1932 was a great year for films. This one is at once both creepy and funny. More than a classic Horror Film, it's a prototype that informed countless Horror films that came after. The butler Monroe is Lurch in Addams Family; Cloris Leachman's character in Young Frankenstein may have originated with Rebecca. And every subsequent film where lost travelers find themselves in a creepy house have this to look back to. 4.6
THE OLD DARK HOUSE is a wonderful survivor of the early sound era. Belonging to said era, it is particularly stage-bound and theatrical, naturally. What is so wonderful about it is that it is rabidly antic, full of marvelously overwrought characterizations, and almost every scene seems to rearrange the world we are visiting. A lot of stuff is compressed into this thing. James Whale was a true weirdo sophisticate.
I'm not as enthralled as other reviewers with this film. The expressionist settings and the improbable lightings clearly lack poetry or a tragic dimension. Laughton and Karloff overact and there isn't any suspense at all. Already forgotten.
There is a small and silent “every day dinner scene” in the film, once we arrive at the house. The scene is greater than words certainly. It is the ordinary made extraordinary and the extraordinary made ordinary. It is unnecessary, but essential.
James Whale's horror follow up to Frankenstein is a winner, w/ Karloff returning to spook things up in another talk-less role. The dinner scene is at times hilarious and other times unnerving and amazing, as was Stuart's shadow puppet scene. The lighting has clear Expressionism roots, and Douglas shines in an early role for him. Laughton is a surprising detriment here, overacting throughout. Otherwise, 4.5 stars