Saturday, September 30, 2017

NY FILM FESTIVAL: The Old Dark House

The Old Dark House might just be James Whale's masterpiece.  Eighty-five years after its original release the film continues to delight with its unique brand of chills mixed with a dry sense of loopy humor.  Only James Whale was able to combine the macabre with the humorously absurd.  Based on a work by J.B. Priestley, the story of travelers stranded in a remote mansion belonging to a deranged family has been imitated over and over again. But rarely have the results been as satisfyingly successful as in this pre-code film.  And to think that the movie was lost after Universal lost its rights to it.  We owe its existence to director Curtis Harrington who dug up the film in the 1960s.

Now, the Cohen Group has achieved a magnificent 4K restoration, and a screening of their work was shown this afternoon at the New York Film Festival. The results are magnificent.  It's as if the film had been liberated from the cocoon where it lay dormant for years, and was allowed to breathe and show all of its details.  And what a treasure of details it has!  The tie clip on Horace Femm's tie (Ernest Thesiger) and the cameo worn by Eva Moore, who portrays the batty Rebecca Femm, are just two of the visuals now easily seen.  The make-up on Boris Karloff, created by the great Jack Pierce, is now more frightening than ever.  It's not just an out of focus blur as in the past: it's now sharp, and with beautiful contrast and low grain.  I don't think one can ask for more.

Take a look at the new 4K trailer below, and it will give you an idea of the work that was put into this film.  The blu-ray disc will be available October 24.  You can pre-order it by clicking HERE.

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