Caught in a violent storm whilst journeying through a remote region of Wales, five travellers take refuge in a sinister mansion inhabited by the grotesque, and quite possibly insane, Femm family. The guests try to make the best of it, but they hadn't reckoned on Morgan, the brutish manservant, drinking too much and letting loose the forth member of the Femm family - Saul the psychotic brother with a history of pyromania...
Even the Welsh ought not to sound like that ...
- The Old Dark House review by NP
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Following the huge success of Frankenstein the year before, director James Whale once again worked with Boris Karloff in this very loose adaptation of JB Preistley's Benighted novel. Whale's black humour, coupled with Universal films' love of horror at that time, produced one of the most enjoyable eccentric films I remember seeing.
The cast list is incredible - Daniel Massey, Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart and Charles Laughton spend a night in the house of the title, presided over by prissy, jittery host Horace Femm, played by Ernest Thesiger (who all but steals the show with his wide eyes, hollow features and nervy mannerisms).
The travellers are forced to take refuge there because of the impressive storm that every good horror film should have.
"Beds! They can't have beds," shrieks half deaf Rebecca Femm.
"As my sister hints, there are no beds," announces Horace with perpetual disdain.
Also in the house are two other Femm relatives. Roderick, 102 and bedridden, warns them of brother Saul. Roderick is actually played by a heavily made up Elspeth Dudgeon.
When Saul is finally revealed, he is a frightened, tortured man. That is, until backs are turned and his face turns into an insane leer - Saul is as mad as the rest of them. Dangerously so!
This film was considered lost for quite a time, but thatnks to James Whales' friend and fellow director Curtis Harrington, can still be enjoyed in all its creepy, bizarre glory.