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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Secret Beyond the Door is directed by Fritz Lang and adapted to screenplay by Silvia Richards from a story by Rufus King. It stars Joan Bennett, Michael Redgrave, Anne Revere, Barbara O'Neil and Natalie Schafer. Music is by Miklós Rózsa and cinematography by Stanley Cortez.
After a whirlwind romance, Celia Barrett (Bennett) marries Mark Lamphere (Redgrave) but finds once the honeymoon is over his behaviour becomes quite odd...
A troubled production and troubling reactions to it by the critics and Lang himself! Secret Beyond the Door is very much in the divisive half of Lang's filmic output. Taking its lead from classic era Hollywood's keen interest with all things Freudian, and doffing its cap towards a number of "women in peril at home" films of the 1940s, it's a picture that's hardly original. Yet in spite of some weaknesses in the screenplay that revolve around the psychological troubles of Mark Lamphere, this is still a fascinating and suspenseful picture.
I married a stranger.
Draped in Gothic overtones and astonishingly beautiful into the bargain, it's unmistakably a Lang film. His ire towards the cast and studio, where he was usurped in the cutting room and with choice of cinematographer, led Lang to be very dismissive towards the piece. However, it contains all that's good about the great director. Scenes such as the opening involving a paper boat on ripples of water, or a sequence that sees Mark dream he is in a courtroom full of faceless jurors, these are indelible images. Then there's the lighting techniques used around the moody Lamphere mansion that are simply stunning, with Cortez (The Night of the Hunter) photographing with atmospheric clarity.
Blades Creek, Levender Falls.
Elsewhere the characterisations are intriguing. Mark is troubled by something and we learn it's about women in his life, while his "hobby" of reconstructing famous murder scenes in the rooms of the mansion, is macabre and really puts a kinky distortion in the narrative. Celia marries in haste but is surprisingly strong, her character arc given heft by the fact we think she may well be prepared to die for love. Then there's the house secretary, Miss Robey (O'Neil), a shifty woman with a headscarf covering an unsightly scar on one side of her face, and Mark's young son David (Mark Dennis) who is cold and detached and has some disturbing theories on his father's means and motivations.
Lilacs and locked doors.
Cast performances are not all top grade, and even though Redgrave doesn't push himself to required darker territories, the performances are involving and worthy of the viewer's undivided attention. Rózsa's musical score is a cracker, deftly switching from the romantic swirls that accompany Mark and Celia during their love courting, to being a stalking menace around the Lamphere house and misty grounds when danger and psychological distortion is near by. Technically it's a remarkable movie, where even allowing for some daftness involving the psychobabble, it's a picture that Lang fans can easily love. There are those who detest it, very much so, but if it does hit your spot it will get inside you and stay there for some time afterwards. 8/10
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