The Old Dark House Reviews

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DragonEyeMorrison DragonEyeMorrison
Super Reviewer
September 23, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
½ September 3, 2010
This movie had great atmosphere, interesting characters and a seemingly scary plot, but unfortunately the ending is predictable and not at all scary.
FilmFanatik FilmFanatik
Super Reviewer
October 24, 2009
It may be considered the lost Universal Horror classic, but it's mediocre, at best.
rubystevens rubystevens
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2008
much imitated but a tad overrated. great atmosphere, so-so story.
Alec B
Super Reviewer
½ February 21, 2013
Its got a hulking Boris Karloff, a shouting Charles Laughton, and a sassy Melvyn Douglas . . . what's not to like? It feels a bit rushed and perhaps there is some wasted potential but I enjoyed it all the same.
Dracula787 Dracula787
Super Reviewer
½ January 11, 2009
This is often called ?the lost Universal horror classic,? and it certainly has the pedigree to back it up. Boris Karloff has a role here and it was directed by Frankenstein helmer James Whale. I?m not so sure I?d call it a classic though. It feels a bit cheaper than the other projects and there?s a certain campiness to the whole film. I?ll be honest, I wasn?t paying particularly close attention to it as I watched, but it really just didn?t impress me much.
Anthony V
Super Reviewer
June 17, 2008
A much imitated classic.
Bill B ½ June 27, 2013
I found this one watchable and while I know that it sort of inspired its own genre of films that followed, I wasn't overly blown away with this one on the whole.

Worth a look as an educational piece, but I don't know how often I might come back to it.
kenscheck kenscheck May 9, 2012
A solid cast fronted by Boris Karloff, along with great atmosphere and wonderful direction from the great James Whale, this is the best of the creepy old mansion films. It also is kinda funny, not because its bad, but it has intentional humor. This is, without a doubt, the best haunted house movie...and you can tell it is five minutes in, before they ever even enter the house. Definitely worth a look for all horror fans.
joshhitch joshhitch ½ December 29, 2009
What is there not too like, its a classic that pretty much started the haunted house movie sub genre. The amazing James Whale directed it plus having Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Melvyn Douglas, and Ernest Thesiger gave it an amazing feel since all of those were great verteran actors at the time. Then of course you have the amazing Boris Karloff who did not have a lot to do but look gruesome, but no one could do that better then him, and it was only later they figured out how good of an speaker he was at this time fresh off of Frankenstein he was basically a monster only. Also let not forget the beautiful ladies of Lilian Bond and Gloria Stuart (still alive and kicking and gives a good commentary on the Kino dvd version). It is a quick film at just over a hour long but it packs a lot into it and does not bog down at all, Whale was great at using shadows and the set really feels spooky. Tremendous cast and director along with a solid story will always win out.
D M ½ September 4, 2009
Another of the "scary old house" type. Maybe my favorite of all I have seen, much better than The Bat Whispers and somewhat better than Cat and the Canary (if only because Dark Old House is a "talkie" - I would like to see the 1939 re-make of Cat... for a more balanced comparison between the story-lines). The humor in this one was much more well-polished than others I have seen and remained in a good balance between the creepiness of this story of travellers who seek shelter in this mansion to avoid the weather hazards. The characters are well-crafted and acted in this rather short film (which was the style at the time).
MissSherryW MissSherryW November 18, 2008
I'm only giving it 3 stars for the time being, I only saw the last little bit, and I enjoyed it, but I really want to see it in it's entirety before giving it a higher rating.
Harry E June 30, 2007
The title is exactly right: this is a perfectly creepy 'old dark house' story, pure and simple, executed with all the right conventions - fire, shadows, quirky dialogue - before the formula got worn out and increasingly elaborated. Wonderful atmosphere, direction, and oddball characters; excellently spooky and laced with nice comedic touches. The movie begins with a disclaimer assuring us that it is, in fact, Karloff under that beard and makeup. Ah! for a simpler, more innocent time, when we as viewers could still be fooled, when we weren't so cynical and demanding.
Winehole23 Winehole23 ½ June 8, 2008
A dark and stormy night. Car breaks down in the Welsh countryside, and the occupants take refuge in a large creepy house.

