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Secret Beyond the Door... More at IMDbPro »

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30 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

An above average offering from the great Fritz Lang

Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
20 December 2004

The Secret Beyond the Door is Fritz Lang's melodramatic suspense tale that seems to have taken more than it's fair share of influence from Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca. Before the story even starts, we're waiting to find out one thing - what's the secret? This somewhat puts the movie on the back foot from the start, as all that we see is build up to the big finale, which basically means that the pay off has to be pretty good otherwise the whole film will fall apart. The final twist, in fact, doesn't really do the build up justice; but it's not absolutely terrible, and I would still rate this film as at least 'good', but just don't tune in expecting anything brilliant. This is certainly no 'M', for example. The plot follows a young woman that goes on holiday and meets a charming middle-aged man. The two later get married and she accompanies him back to his house where she meets his son, and finds his collection of rooms, one of which is kept locked up. What is the secret beyond the door...?

Fritz Lang's bleak cinematography and haunting use of music help to create the atmosphere that a story of this nature needs in order to work effectively. The focus on the door helps to create the tension as to what the secret is throughout the movie, and Fritz Lang seems keen to capitalise on that as we see Joan Bennett's narration change from how she feels personally to driving herself crazy as she tries to decipher what's behind the door. The characters in the story are interesting, and they need to be as this film is mostly character based. We follow Celia Lamphere, and we are given her thoughts by way of the aforementioned narration. Narration is often found in scripts that have been written by people that don't know how to write good scripts. However, in this case it actually helps the film to move along. In order for the story to work, we need to know what the character is feeling, so in this case narration is helpful to the story.

As I've mentioned, the ending isn't all that good, but the suspense builds nicely and there's much to like about this film. If you're new to Fritz Lang, though, I certainly recommend the classics 'M' and 'Metropolis' before this, and also from his American films; 'Fury', 'Scarlet Street', 'Beyond a Reasonable Doubt' and 'While the City Sleeps' get my thumbs up.

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27 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Psychiatry was the essence of Lang's thriller...

Author: Righty-Sock ( from Mexico
5 December 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Psychiatry, plus a suggestion of the Bluebeard legend, plus a lot of Gothic glooms, was the essence of Fritz Lang's thriller…

The situation is the familiar one of the girl who falls in love and marries a millionaire about whom she knows little, and finds that the home to which he takes her is one of those gloomy mansions which seem to have been built for the mysterious shadows they throw…

She meets there three people whose existence she had not suspected: her husband's sister, who has been running things and wants to carry on (does anyone remember Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers in 'Rebecca'?); his secretary, who had hoped to marry him, and always wears a scarf round her face to hide scars from a fire; and his rather hostile son, who had no more been mentioned than the fact of a previous marriage…

The moody husband (with a death fixation…) has a 'collection' of reconstructions of rooms in which murders have been committed… We visit them all except one: this is kept hurtfully locked…

Is this the room of the first wife, and did her husband murder her? Well, although he too has a guilt complex, he did not kill her. Not loving her, he wished her dead – and blames himself… To get this across, Lang stages an imaginary trial, with the husband as both accuser and accused… We end up, many shadows later, with Redgrave and Bennett having a showdown in the locked room…

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25 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Lovely Hollywood mystery fluff for rainy days!

Author: Xanadu-2
19 August 2002

I enjoyed it much more the second time around. At first it was far too unbelievable. It hardly made any sense then and I never felt I cared what happened. I bought the video because of Joan Bennett and Fritz Lang making another film noir. Now when i saw it, I loved it and just sat back enjoyed all the hokus-pokus fluff that is delivered quite seriously. It´s supposed to be like "Rebecca" and that´s why I didn´t like it the first time. Too many plot holes! There´s even an exotic ms. Danvers type around with a veil...Too much!

Why would Joan marry and stay with someone so utterly stiff and charmless as Michael Redgrave?? The male lead should have been given to someone more mysterious and attractive. They were hoping for a new Laurence Olivier...

Joan is a treat as always. I love how she comes across as a spoiled debutante who can hardly care to utter her lines with any conviction. She´s a good actress -just a bit too laid back at times. I love her, she is so stunningly beautiful and cool in her Hollywood wardrobes.

I love the whole atmosphere of the movie. It´s slow at first and then from the honeymoon in Mexico and forward so mysterious! I love her bedroom with the tapestry! The thing with the room-collecting was quite farfetched but fun. Who would REALLY aquire complete scenes of murders at home???? I´m going to see it again soon and learn some lines. They don´t make them like they used to!

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21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Lovely Bennett in a Memorable Thriller

Author: roxyroxy
7 April 2005

"Secret Beyond the Door" is a memorable thriller from Hollywood's Golden Age. Joan Bennett is lovely and stylishly groomed in this shocker about a woman whose husband collects rooms where famous murders have occurred. One of the doors of those rooms always remains locked. Can you guess whose room it is? Bennett is enjoyable as the terrified wife and Michael Redgrave gives a good performance as the tormented husband. Anne Revere gives a realistic performance as his somewhat dominating sister. The eerie music is a big plus and the splendid cinematography adds just the right touch to the suspense. I would recommend this film for those who like a mystery with a forties flavor to it.

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29 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Staggering and sublime.

Author: Alice Liddel ( from dublin, ireland
8 November 2000

This has been variously called campy, kitsch, rubbish; I think that, along with 'Rancho Notorious', it is Lang's greatest American film (and therefore A great American film). In a decade of male-dominated film noir, Celia Lamphere (loaded name), like the second Mrs. de Winter and Dr. Constance Peterson, must play detective to save her relationship and her life.

