The Old Dark House (1932) d. James Whale (USA)
Almost forgotten in the Universal collection of horrors, this gem of a flick is often overshadowed by its more popular monster rally brethren. Director Whale’s follow-up to Frankenstein is well worth seeking out for its sheer atmospheric wackiness and gale-force acting from the entire ensemble, several of whom would turn up again for Whale in Bride of Frankenstein.
Boris Karloff receives star billing as the mute shuffling butler hulking about the titular Pemm mansion, Ernest Thesiger (Bride’s Dr. Pretorius) and Eva Moore play out a quibbling sibling rivalry as the occupants, and Brember Wills turns in an electrifying performance as their pyromaniac brother Saul.
A wonderfully photographed rainstorm assembles a curious collection of stranded travelers (the stellar cast includes Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart, Raymond Massey, and Melvyn Douglas) at the Pemm estate, and madness and mayhem ensue.
While not especially scary, there is atmosphere to burn, endlessly quotable dialogue, with each performance is juicier than the next and the energy never flagging. When the end credits roll, one feels the exhausted thrill of a wild amusement park ride. Do yourself a favor and book a room tonight.