Blu-ray Review: THE OLD DARK HOUSE

THE OLD DARK HOUSE is based on J.B. Priestley‘s popular novel Benighted, this legendary classic was directed by James Whale in the fertile period between his Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. This 1932 horror classic stars Boris Karloff, Gloria Stuart, Melvin Douglas, Charles Laughton, Eva Moore, Lilian Bond, Raymond Massey and Ernest Thesiger.

In The Old Dark House, Whale puts a surprising spin on horror film conventions even as he is creating them, adding black humor and sexual perversity that was eye-opening in 1932. A quintessential dark and stormy night brings a group of travelers to a forbidding mansion in the Welsh countryside, where they find themselves at the mercy of the strange, and possibly dangerous, Femm family. Boris Karloff is, as always, unforgettable, here playing a mute, menacing butler.

The movie takes place on a dark and stormy night where a group of strangers take shelter inside this creepy old house where the hosts are even creepier. It doesn’t take long for the guests to notice that there’s something a little off with these people and as the night plays out, they all find out first hand just how strange and bizarre this family really is. They’re full of secrets and some of them come out to play at night. One terrifying secret that comes in the form of a hidden family member ultimately reveals himself and shows why he’s kept locked up in seclusion. As dawn arrives, the storm finally passes which allows this group of guests to exit The Old Dark House and it’s a visit that they’ll never forget.

I liked the story for The Old Dark House that definitely treaded on familiar territory with the whole creepy house, creepier hosts and accidental guests scenario. Of course, this was probably one of the first movies (if not the first) to do this because many have followed this formula since this movie first released way back in 1932. The monsters in this movie are very human. I get a kick out of the exaggerated theatrics from back in the day because so many of these performers overacted. Still, the cast did a good job with their characters but it’s Boris Karloff who easily stands out as this mute butler who gives the movie most of its unsettling tone simply by his creepy stares and uncomfortable mannerisms. The old house also plays an important part to the story because it’s full of secrets and haunting memories. As far as the special effects go, it’s all old school tricks with mirrors and lighting and it’s so well done.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features an image from the movie. The Blu-ray disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. There’s also a booklet inside that features images and movie credits as well as a vintage interview. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were really good. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio. I was really impressed with the 4K digital restoration for this obscure horror-thriller that is now over 85 years old. Well preserved and much deserved!

Bottom line is, The Old Dark House was an amazing first time watch for me and it’s a movie that deserves a high-definition release like this. It’s a unique haunted house movie that plays host to all of these different personalities on this dark and stormy night. The movie features a nice mixture of the macabre, suspense and humor courtesy of these characters as well as this creepy old setting. James Whale was known for directing a number of horror movies for Universal and even though this one is one of his lessor known entries, it’s still a grand slice of cinematic history. The home video release features a brand new 4K digital restoration that looks and sounds amazing considering the age of this movie. Thanks to distributors like the Cohen Film Collection, classics like this are getting a much deserved second lease on life, otherwise they’d be forgotten about and lost in time. This atmospheric horror-classic finally makes its Blu-ray debut on October 24th just in time for Halloween. Highly recommended!

Distributor: Cohen Film Collection

Run Time: 72 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: Fullscreen (1.37:1) B&W

Blu-ray Audio: English PCM 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Special Features: The extras include two audio commentary tracks, an interview featurette and a brand new trailer for the movie’s re-release.

  • New interview with Sara Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff (14:45)
  • “Curtis Harrington Saves The Old Dark House” Featurette (07:08)
  • Feature-length Audio Commentary track by actress Gloria Stuart
  • Feature-length Audio Commentary track by James Whale biographer James Curtis
  • The 2017 re-release trailer for The Old Dark House (01:57)

 

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