27 August 2014

The Old Dark House (1932)
72 min.
Directed by James Whale.
With Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Lillian Bond, Gloria Stuart, Raymond Massey, Elspeth Dudgeon, Brember Wills.
This 1932 gem from director James Whale not only serves as a letter-perfect template for nearly all haunted house chillers to come - it's also an oddly modernist parade of all things bizarre and dysfunctional!

Besieged by a terrible storm, five wayward travellers seek sanctuary for the night in a nearby Welsh castle.

There, they meet the Femm family: the high-strung and effeminate Horace (Thesiger), his fire-and-brimstone sister Rebecca (Moore), their horribly disfigured/mute butler Morgan (Karloff), and their ultra weird androgynous 'father' Sir Roderick (Dudgeon).

Oh, and let's not forget their pyromaniac brother Saul (Wills) whom they keep imprisoned in the attic lest he set the whole place aflame...

Eccentric and wayyyy ahead of its time, Old Dark House deftly combines James Whale's trademark black humor with a posse of unsettling characters and a handful of genuinely suspenseful sequences.

Check out Morgan's first door-crack appearance (an archetype of the genre), or just witness Saul's creepy full blown hysteria at the climax.

This one's a must see - and definitely shouldn't be confused with Hammer's 1963 horror comedy from William Castle.

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