James Curtis


"In his first audio commentary, Curtis proves himself up to the standards set by the medium's best practitioners (Bruce Eder comes to mind), expertly juggling scene-specific insights with thumbnail biographies of the principal cast and crew members... [Gloria Stuart's] contribution is more than useful and informative; it's a tremendous privilege, a sustained, feature-length glimpse through the eyes of the film's last surviving participant." - Tim Lukas, Video Watchdog


James Whale's "The Old Dark House"

This release was originally produced for laserdisc by Image Entertainment, and I have to give them full credit for holding up on its release until a better print could be found than the so-so one Kino put out on VHS. Happily, one surfaced in the form of a pristine 16mm print made from a negative struck long ago from the archival 35mmm print at George Eastman House. It was infinitely better than any previous copy released, and it more than justified the keener resolution a laserdisc could offer.

When they first approached me to do the commentary track, I said okay--but were they aware that one of the cast members was still alive? They weren't, so I put them in touch with Gloria Stuart, who said, "Of course I'll do it--I'm the only one still breathing!"

We assembled at her house on Bundy in West LA one sunny afternoon, set up our equipment, and ran the film for her without sound and asked her to say anything that came to mind. She did, and was delightful in doing so.

Then we wound the tape back and ran key scenes, during which I asked her questions. The producer, Scot Campbell, had a bear of a job editing it all together, but the result was worth it--the only great Universal horror film with a commentary by one of its original participants.

I thought that with Gloria's commentary, mine would be unnecessary, but the aforementioned Mr. Campbell wanted it too (much to his later regret, I imagine). Talking on tape for 70 minutes is not one of my core compentencies, and although I guess it came out okay, it was a lot of work and I have no desire to ever do it again.

That said, buy this DVD for the quality of the print and for Gloria Stuart's commentary. Then boil some potatoes, dig the little black spots out of them, and gather around the set. And if anyone wants beds... well, you'll know what to tell them.

A few copies of the laserdisc edition are available for sale via this website. Please hit the CONTACT ME button for details.

Selected Works

A celebration of one of film's most potent visualists!
"James Curtis’s informative and beautifully written book does a thorough job of bringing Menzies to life.” - Martin Scorsese
An actor's life like no other!
"A monumental, definitive biography of one of the finest film actors in the history of the medium." - Kirkus Reviews
Now available as eBooks!
"The definitive book about America's most profound comedian." - John Cleese
"One of the most entertaining and engrossing film biographies I've encountered." - Judith Crist
New edition!
"Essential for all who care about the cinema." - Kevin Brownlow
Now on DVD!
With commentaries by Gloria Stuart and James Curtis.