The Old Dark House (1932)

70 or 74 mins | Horror | 20 October 1932

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HISTORY

This was Charles Laughton's first American film. Modern sources note that the actor who played "Roderick Femm," although listed as John Dudgeon, was actually a woman, Elspeth Dudgeon. Modern sources add the following credits: John Fulton Special effects , Charles D. Hall Interior design , and C. Roy Hunter Sound supervisor . According to modern sources, Melvyn Douglas replaced Russell Hopton and Raymond Massey replaced Walter Byron. The film was remade in 1963 by William Castle Productions. It was directed by William Castle and starred Tom Poston (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.3587). The 1932 film was withdrawn from circulation when the 1963 film was released and was considered to be lost until director Curtis Harrington discovered a printable ... More Less

This was Charles Laughton's first American film. Modern sources note that the actor who played "Roderick Femm," although listed as John Dudgeon, was actually a woman, Elspeth Dudgeon. Modern sources add the following credits: John Fulton Special effects , Charles D. Hall Interior design , and C. Roy Hunter Sound supervisor . According to modern sources, Melvyn Douglas replaced Russell Hopton and Raymond Massey replaced Walter Byron. The film was remade in 1963 by William Castle Productions. It was directed by William Castle and starred Tom Poston (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.3587). The 1932 film was withdrawn from circulation when the 1963 film was released and was considered to be lost until director Curtis Harrington discovered a printable negative. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Motion Picture Herald
16 Jul 32
p. 52.
New York Times
28 Oct 32
p. 22.
Variety
1 Nov 32
p. 12.
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 October 1932
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
12 October 1932
Copyright Number:
LP3321
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
70 or 74
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a stormy night in Wales, five people, Philip and Margaret Waverton, their friend Penderel, Sir William Porterhouse and his lady friend, chorus girl Gladys Perkins, whose stage name is DuCane, seek refuge in a gloomy house off the road. The denizens of the house include Horace Femm, an hysteric, his sister Rebecca, a religious fanatic, and Morgan, their scarred, brutish butler, who is a mute. At dinner, Horace confides that sometime in the past, their sister Rachel died in a mysterious fashion. As the evening progresses, the Wavertons discover the Femms' 102-year-old father in an upstairs room. Transformed by drink, Morgan pursues attractive Margaret up the stairs, where he craftily releases another brother, pyromaniac Saul, from his locked room at the top. Penderal and Gladys have fallen in love at first sight. They break the news to Sir William who, because he is still in love with his dead wife, is not very upset. Soon after, Penderal encounters the liberated Saul in one of the dark rooms. At first Saul seems to be the only sane inhabitant of the house, but he proves that he is as crazy as the rest when he tries to kill Penderal. Both men are wounded in the fight that follows. Morgan, having sobered up a little, carries the wounded Saul back to his room. After Gladys treats Penderal, dawn finally breaks and the storm is over. The five guests leave the house behind as quickly as possible and Horace cheerfully bids them goodbye, as if the events of the night had never ... +


On a stormy night in Wales, five people, Philip and Margaret Waverton, their friend Penderel, Sir William Porterhouse and his lady friend, chorus girl Gladys Perkins, whose stage name is DuCane, seek refuge in a gloomy house off the road. The denizens of the house include Horace Femm, an hysteric, his sister Rebecca, a religious fanatic, and Morgan, their scarred, brutish butler, who is a mute. At dinner, Horace confides that sometime in the past, their sister Rachel died in a mysterious fashion. As the evening progresses, the Wavertons discover the Femms' 102-year-old father in an upstairs room. Transformed by drink, Morgan pursues attractive Margaret up the stairs, where he craftily releases another brother, pyromaniac Saul, from his locked room at the top. Penderal and Gladys have fallen in love at first sight. They break the news to Sir William who, because he is still in love with his dead wife, is not very upset. Soon after, Penderal encounters the liberated Saul in one of the dark rooms. At first Saul seems to be the only sane inhabitant of the house, but he proves that he is as crazy as the rest when he tries to kill Penderal. Both men are wounded in the fight that follows. Morgan, having sobered up a little, carries the wounded Saul back to his room. After Gladys treats Penderal, dawn finally breaks and the storm is over. The five guests leave the house behind as quickly as possible and Horace cheerfully bids them goodbye, as if the events of the night had never happened. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.