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Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Old Dark House (1932)

In-between the iconic Frankenstein (1931) and the Invisible Man (1933), James Whale directed three other films.  One of these was The Old Dark House which delivers exactly what the title suggests: an old-fashioned scary house story.  Many critics absolutely love this film.  However, I was a little disappointed with it.  Whale set a high standard with Frankenstein, which is one of my all time favorites.  The Old Dark House just didn't pack the same emotional punch.  
Yes, its moody and atmospheric.  Yes, it was a nice sense of dark humor.  Yes, it had Boris Karloff who is adorned with more wonderful makeup by Jack Pierce.  However, Karloff feels like a secondary character here.  His talents are largely wasted.
The bright spots of this film are definitely Ernest Thesiger [Bride of Frankenstein] and Eva Moore as Horace and Rebecca Femm.  They steal nearly every scene they're in with fantastic character acting and comedic timing.  Elspeth Dudgeon also makes a strange appearance dressed as an old man, Sir Roderick Femm.  It's a weird bit of casting and I'm not sure why they chose a woman to play the part.
The plot is fairly standard scary house fare with nothing particularly original brought to the table.  This doesn't mean it's a bad film.  It's just that there are other haunted house movies that are better such as William Castle's House on Haunted Hill (1959) starring Vincent Price or the more modern The Others (2001) with Nicole Kidman.  
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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