Lang uses the trappings of psychoanalysis throughout, promising enlightenment and healing - a large narrative gap, as Mark chases Celia, puts paid to that: this is a pessimistic anti-Freudian film.

It is also one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen - its atmosphere of dream, its cunning use of architecture and space, its complex sexuality, its trance-like narration, its ellipses, angles and shadows, remind me variously of L'Herbier, Dreyer, Resnais, Antonioni, Molly's soliloquy in Strick's 'Ulysses', Perec's 'the Man who Sleeps'. It is a rare Hollywood art-movie, and there's nothing like it.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Children of Cain.

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
18 August 2013

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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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Another Fritz Lang-Joan Bennett collaboration

Author: blanche-2 from United States
22 September 2010

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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17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Pretty bad, but I loved it!

Author: John Mankin (
7 June 1999

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Secret Beyond the Door" (1948: **1/2 out of ****) is the sort of absurd, high-flying forties "kitsch" that I find irresistible. In it, heiress Joan Bennett marries architect Michael Redgrave after a whirlwind courtship in Mexico, then discovers a whole passel of Freudian hang-ups in his closet. Most of them spring from the day his mother locked him in his room when he was ten (or did she?). Fritz Lang gives it the works: distinctive, shadowy camerawork by the great Stanley Cortez ("Night of the Hunter"), the frenzied romanticism of a Miklos Rozsa score, thunder and lightning flashes, swirling mists, stream-of consciousness voice-overs, etc. An enjoyable bad movie, almost as surreal in its way as "Last Year at Marienbad", but much livelier. My head says, "this is ridiculous," but my heart says "all right!"

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

A distractingly-derivative story tarnishes an otherwise entertaining Fritz Lang psychological thriller

Author: ackstasis from Australia
5 March 2008

Fritz Lang's creepy and atmospheric psychological thriller, 'Secret Beyond the Door (1948),' faces just one major obstacle that prevents it from being a completely satisfying film experience: the story is quite obviously derived from Hitchcock's 'Rebecca (1940),' which happens to be a superior film in almost every regard. This is not to question the talents or originality of Lang, since, of course, he was already an established director before Hitchcock ever got his break, but you can just tell how much this particular work was influenced by the Master of Suspense. Borrowing elements from the then-prevalent film noir movement, and adding shades of post-marriage paranoia from the likes of 'Rebecca' and Cukor's 'Gaslight (1944),' Lang also mixes in snippets of Freudian psychoanalysis, not unlike what I witnessed last week in Hitchcock's own 'Spellbound (1945).' The final product is not without its charm, and contains various moments of precisely-articulated suspense, but you can never overcome that niggling feeling that you've seen it all done better.

Joan Bennett plays Celia, a young lady who acquires a large amount of money after her brother's death and decides to take a holiday. It is here that she meets Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave), a mysterious and charming gentleman who excites in Celia intense suppressed feelings of rebellion and exhilaration. Following their marriage, a hastily-decided proposition that can only lead to trouble, Celia immediately begins to notice peculiarities in her new husband, and, after her arrival at Mark's extravagant residence, she finds the dwelling haunted by the shadow of his previous wife. Mark, it seems, houses an unhealthy preoccupation with murder, and has made a hobby out of collecting entire rooms in which unspeakable atrocities of passion were committed. But what of the one room that is kept securely locked, never to be opened by anyone? Celia concludes that the secret to unlocking the inner depths of her husband's disturbed mind lies within that single room, beyond the forbidden door. Though Silvia Richards' screenplay, from a story by Rufus King, often seems too incredible to take seriously, Lang's film remains an interesting achievement, and is nothing if not entertaining.

I found the promotional material for 'Secret Beyond the Door' to be grossly misleading. The image of Joan Bennett standing before a significantly-distorted door prompted me to expect a film of extreme German Expressionism, in the same vein as 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).' Fritz Lang, who developed his career in Germany during the 1920s, and having often used elements of the style, would presumably have been very adept at recreating the devilishly-twisted labyrinths of the human mind, but the only scene to even approach my stylistic expectations was the appropriately ambiguous and shadowy dream sequence, in which Michael Redgrave both prosecutes and defends his malevolent tendencies in court {this particular scene may even have influenced Hitchcock's heavily-stylised courtroom trial in 'Dial M for Murder (1954)}. The remainder of the film has the appearance of a typical 1940s film noir, with suitably shadowy cinematography by Stanley Cortez, supplemented by a voice-over by Joan Bennett. Also note the similarity between the character of Miss Robey (Barbara O'Neil) and Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) from 'Rebecca,' most particularly in their respective final actions in each picture.

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Psychologically yours

Author: Petri Pelkonen ( from Finland
3 April 2007

Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door... (1948) is a movie with a Freudian plot.Celia (Joan Bennett), a pretty New Yorker is about to marry a man she doesn't love.In a trip to Mexico she meets an interesting man named Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave).She marries him instead and soon discovers some alarming details about the man.His mansion is filled with rooms where famous murders took place.One of those rooms is always locked, and Celia must find out what is behind that door.This is a fascinating movie that has been done in a Film-Noir style.Joan Bennett is a perfect lady in the lead.Redgrave's performance as the troubled man is excellent.There are also talents such as Anne Revere, Barbara O'Neil, Natalie Schafer and Anabel Shaw.This is a fine movie for the old movie lovers, whether or not you're into psychology.It's a thrilling tale that will keep you nailed to your seats.And the plot thickens in the end.

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