The Old Dark House (1932)

This was a romp!

Encased in gothic trappings, this film is one of the lighter ones that have been suggested to me by 101 Horror Movies. It’s not quite madcap, but I love a lot of the dialogue, in fact when it gets to this point, I think you can quite safely call it banter.

I’m given to understand that this film has kind of  lost in the shuffle because of a William Castle remake in 1963 (see they were doing it even then), which is too bad, cause this is a fun little film.

Three travellers, one of them Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), decidedly having more fun than his companions, are forced to take shelter in a rather ominous looking house after the roads behind and before them are wiped out in a mudslide (shades of Rocky Horror!). Right off the bat, the house, and its residents fall into the Gothic trappings one expects to find in these stories, dark corners, spooky staircases, grasping hands, stalking shadows.

Yet, the banter continues to be top-notch and thoroughly enjoyable.

Once our travellers meet their hosts, two elderly folks, a brother and a sister one only slightly more odd than the other, and their manservant, an imposing and mute Boris Karloff, things really start to go sideways, as voices and laughter are heard from the upper floors, the storm gets worse and more guests arrive.

And Penderel, that sly rogue, spares no time to start romancing one of the newcomers, even as the storm rages worse outside, and things are really taking an odd turn within the walls of the house.

Karloff’s character Morgan gets drunk, and attempts to chase down one of the lovely young ladies, who admittedly looks very appealing in her slip of a dress, she fights him off, and Morgan retreats to the upper floors, where he unleashes the mad, pyromaniac fiend that has been locked up there for years!

This was a fun little movie, a delightful balance of comedy and horror (as much as it could be) that made the witty dialogue and the fun characters just as important, if not more so, than the almost clichéd (even at that time) surroundings and story they found themselves in.

And Melvyn Douglas was a hoot!!


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