The Old Dark House 1932 *****

In 1932, just getting horror in the screen was something of a trial; the Universal classic version of Dracula and Frankenstein are both slow and stagey at some points, even if they have iconic moments to burn. James Whale’s style flourished post Frankenstein with The Bride of Frankenstein, and The Old Dark House sits neatly between the two as an example of how good his director was. Adapted from a play called Benighted by JB Priestley, The Old Dark House is nicely opened up from the theatre, with two couples arriving at a house with secrets to burn. A gallery of eccentrics give way to even more bizarre characters, and the movement up to the house’s attic had a firm progression. Of course, even the maniacs are scared of each other in this dark comedy, and there’s plenty of opportunity for Ernest Thesiger and Charles Laughton to shine. Amazon’s print of this film is the 2018 restoration, and it looks sensational; horror and comedy fans should clear their schedules to enjoy this lost masterpiece of dark humour.


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