As you know I like to watch the classics but the only way to tell for sure if it is a classic is based on what channel it is on. This one was on American Movie Classics so that’s how I know. If it was on TBS or especially USA that would be another story. Anyway it is an old one from James Whale the director of Frankenstein.
Boris Karloff from the Frankenstein gets top billing but let’s be honest here, he’s playing a mute butler for christ’s sake. This is not a starring role it is strictly a gimp role in my opinion. I mean I know for a fact the man can talk, and can talk well. But you wouldn’t know it the way he’s typecasted in some of these pictures. Here he’s just a big oafish brute who gets drunk and tries to grab the pretty ladies. He looks like they left the Frankenstein makeup on him and pasted a beard over it the poor bastard.
Charles Laughton the famous hunchback is also in it playing a jolly gay guy (and by gay I do not mean jolly, that would be stupid to say that, it would be like he plays a jolly jolly guy. What I mean is he is gay or homosexual). Gloria Stuart is one of the two pretty young gals in the picture. She strips down to her antique undies at one point so if you liked her in the titanic movie, get ready to hit pause.
Anyway this is the story where there is a bad storm and two groups of travelers stuck in a landslide go to this old dark house (see, remember, that is the title of the film, the old dark house) to ask for shelter for the night. They are all friendly and jolly and jokey and a couple of them even shack up and give each other foot rubs but it takes them a minute to realize this family that owns the place is a bunch of crazy bastards. And it will become more clear as the night goes on and they start setting things on fire and what not.
Now according to the AMC this is a “tongue in cheek classic” which in my opinion means a comedy. I understand the more recent comedy such as Mr. Richard Pryor (genius) but to be honest I don’t get some of the older comedies, I don’t know when you’re supposed to laugh. So I was kind of concerned about this one.
At first I tried to laugh at pretty much anything but I think I was doing it wrong. By the end I started to get the hang of it though and I knew the right parts to laugh. The funniest part is when the lights go out and one of the guests asks if the family has a lamp. I mean all he wants is a damn lamp but these people keep acting all nervous, making excuses. Halfway up the stairs and “Well, let’s not get the lamp. Nah, no, we shouldn’t do it if we don’t want to. We don’t need a lamp.”
Well upstairs the guests meet more of the family and there is some crazy shit. The patriarch of the family is Sir Roderick Thorpe, an old lady with a long beard who laughs as “he” explains that her pyromaniac son Saul is locked up in the attic and is liable to escape at any moment and burn down the house. Then when you meet Saul he is crazy too, he is a little dude that talks like Droopy dog on speed. At first it seems like he’s harmless and not really the psycho his mom made him out to be but then he starts asking freaky ass shit like, “Are you interested in flame?”
Eventually the dude goes nuts, hits a guy on the head with a stick, sets everything on fire etc. There is a big struggle and a man almost dies but everything turns out okay. And then the next day the host Horace comes downstairs and tells the guests “Good morning” as if nothing ever happened. Yeah, you tell yourself that buddy. We’re not coming back for Christmas that’s for damn sure.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.