September 16, 2019: Gin and Boris III

Today is the three-year anniversary of my mother’s death. It happened during the 2016 OTIS Halloween Season.

Which means, it’s also time for another Gin and Boris. The third one, in fact.

I won’t re-hash the whole story. It reflects a small moment during my week home after mom’s death, a simple way to include her memory in the season. Halloween should have already had that element in it anyway, like Dia de los Muertos.

Although, all that said, this should be Gin and Boris IV, but I didn’t do it last year. Based on last year’s Halloween Die-ary entry for this day, it looks like I did everything but to forget about it…and eventually failed. This year, after going back and forth all day, we decided we should do it this year.

So we picked up a bottle of Tanqueray and chose The Old Dark House from 1932 (we stuck with one movie this time). After toasting mom, we launched into this early Karloff film, released only a year after Frankenstein (although he had a few movies in between, if I’m reading my emduhbuh right).

The Old Dark House is based on a book by J.B. Priestley and directed by James Whale, who would also direct Karloff in The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935. I’d never seen the film before, although I have a dim memory of watching the 1963 remake.

It’s a classic setup before it was a classic setup: Various strangers are stranded due to a major storm at a creepy house with a creepy family, only to find that the house hides creepy secrets. Boris…doesn’t do much in it, although he is plot-pivotal. He plays the scarred, mute butler named Morgan who gets terrifying when he’s drunk. A monster, basically. And we all know he’s great at that. Although I missed his voice. I mean, I’ll listen to The Monster Mash 8,000 times in the next month and a half, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas 8,000 times for two months after that, but I missed his voice tonight

And I know it’s not him in The Monster Mash. Stop it.

The movie was…fantastic. Instantly one of my favorites of the era. Perfect atmosphere. The opening scene where the three main characters are driving around in an old canvas-top in the sheeting rain at night along what looks more like a riverbed then the road. The way James Whale incorporated humor, the way he usually did, to make scenes even stranger. The cast was great, especially Melvyn Douglas. A pre-Hunchback Charles Laughton was in it. Ernest Thesiger, who would join Whale and Karloff again in Bride of Frankenstein as Doctor Pretorious. It also starred Raymond Massey, who would later play a Boris Karloff lookalike in the 1944 Arsenic and Old Lace.

Besides the atmosphere and the setup, what I really loved about the movie is that it’s mostly a group of people sitting around having awkward conversations in the dark.

Also, it should be said, in one scene, they even make a point about drinking gin. I don’t know. Feels like validation for this little tradition.

I watched The Old Dark House in great quality on Shudder, but you can see a lower quality version on YouTube. As usual, I embedded it below. You have to supply your own gin.