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Thursday, October 26, 2006


Directed by James Whale

The roads in Wales are washed out due to torrential rains and five travelers are forced to seek shelter in the isolated manor of the Femm family. The Femm family is a strange crew. We have three eccentric siblings, their bed-ridden 102 year old father and a horribly scarred mumbling butler who goes ballistic when he hits the sauce. These ten characters are forced to deal with each other during one inclement evening and the result is the greatest of all old dark house thrillers, appropriately titled "The Old Dark House". The cast, comprised of mostly British actors who cut their teeth in the theatre, is a rare delight. The three eccentric siblings are played by Ernest Thesiger (gloriously gay head of the house), Eva Moore (his creepy death obsessed sister) and Brember Wills (their cackling pyromaniac little brother who is usually kept locked in his room away from fire). The menacing butler is brought to monosyllabic life by Boris Karloff fresh from his performance as Frankenstein's monster, and the travelers are played by the dashing Melvyn Douglas, the jolly rotund Charles Laughton, the adorable brunette Lillian Bond, the elegant blonde Gloria Stuart (who would also appear in "The Invisible Man" opposite Claude Reins) and her brave husband Raymond Massey. This is easily my favorite cast out of any horror movie. The script (adapted from the J.B. Priestly novel "Benighted") is air tight and James Whale works his usual visual magic, improving upon some of the moody elements Paul Leni employed in the 1927 version of "The Cat and the Canary". This is my favorite of all the Universal classics. Hands severed. Hands down.


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