Horror films used to frighten audiences to death, until comic send ups appeared at the cinema encouraging the frightened to not take it all too seriously.
Long before this, in 1932, a seriously good ghoulish classic appeared – The Old Dark House. This was directed by James Whale, who went on to direct The Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, and was based on the J.B.Priestley novel Benighted, where a group of travellers are stranded in heavy rain and a mudlide in Wales and seek shelter in an old house occupied by the eccentric and potentially dangerous Femm family.
A great cast included Boris Karloff in Frankenstein’s monster mode shambling around and scaring all as the disfigured butler, Morgan and top actor Charles Laughton as a cheerily nice guy, the opposite of another performance he clocked up that year as the evil Dr Moreau, splicing humans with animals in his House of Pain on the Island of Lost Souls. There are also memorable performances from Melvyn Douglas, Eva Moore, Gloria Stewart and Raymond Massey.
Thought lost for many years The Old Dark House has been restored and was released in cinemas at the end of last month. It is also available this month as a special Dual Format Blu-Ray and DVD edition from Eureka Entertainments as part of their Masters of Cinema series, with the pack including three feature-length audio commentaries, a video essay and interviews.