Old Dark House, The (1932): James Whale’s Brilliant Pre-Code Horror Film, Starring Boris Karloff (credited as KARLOFF), Charles Laughton, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas, and Raymond Massey

In 1932, James Whale directed The Old Dark House, a pre-code horror film featuring a terrific cast, headed by Boris Karloff (credited as KARLOFF), Charles Laughton (in his first Hollywood film), Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas, and Raymond Massey, all of whom would have glorious screen careers.

The film, based on the 1927 novel Benighted by J. B. Priestley, published in the U.S. under the same title as the movie, was adapted to the screen by R. C. Sherriff and Benn Levy.

Philip Waverton (Raymond Massey), his wife Margaret ((Gloria Stuart), and Roger Penderel (Melvyn Douglas) get lost while driving at night during heavy storms. They come upon an old house in the countryside, and given shelter by Horace Femm (Ernest Thesiger) and his sister Rebecca (Eva Moore).

Meanwhile, Horace butler, Morgan (Karloff), gets dangerous and unpredictable when he drinks heavily. Rebecca tells Margaret about the Femm family, which was sinful and godless.  She also reveals that her very old father, Sir Roderick Femm (Elspeth Dudgeon), still lives in the house.

Sir William Porterhouse (Laughton) arrives with his girlfriend, a chorus girl named Gladys DuCane (Lilian Bond),  seeking refuge from the storm. Gladys reveals that her real last name is Perkins.

The electric lights go, and as Horace is afraid to go upstairs to bring a lamp Philip goes instead, finding a locked room and hearing strange voices.

The drunk Morgan attacks her and chases her up the stairs to Philip, who is coming down with the lamp. Philip throws the lamp at Morgan, knocking him down the stairs.

With nothing to do, members of the group begin making confessions. Gladys reveals that her relationship with William is platonic, and shows strong interest in living with Roger instead.

Meanwhile, Philip and Margaret find Roderick Femm in the strange room. He warns them about his eldest son, Saul ((Brember Wills), a pyromaniac kept in the locked room.  Saul’s attempt at burning the house has caused little damage. Philip and Margaret leave to get an ambulance, while Gladys and William stay behind to tend to Roger’s injuries. Roger then asks Gladys to marry him.