. . . The Old Dark House

. . .

The 100 Super Movies au maximum: The Old Dark House

Karloff and Stuart
What you're likely to hear about The Old Dark House:

  • Its camp value. Which is only to say that it has a large part for Ernest Thesiger.

What the first-time viewer is likely to notice about The Old Dark House:

  • The tedious ineptitude of the romantic scenes between so-war-damaged-I-forgot-to-laugh Roger Penderel and infant-with-a-sex-life Gladys DuCane.

  • The title card confirming that, yes, as hard as it might be to believe, the Karloff who plays the menacing grunting giant in this movie is the same Karloff who played the menacing grunting giant in Frankenstein.

  • The Pre-Codedness of it all, starting with the first line of dialog: "Hell!"

What I'm likely to mention about The Old Dark House:

  • Most old dark house movies go for a thrill a minute. Which means a lot of randomness, arbitrarily cut short by a rational explanation at the end. Sometimes it's great randomness, like in Seven Footprints to Satan, but it still levels out in the way that random action randomly tends to do.

    THE Old Dark House, on the other hand, builds up a definite structure, albeit one that's always threatening to tip over or burn down to the ground. Each permutation of Femms is allowed to come to a rolling boil before a new Femm is sprinkled into the brew, and "They didn't tell you about Saul, did they?" is right up there with "Have a potato" and "I like gin" in my personal store of happy hostess remarks.

  • As the great American frontiersman Cooper has proven time and again, it takes a queen to really milk homophobia for all it's worth. And The Old Dark House uses homophobia to scarier effect than any other movie anywhere. Yes, more effectively than Hitchcock. Oh, come on, Quentin Tarantino couldn't milk a cow if he was pressed against its heaving udder. Yes, goddamn you, more effectively than William Friedkin!

    None of the Femms respect personal space, but when the hairiest of the lot acknowledges to Melvyn Douglas:

    Like you? I love you, my friend.
    and finishes off the ensuing knife thrusts and tussle with a serious no-body-double hickey -- mm-mmm, that's where we stop separating the men from the boys!


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Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.