There, they meet more improbable refugees, a hyperactive poofter and a mute butler (Karloff). A comedy of manners ensues, and weirdness builds throughout the night to a frenetic, eerie, and indescribable crescendo.
flynnparadox flynnparadox September 14, 2006
Absolutely brilliant horror/comedy from the great James Whale. Karloff, Laughton, Bond and Stuart are all great but it's Ernest Thelsiger who steals every scene he's in. Deliciously odd and funny, his character adds much to the film. The atmosphere has to be noted as well with the monochrome images complementing the dark tone of the script. Highly recommended to those who enjoy the Universal horror cycle (and fans of older horror films in general.)
Joe B ½ October 17, 2006
James Whale's "The Old Dark House," released a year after "Frankenstein" but a year before "The Invisible Man," found the prolific filmmaker in a playful mood. Temporarily turning his back on the straight macabre elements that brought him his greatest fame, Whale instead chose to send up both the horror genre and himself in this dark comedy about one of the most bizarre households ever captured on celluloid. Think "The Addams Family," with David Lynch directing.

The story itself is pretty standard stuff -- three travelers get stranded in the English countryside after a torrential rainstorm washes out the road, forcing them to take shelter at a creepy gothic mansion. Immediately things get interesting when the door is answered by the mute figure of Boris Karloff, who allows the trio inside to meet his employers, a strange family headed up by a positively delightful 102-year-old patriarch (played without a hint of irony by a woman in a fake beard) and his overprotective daughter, the latter of whom spends most of the film reminding the interlopers that there are no beds available for them.

The first thing you'll notice about "The Old Dark House" is how damn funny it is. I shamefully put off watching this film for ages, sure that it would be little more than an anachronistic throwback to the cornball schlock of a bygone era... and yet, the fact that this is *exactly* what the movie delivers is what makes it so endearing. "The Old Dark House" is one of the most entertaining films I've seen in months, filled as it is with (intentionally) hilarious dialogue, gleefully campy performances, and a wicked sense of mischief that never dissipates. Indeed, Whale even opens the picture with a special "Producer's Note," reassuring audiences that yes, the "Karloff" in this film is indeed the same gentleman who played the Monster in the previous year's "Frankenstein," lest viewers be distracted by this burning question as they're watching. It's a masterstroke which which to open the movie, setting the proper tone while poking good-natured fun at the very concepts of celebrity and stardom.

Special mention must also be made of the glorious black and white cinematography by frequent Whale collaborator Arthur Edeson (who would later go on to shoot "Casablanca" for Michael Curtiz). The photography here does not so much illustrate the story so much as envelop the viewer. One of the things the movie does best is play its visuals totally straight; even though the tone of the film is satirical, it's shot like a "real" horror movie, with deep shadows, off-kilter camera angles, and distinct pools of light and darkness. Viewers who believe that color is inherently superior to black and white would be well-advised to spend some time getting lost in the majestic cinematography and composition of this comedic gothic masterpiece.

Kino's DVD edition of "The Old Dark House" presents the film in a fair transfer that reveals moderate damage to the source print, but considering the movie was believed lost for many years (with the only existing print literally found decomposing on a shelf), this is not surprising. The real joy, of course, is that it has survived at all, and Kino has expended considerable effort in getting the movie to look even this good. Special features include separate audio commentary tracks with actress Gloria Stuart and a James Whale expert. There is also an interesting interview with Curtis Harrington, a personal friend of the eccentric director who single-handedly brought about the film's rediscovery and restoration.

Highly recommended.
Abel D October 16, 2014
Bizarre, dark and often slyly amusing, Whale's 'Old Dark House' is a minor horror gem from the genre's early sound years. Atmospheric direction, combined with surprisingly good sound work for the time and a game cast of British veterans , make for quite an old school, if theatrical, treat.
Marvin N October 1, 2014
you'd have to be a real movie buff to like this tired old melodrama and i don't care who the actors were. i wasted my time watching this because of a bad rotten tomatoes review of 100%. i'd be generous to give it 20%.
Bheema D August 11, 2014
The creepy is strong with this one.
Andy F ½ June 8, 2014
Stupdily overrated on RT, this classic comedy horror has a lot going for it, but it isn't perfect my any means. The atmosphere and sinister elements are terrific, the comedy tolerable. The overstretched romance though will make the attention wander.
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