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Cult Vault #9: Patrick Keiller on The Old Dark House

British director Patrick Keiller prepares for a creepy Christmas 

with pyromaniac horror

Taken from the December 2010 issue of Dazed & Confused:

British director Patrick Keiller’s new film Robinson In Ruins is an eccentric documentary-fiction blend retracing the steps of Keiller’s invented alter-ego Robinson, an erratic wanderer in an age of mobile displacement. Just out of prison, the cracked scholar rambles through the English countryside as the global markets crash, convinced that the landscape can reveal the DNA of historical events. Dazed asked Keiller for his cult film recommendation, a 1932 horror directed by James Whale in which travellers seek shelter in an ominous mansion full of lunatics and pyromaniacs… 

”With winter approaching, it won’t be long before someone in our house suggests watching James Whale’s The Old Dark House – the increasingly topical story of travellers, marooned amid storm, flood and landslide, who seek shelter at the ancestral home of a family of variously problematic gentry called Femm – which seems to suggest new possibilities for interpretation with every viewing. I noticed, only recently, the coincidence of the story’s being set in Wales and the director’s name being Whale. The cast’s other roles also seem significant: Horace Femm (“I am rather a nervous man”) is played by Ernest Thesiger, who played ‘Dr Pretorius’ in Whale’s later Bride of Frankenstein. In 1951, he was ‘Sir John Kierlaw’, the extremely cadaverous personification of the City of London’s investment priorities in Alexander Mackendrick’s The Man In The White Suit. Gloria Stuart, who seems to be made of something resembling moonlight, is in James Cameron’s Titanic. She died on September 26 this year, aged 100.”