have come by accident or because of how the characters act. Maybe it was a bad attempt at writing drama, something "The Room" would perfect decades later. The longer we watched, the more we realized that yes, it's actually on purpose. "Have a potato." "You revel in the joys of fleshly love, don't you?" COME ON! The humor may be a bit dry and random for some viewers, and a bit ridiculous for others, but we thought it hit a sweet spot for us, and it made us chuckle quite a bit. It's not a laugh riot by any means, but it's definitely humorous. The characters are perfectly bizarre and fit well within the context of the story. That story might not be the most enthralling one we've ever seen, but we found it to be entertaining.
Movie scene in "The Old Dark House" (1932) where Gloria Stuart and Lilian Bond are being comforted by Melvyn Douglas
"Have you come over to help me gaze upon the wrath of God?" (Image Source)
If you want to watch a more subtle old-school horror comedy this Halloween, we suggest you give Universal's classic "The Old Dark House" a whirl.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
RT Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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