The Old Dark House (1932) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Old Dark House (1932)

The Old Dark House




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Old Dark House Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

It's a wildly varied group that takes shelter from a raging English storm in the forbidding mansion of the Femm family. Among the reluctant guests are stuffed-shirt Philip Waverton (Raymond Massey): Philip's sensitive wife Margaret (Gloria Stuart); their mutual friend, disillusioned war veteran Roger Penderell (Melvyn Douglas); vulgar self-made millionaire Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton); and Porterhouse's no-better-than-she-ought-to-be lady friend Gladys DuCane (Lillian Bond). Under the baleful eyes of ungracious, atheistic host Horace Femm (Ernst Thesiger) and Horace's religious-zealot sister Rebecca (Eva Moore), the group sits around conversing, slowly coming to the realization that first impressions are most deceiving. Normally, that would be the whole story-except that the old dark house houses a deep dark secret involving 101-year-old Sir Roderick Femm (played by "John Dudgeon", actually an actress named Elspeth Dudgeon) and pyromaniac Saul Femm (Brember Wills). Lumbering ominously throughout the proceedings is top-billed Boris Karloff, playing Morgan, the mute, alcoholic family butler (the opening credits felt obligated to tell 1932 filmgoers that yes, this was the same Karloff who'd portrayed the Monster in the previous season's Frankenstein). Directed with sinister verve by James Whale and brimming with unforgettable dialogue, The Old Dark House is one of the most enjoyable and least formularized of the Universal "scare" pictures of the early 1930s. The film was based on J. B. Priestly's Benighted, though Priestly's hero dies in the book and does not in the film (this appears to have been a last-minute decision--and a wise one). Long thought lost, The Old Dark House was rediscovered in the early 1970s; copyright problems with the lukewarm 1963 remake kept it off television until 1994, at which time a sparkling new print was struck, replacing the washed-out dupes with which film buffs were all too familiar.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Suspense, Classics, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Benn W. Levy, R.C. Sherriff, J.B. Priestley, Benn Wolfe Levy
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 23, 1999


Melvyn Douglas
as Roger Penderell
Charles Laughton
as Sir William Porterho...
Gloria Stuart
as Margaret Waverton
Lilian Bond
as Gladys DuCane
Lillian Bond
as Gladys DuCane
Ernst Thesiger
as Horace Femm
Ernest Thesiger
as Horace Femm
Eva Moore
as Rebecca Femm
Raymond Massey
as Philip Waverton
Brember Wills
as Saul Femm
John Dudgeon
as Sir Roderick
Elspeth Dudgeon
as Sir Roderick Femm
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Old Dark House

Critic Reviews for The Old Dark House

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 7, 2008
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It's a classic horror tale, the apotheosis of all "Old House" spooky films.

Full Review… | October 26, 2006
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A great creeeeepy horror classic.

October 5, 2006

Richly atmospheric, beautifully crafted, creepy -- and most of all subversively funny and full of terrific dialogue.

Full Review… | November 6, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for The Old Dark House

Ah yes, nothing like an old school black and white spooky mansion film. Going back to basics in other words, this is more of a character driven film, with fast and snappy dialogues, very dialogue driven indeed. Thanks to the cast of actors like Melvyn Douglas and Charles Laughton, as well as some truly great character actors, the movie doesn't really needs big spooks to keep you engaged.

Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer


This movie had great atmosphere, interesting characters and a seemingly scary plot, but unfortunately the ending is predictable and not at all scary.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

It may be considered the lost Universal Horror classic, but it's mediocre, at best.

Tim Salmons

Super Reviewer

The Old Dark House Quotes

– Submitted by Kevin R (21 months ago)
– Submitted by Kevin R (21 months ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Old Dark House on our Movie forum!