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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Old Dark House (1932)



Reviews and Comments

This moody horror film from Frankenstein director James Whale has a lot of promise but suffers today from dated acting and social interaction. When watching old movies, one is accustomed to characters leaping into marriage, but here's a guy that proposes to a woman he has met maybe an hour before and spent no more than two minutes alone with. Even accounting for the times, it's difficult to watch his crazily over the top declarations of love without laughing aloud. This is not a criticism I enjoy making: I don't like to be cynical, and nor do I feel right about applying modern sensibilities to a bygone culture. But bad writing and bad acting transcend time.

Paradoxically, the film also contains one of the greatest performances of a madman ever put to film, but I can't say who or when, lest I give secrets away. Alas, these scenes also involve stilted dialogue, but it's bizarre: a conversation between a goodguy and a psycho consists of bad lines from the goodguy and great lines from the psycho.

Overall, I loved the thick atmosphere that pervades the film, about half the supporting cast, and the great sense of foreboding that Whale is able to build up and sustain through his film. But too much of it is corny or disconnected for it to hold up.

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