Old Dark House

Discussion in 'Classic' started by dwatts, Mar 26, 2004.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Well, it could be me, of course. I actually feel sure that I've started a thread on The Old Dark House before, but searching the forums, I can't find it.

    So here we go again :)

    I watched this DVD for the second time last night. The fact that this film was nearly "lost" is legendary, and I, like many others, are just glad that it survived.

    On a second viewing, this time with my wife, I found the film didn't do quite as well with me. That's not to say it's a bad film, far from it, but I can see why it was considered a lesser Whale's film. It's a film big on atmosphere (this could easily have been one of the greatest scary movies of all time, if it had not been laced with Whale's humor) with maybe, not enough storyline to carry over the 72 minute running time. Add to that a romantic subplot that doesn't really work, and a mumbling Karloff who looks the part, but sounds, well, just funny, and you have "issues" that probably shouldn't be ignored.

    At the same time, it IS a classic. The opening sequence is priceless, and the avalanche is amazing. The house itself, where the majority of the action takes place, is superb. The large gothic sets that Whale used are intact, albeit on a smaller scale. This film really illustrates how live performance moved to film, this one looks and feels like a stage play in any ways - which is no bad thing.

    What of the DVD? Superb. Short featurette on the saving of the film (sadly, not very detailed and poorly edited) two commentaries and great liner notes, complete the Kino package. The transfer is thebest you're going to get, it's rough, but for a film such as this, it's perfectly adequate.

    All in all then, a great little film, and a fine DVD. I don't know what happened to the earlier threads (maybe I really did imagine them) but I wanted to remark after my second viewing. Great stuff.
     
  2. marioscido

    marioscido New Member

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    I think this is Whale's most Whalian film. The wonderful mood, the snappy dialogue, and especially the humour, make it one of his best. I still prefer 'Bride,' but this is a close second. The Kino disc is very nice. Folks have been saying that it is OOP, but this is not true. It is still available at the Kino site.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2004
  3. X-human

    X-human I ate my keys

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    For me the Old Dark House seemed to lack some of the fun Whales has had in other features. It's also a bit drawn out and the conclusion is a little bit of a let down. Seemed to try too hard. I really want to watch it a few more time though, because initially I did not like The Invisible Man at all, but upon later viewings have found it to be one of my favorites.

    At the time of the DVD release I'm sure the remastering was the best they could do, but you look at something like The Ghoul and you can see that some work can still be done.

    There is far too little Whales on DVD, especially his non-horror movies. I'd really like to see some of his other features revived.
     
  4. marioscido

    marioscido New Member

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    I agree entirely!
     
  5. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --At the time of the DVD release I'm sure the remastering was the best they could do, but you look at something like The Ghoul and you can see that some work can still be done.--

    Really? Was The Ghoul a "lost" film that had suffered this amount of deteriation? The extras clearly state that it couldn't be projected when it was finally found in storage in New York. Was The Ghoul that bad?
     
  6. X-human

    X-human I ate my keys

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    Well I know The Ghoul was considered lost for "the better part of the last century." No idea what condition it was in when they found it.

    But I think another buff job on Dark House could be even better with the lastest and greatest tech out there. While before they could only do patch work; from what I've seen recently it seems like today they could save a sinking ship. Whether they want to spend the cash or not is an entirely different matter. :D

    I've placed Dark House back up high into my queue, always willing to give Whales more than a second look. I've gain so much after giving The Invisible Man another chance, I'd gladly revisit Dark House as often as it takes.
     
  7. Jimbo

    Jimbo The Bloodstained Shadow

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    I have to ask myself if Criterion has this in their hand's.I know they are working on special ed's of Corridors of Blood & Haunted Strangler.And it has been oop for some time now.I like the Kino disk but would like a little more.
    Hope they are going to do a Karloff box.Guess we will see next year!

    Sorry to bring up an old thread,Just had it on my mind and plan on giving this another spin tonight.
     
  8. mgfred

    mgfred Guest

    Just ordered this from the www.kino.com site:

    Order Details:

    Qty Format Title $Unit $Total
    1 DVD The Old Dark House $14.96 $14.96
    Sub Total $14.96
    Shipping $4.75
    Total $19.71

    I see the shipping eats up my 25% discount they are offering. I've wanted this one for a while and have just put it off till now.

    Thanks for bringing up the old thread! :D
     
  9. Jimbo

    Jimbo The Bloodstained Shadow

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    Yep,You can still get it direct from Kino,But dvdempie and ddd have it as oop.
     
  10. X-human

    X-human I ate my keys

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    Really, they're putting out those two? Glad I didn't hunt down some of the OOP discs then.

    I'd like to see Criterion tackle some of James Whale's war films, I hear those were taken away from him and re-edited... Perhaps an original print could be found? What? Too hopefull? Probably.
     
  11. Criswell

    Criswell New Member

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    Lord I have tried, but I just a CANNOT get into this film at all. Been that way for 20 odd years now..........
     
