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In this Freudian version of the Bluebeard tale, a young, trust-funded New Yorker goes to Mexico on vacation before marrying an old friend whom she considers a safe choice for a husband. However, there she finds her dream man -- a handsome, mysterious stranger who spots her in a crowd. In a matter of days they marry, honeymoon and move to his mansion, to which he has added a wing full of rooms where famous murders took place. She discovers many secrets about the house and her husband, but what she really wants to know is what is in the room her husband always keeps locked. Written by
Julie van Arcken <email@example.com>
Fritz Lang's attempt to do his version of Rebecca (1940) was a project fraught with disaster. It ran over budget and over schedule, while Lang was at constant loggerheads with his leading lady, Joan Bennett. The first preview of the film attracted comments like "beyond human endurance" and "it stinks". Bennett herself referred to the film as "an unqualified disaster". See more »
Fritz Lang's "Secret Beyond the Door" is a moderately interesting noir. The story, like "The Uninvited" and "Shining Victory" is reminiscent of Hitchcock's film "Rebecca." I say Hitchcock's film and not DuMaurier's 1938 novel, because surprisingly, the novel only sold 20,000 copies and was not a success. I imagine the film changed that.
The story concerns a beautiful woman, Celia (Joan Bennett) who falls madly in love with a mysterious and moody man, Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave) whom she meets while on a trip. She goes to live with him at the family home, which is run by his sister (Anne Revere). It's there she discovers a few things. One is that Mark was married before, is a widower, and has a son (Mark Dennis). Mark also has a secretary (Barbara O'Neil) who covers one side of her face with a scarf to cover a scar from a fire. Mark, she finds, also has a wing where he houses a collection of rooms in which famous murders have taken place. There is one room, however, which is always kept locked. Celia wants to know what's beyond that door, and what makes her husband so moody.
"Beyond the Door" takes inspiration from two other Hitchcock films, Spellbound and Notorious, and taps into the postwar interest in psychology. There is a voice-over narration from the troubled Celia, who recounts her dreams. The film is very atmospheric, the music grand and suspenseful and, though one may be able to guess how it ends, the story is very intriguing. The ending, due to some narrative gaps, is somewhat disappointing.
This isn't Lang's best film but one can certainly see the master's touch in the gloom, the fixation on the door, and the cinematography. Joan Bennett (whom I saw in person and was unbelievably tiny) shines as she usually did under Lang's direction. She could play both sophisticated and glamorous as well as trashy and sweet-smart. Here, in a funny way, she combines both - the character is a bit of a classy femme fatale. Redgrave is properly passionate one minute and distant and a little weird the next. I would have loved to have seen someone like Dirk Bogarde tackle this role a few years later.
Derivative but very good.
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