7.2/10
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The Old Dark House (1932)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Horror, Thriller | 20 October 1932 (USA)
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1:58 | Trailer

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Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers are in for a bizarre and terrifying night when they stumble upon the Femm family estate.

Director:

James Whale

Writers:

J.B. Priestley (from the novel by) (as J.B. Priestly), Benn W. Levy (screen play)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Boris Karloff ... Morgan
Melvyn Douglas ... Penderel
Charles Laughton ... Sir William Porterhouse
Lilian Bond ... Gladys (as Lillian Bond)
Ernest Thesiger ... Horace Femm
Eva Moore ... Rebecca Femm
Raymond Massey ... Philip Waverton
Gloria Stuart ... Margaret Waverton
Elspeth Dudgeon ... Sir Roderick Femm (as John Dudgeon)
Brember Wills ... Saul Femm
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Storyline

Seeking shelter from a pounding rainstorm in a remote region of Wales, several travellers are admitted to a gloomy, foreboding mansion belonging to the extremely strange Femm family. Trying to make the best of it, the guests must deal with their sepulchral host, Horace Femm and his obsessive, malevolent sister Rebecca. Things get worse as the brutish manservant Morgan gets drunk, runs amuck and releases the long pent-up brother Saul, a psychotic pyromaniac who gleefully tries to destroy the residence by setting it on fire. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

storm | butler | guest | night | fear | See All (63) »

Taglines:

Beware the night!


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 October 1932 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El caserón de las sombras See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$25,678

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$34,649
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although this was the only film with both Raymond Massey and Boris Karloff, Massey would go on to play Karloff's role in the film of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) because the producers of the Broadway show, which was still running when the film was shot, wouldn't release Karloff. See more »

Goofs

When the butler falls down the stairs, he's slightly on the side, but when cut to the next scene he's on the floor face down, obvious cut from scene to scene (perhaps for changing the stunt man to the original actor). See more »

Quotes

[repeated line]
Horace Femm: Have a potato.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the introductory credits there is a 'producer's note' (on some prints it appears before the studio logo) : 'Karloff, the mad butler in this production, is the same Karloff who created the part of the mechanical monster in "Frankenstein". We explain this to settle all disputes in advance, even though such disputes are a tribute to his great versatility.' See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Thundercrack! (1975) See more »

Soundtracks

Singin' in the Rain
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Sung by Melvyn Douglas a cappella, with modified lyrics
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
One big happy (crazy) family
26 October 2004 | by CoventrySee all my reviews

Tod Browning (Freaks, Dracula), Karl Freund (The Mummy, Mad Love), Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M) and James Whale…. these are the guys that created the fabulous horror genre as we know it. And try to pick the most essential movie from Whale's repertoire! Alongside 'Bride of Frankenstein', this has got to be his finest creation and easily one of the most influential films ever made. The Old Dark House is a gripping mix of suspense and macabre black humor. The story is ridiculously simple and shows 5 people stranded near a remote, sinister house during a storm. There, they encounter the vicious and eccentric Femm family. The butler (played by the legendary Boris Karloff) is a dumb, scar-faced drunk; the lady of the house is deaf and aggressive and her brother speaks with an incomprehensible accent. On top of this, there's a bearded lady in the attic (supposed to be a 102-year-old guy) and a deranged pyromaniac brother locked up in yet another room! It sounds a little like the TCM Sawyer family forty years ahead of time. Whale constantly inserts subtle humor into his film, without actually losing a bit of the sublime Gothic atmosphere. This may well be the very FIRST haunted-house movie and he already makes it some sort of parody.

The Old Dark House is one of the lesser-known classic Universal horror movies, which is quite a shame. It's excellent every way you look at it. At first, it might seem a little slow (especially compared to Whale's equally brilliant 'Frankenstein' and 'The Invisible Man') but that's quickly made up by the utterly unique characters this film features. Classic, efficient horror like they'll never make it anymore.


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