  12. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --LOL--

    Don't worry about it, I too have films like that (the one I lst talked about on here was The Crazies, which is rough to me). You really have to appreciate Whales humor, which can be tough. I have a hard time with bits of "Bride of Frankenstein" and "The Invisible Man" for the same reason. Actually, I'll go as far as to say Frankenstein is much better than Bride, and The Invisible Man is a good idea turned bad.

    It's all in the realm of opinion. If you have the DVD keep hold of it, maybe one day ;)
     
  13. Criswell

    Criswell New Member

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    I agree about Frankenstein and Bride. I always thought the Original was much better as a horror film. The 2nd seemed unfocused to me.
     
  14. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    I'm not super-knowledgable on Whale. I know the classics he turned out, and have a few of them on DVD. Frankenstein seems to be a bit of a fluke, where he left his humor on the back burner. Invisible Man, Bride, Old Dark House, all have a heavy handed "funny" aspect to them. It ruins Invisible Man for me, almost entirely. Bride gets by, because it still has Karloff, and the scenes with the Bride are just perfect (it's getting there that are bothersome). In Old Dark House, it works for me a bit better. Mainly this is because, more than the other titles, it comes across as a stage play, and less as a "film". The whole set has that theater look to it, that was pevalent at the time - as theater gave way to talkie movies. So, the humor works better.

    I've seen too few Whale to make a generalization though, I don't really know if he mainly did straight or humorous works. Maybe someone here can help out with that.
     
  15. Criswell

    Criswell New Member

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    He did all types.........like ...........Show Boat!!!!

    But certainly it was the Universal Horror films that made his name.

    I certainly prefer Tod Browning.
     
  16. bschulte

    bschulte Guest

    The Old Dark House (1932)

    What a weird, strange, dark, twisted, fun little film this is! Boris Karloff gets top billing as the mute, drunken, overtly threatening butler for the...ahem...eccentric Femm family, played delightfully by Ernest Thesinger (the spooked Horace Femm) and Eva Moore (his crotchety old sister Rebecca). Three travelers, the Wavertons (Raymond Massey & Gloria Stuart) and their friend Penderel (Melvyn Douglas), are forced to stop at the eponymous dwelling when a huge storm and mudslides strand them. At first, the Femms do not want these strangers staying with them, but they grudgingly give in. Not long after, Sir William Porterhouse and his mistress arrive (played by Charles Laughton and Lilian Bond). Throughout the early stages of the film, it becomes quite clear that the Femm family is at least slightly off their rocker. Things only get weirder as the movie continues to its climax. The Old Dark House was directed by James Whale in between the original Universal classic Frankenstein and its acclaimed sequel Bride of Frankenstein. I'm a huge fan of both of these films and Whale again doesn't disappoint in this one. Gloria Stuart was pretty hot back in the day. It's weird watching this movie in 2005 after having seen her in Titanic. I highly recommend watching this movie in the dark and alone. The atmosphere of this one is excellent, and I get the feeling it is going to become essential Halloween viewing for me on a yearly basis. I highly recommend this movie if you are a fan of James Whale, Boris Karloff, or any of the famous Universal films, and I give it a very solid 8/10.
     
  17. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    I watching this movie last night, it's a title I go back to time and and time again.

    Long considered a lost film, Curtis Harrington went on a little campaign to have the negatives found in Universal's vaults, and then restored by Eastman. Some of the history of this search is shown on the DVD in a 7 minute feature, but after a little research I found out a little more. What's missing from the DVD was that first Harrington had gone to William Castle, because rights for the film were sold to Castle and Columbia for a Hammer remake. Because the rights had been sold, Universal could never screen the original picture, hence they didn't care too much about it.

    Anyway, it was saved, and we can all enjoy it now. Universal, believe it or not, refused to do the restoration itself - in fact, it wouldn't even cut a new negative! This was purely down to their lack of ability of making any money off the film. Eastman paid for it in the end - and the cost? 200 to 3000 dollars.... you'd have thought Universal would have stumped up such a small amount, huh?

    Regardless - that's simply a footnote, we can enjoy the film now from R1, and I thoroughly recommend it for fans of the classics. Karloff plays a mute butler intent on sexual molestation and drunken murder, Ernest Thesiger plays a crazy brother, and you get to see Charles Laughton in his first Hollywood role. On the ladies side Gloria Stuart was a fox back then, you simply can't take your eyes off her in the gown.......

    The film itself is a mix of horror/humor in a way only Whale could do at the time. It's also has a very British sense of humor, which some credit as having been the films downfall in the US at the time - they just don't get some of the backhanded comments and jokes.

    The best though it that you get more and more from the film with subsequent viewings. I don't know how many times I've spun the DVD, more than ten definitely. The banter is quick fire at times, there are a host of characters (ten or so), and the sets are wonderfully constructed and intricate. There's even some nice model work at the start of the film at a rock slide.

    So yeah - I'm a huge fan of this one and highly recommend it.

    ps: In my reading I also found out that Castle had wanted Karloff to be in the remake, but after reading the script Karloff had refused.....
     

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