The Old Dark House

USA | 1932 | 71 minutes | James Whale

Long thought a lost film, this cult masterpiece from director James Whale (Frankenstein) is a twisted gothic thriller, equal parts macabre nightmare and camp farce, about three lost travelers who seek shelter in a crumbling Welsh manor. 35mm restoration by the Library of Congress with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

Monday, May 18, 2015

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Following the critical triumph and box office success of Frankenstein, director James Whale had his pick of projects at Universal. However, instead of making a hard-hitting drama or a prestige period piece, he chose to make The Old Dark House—a twisted Gothic thriller, equal parts macabre nightmare and camp farce. On a dark and stormy night, three travelers (Raymond Massey, Gloria Stewart, and Melvyn Douglas) find themselves lost and stranded in the Welsh countryside. They seek shelter in a nearby crumbling manor, home to the eccentric Femm family, the gaunt Horace and his god-fearing sister Rebecca, and their grotesque, mute butler, Morgan (Boris Karloff). As the storm gathers force outside, the atmosphere within grows creepier and creepier when the unwelcome company makes the acquaintance of the family's patriarch and psychotic elder brother Saul. Though little seen upon its initial release and once thought to be a lost film, The Old Dark House is now considered to be a cult masterpiece that oozes with malevolence and sardonic wit and whose influence can be seen in such diverse films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Thundercrack!, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A stunning 35mm print, preserved by the Library of Congress with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

Preserved by the Library of Congress in cooperation with Universal Studios with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

Director Biography
English filmmaker James Whale was born in 1889. Captured by the Germans during WWI, he realized he was interested in drama. He became an actor, set designer and director. He moved to Hollywood in the 1920s and his most remembered films are the classic horror: Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

  • Director: James Whale
  • Principal Cast: Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stewart
  • Country: USA
  • Year: 1932
  • Running Time: 71 minutes
  • Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr.
  • Screenplay: Benn W. Levy
  • Cinematographers: Arthur Edeson
  • Editors: Clarence Kolster
  • Music: David Broekman
  • Filmography: The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), Wives Under Suspicion (1938), Sinners in Paradise (1938), The Great Garrick (1937), Show Boat (1936), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Invisible Man (1933), The Impatient Maiden (1932), Frankenstein (1931), Waterloo Bridge (1931)
  • Language: English
  • Format: 35mm