The Old Dark House appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the film’s advanced age, the image looked terrific.
Sharpness usually appeared strong. A couple wider shots displayed a dollop of softness, but those occurred infrequently and seemed minor. The vast majority of the movie provided tight, concise imagery.
I saw no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and the movie lacked edge haloes. With a nice layer of light grain, I didn’t fear that the film underwent intrusive digital noise reduction.
Print flaws essentially stayed away from this clean presentation – I saw a couple of tiny specks but nothing more. Blacks seemed deep and tight, while shadows appeared smooth and distinctive. I felt completely pleased with this great transfer.
Though not as good, the film’s PCM monaural soundtrack seemed more than satisfactory. Speech could be a little edgy and brittle, but those tendencies were inevitable given the audio’s age. The lines were always perfectly intelligible and they appeared fine given the limitations of the source.
As was the standard of the era, music only appeared at the movie’s open and close. Those snippets seemed thin but still acceptable.
Effects came with similar qualities, as those elements could be a little rough, but not badly so. They gave us decent clarity for 85-year-old stems.
Light background noise cropped up through the film, but this usually remained subdued enough that it didn’t distract. However, at the 57:20, the hiss escalated radically and stayed that way through the 1:04:54 mark.
This anomaly stood out in a negative manner. Still, even with that glitch, the audio mostly worked fine for its vintage.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 DVD version? Audio seemed clearer and more concise, while visuals appeared cleaner, tighter, sharper and more film-like. Honestly, the DVD looked and sounded terrible, so this Blu-ray offered a radical upgrade, especially in terms of picture quality.
A few extras round out the set, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first features actor Gloria Stuart, as she provides a running, screen-specific look at her career and her experiences during House.
Actor commentaries often fizzle, and given Stuart’s advanced age at the time she recorded this one, I expected very little from it. Happily, Stuart manages to give us a pretty nice discussion, as she offers a mix of good notes about the subjects at hand. This becomes an enjoyable little chat.
For the second commentary, we heat from writer James Curtis. He delivers his own running, screen-specific discussion of director James Whale and other crew, cast and performances, and various production areas.
As a historical commentary, Curtis brings us a decent but not great chat. While he touches on a fair number of useful topics, the track lacks a certain level of depth and insight. This seems like a listenable piece but not one that excels.
An Interview with Curtis Harrington presents a seven-minute, eight-second piece. The horror filmmaker discusses his acquaintance with James Whale and his efforts to save House. This becomes a short but fairly interesting chat.
New to the Blu-ray, Daughter of Frankenstein lasts 14 minutes, 45 seconds and presents a chat between actor Boris Karloff’s daughter Sara and Speed Art Museum curator Dean Otto. They discuss aspects of Boris’s career, with some emphasis on