Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong-the ’30s gave rise to some monster hits indeed. Now two other chestnuts from that era, The Old Dark House (1932) and She (1935), are making proper debuts on home video (House had been available in an unauthorized version).
She stars Randolph Scott and Nigel Bruce as arctic explorers in search of a fountain of youth. What they find is a fabulous-looking empire ruled by a fabulous-looking ice queen (Helen Gahagan), who puts the make on Scott, imagining him the reincarnation of a dead lover. Though the background matte paintings and gargantuan sets are gorgeous, the film’s risible dialogue and histrionics are best enjoyed today in Mystery Science Theater 3000-style group viewing.
Happily, there’s nothing creaky about The Old Dark House. Its simple premise, about travelers taking refuge in a desolate mansion, turns into a sophisticated comedy of terrors. Stars Charles Laughton and Melvyn Douglas (as the guests) and Boris Karloff (as the butler) are engaging, but best of all are the hammy supporting players: Ernest Thesiger as the mansion’s refined Horace Femm; Brember Wills as his pyromaniac brother, Saul; and actress Elspeth Dudgeon as their 102-year-old father. Don’t wait till Halloween for this Grand Guignol treat. She: C+ The Old Dark House: A