Queer Dark Thrillers

Old Dark House, The

movie      fiction

  • Old Dark House, The
  • Author: J.B. Priestley and Benn W. Levy
  • Director: James Whale
  • Producer: Carl Laemmle Jr.
  • Year: 1932
  • Country: US
  • 72 minutes
movie cover

Seeking shelter from a pounding rainstorm in a remote region of Wales, an unusual assembly of travelers are admitted into a gloomy, foreboding mansion belonging to the extremely strange Femm family.

Trying to make the best of it, the guests must deal with their sepulchral host, Horace Femm and his obsessive, malevolent sister Rebecca. Things get worse as the brutish manservant Morgan gets drunk, runs amok and releases the long pent-up brother Saul, a psychotic pyromaniac who gleefully tries to destroy the residence by setting it on fire.

Qvamp says:

This cult classic, based on J. B. Priestly's Benighted, is one of the least formulated of the Universal horror films of the early 1930s and is the brainchild of openly gay director James Whale. Created during the dark days of the Hayes Code, Hollywood was not able to show any queer characters directly, so Whale instead used subtle and coded messages to include them. This film was nearly lost, but fortunately another director made it his mission to save and popularize it.

The house is owned by a brother and sister who give indications of being gay and lesbian. Horace Femm is a effeminate and prancing man afraid to even venture into the dark, while his sister Rebecca is a religious zealot who is utterly obsessed with a straight-laced traveler played by Gloria Stuart, accusing her of sexual misdeeds while still constantly trying to touch her intimately. Add to this that the patriarch of this unusual family is played by a woman, and you have a film that has more gay content in it than almost any other at the time.

There are strong similarities between this film and another queer horror cult classic Rocky Horror, enough so that it seems likely that Rocky is based upon this film.

Rating C
Queer Vampire Rating B-
Amount of Gay Content alluded to


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