Friday, July 15, 2011

203. Secret Beyond the Door (1948)

Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: Fritz Lang
Written By: Rufus King, Silvia Richards
Main Cast: Joan Bennett, Michael Redgrave, Anne Revere, Barbara O'Neil, Natalie Schafer


I recorded "Secret Beyond the Door" sometime last year, off of Turner Classic Movies, because it was nowhere to be found elsewhere. Since I watched and reviewed "The Big Heat" last night and had such a good time with it, I figured I'd might as well finish off the Fritz Lang contributions to the book.

Celia (Bennett) is a picky woman when it comes to men. When her brother dies, she finally decides to settle down with one of his former colleagues and promptly gets engaged. Following the engagement and while on vacation with friend Edith (Schafer), Celia locks eyes with a ominous, yet handsome looking man named Mark (Redgrave), a wealthy owner of a magazine. They eventually become acquainted, fall head over heels for one another and via a note Celia breaks off her engagement and quickly marries Mark. While on honeymoon with Mark, he begins to act a bit odd. One night, all of a sudden, Mark comes to Celia and tells her that he is going to sell his magazine. He tells her that he's gone to be gone for a few days and that eventually he'll send for her to come live with him in Levender Falls. Mark eventually sends for her and Celia is all of a sudden making her home in a strange house, with strange people and finding out new things about Mark, like the fact that he was previously married and that he has a son. Mark continues to fluctuate between strange behavior and normal and eventually reveals to Celia his collection of rooms. Mark re-creates grisly murder scenes in various rooms of his house, right down to the tiniest of details. There's just one room that Mark keeps locked - a room marked with a number seven and a room that may hold the secret to Celia's fate.


As I watched "Secret Beyond the Door" I couldn't help but be reminded of Hitchcock's "Rebecca", of which, according to the book, inspired Lang to make this film. The film is actually quite good, as it takes on a very powerful demeanor, making it's presence known through the use of strong music and towering sets. The film is very mysterious and it didn't take me long to attach myself to the very beautiful Joan Bennett and wonder what would happen to this innocent character. As the film progresses, many small mysteries are set up - little things that seemed to stick in the back of my mind, so that when the final climax came I kept trying to guess at what might happen. At first, I thought the entire movie was going to be a dream. I mean, the film did start out with Joan Bennett's character recollecting a book she once read about dreams. But it wasn't all cheaply chalked up to a dream, instead we do get answers to our questions.

Now whether or not I was satisfied with the explanations that were given, I'm not really sure. On one hand, they weren't anything I really expected and at least I can say that they "got me" on the big twist. But on the other hand, it just didn't seem to be enough. It had just a small dose of that "that's it!" factor to it and with a film as brooding as "Secret Beyond the Door", I expected to be dropping my jaw by the time the final credits rolled. Otherwise, if you can look past the lackluster explanations and final twists, it's actually quite a good movie, that's sure not to bore you and provides some exceptional performances from Bennett and Redgrave. I would say to track it down and give it a look, but I'm not sure how easy it will be to track down. Keep your eye out for it on TCM instead.

RATING: 7/10 Lackluster review? Well I'm still fighting this cold so bear with me, please. Only seven films to go before I'm ready to make another TOP 20!


July 15, 2011 1:53am

1 comment:

  1. Lackluster review? No, I don't think so. A fair one I'd say.
    Only just become available in the UK, this was one of those "OOoh, that looks good, I wish I could see it" films in the book, and was quite excited when I eventualy got it.
    I enjoyed it. Loved the atmosphere, the mood etc, and was very forgoiving of the "You are not quite as good as Judith Anderson/Mrs Danvers" factor.
    And yet.. something didn't quite make the expected/hoped for grade, and I was dissapointed. Certainly needs watching again, with lower expectations to appreciate it better.


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