6.9/10
49
2 user

The Door in the Wall (1956)

A man is haunted throughout his life, by a magical door that opens onto an alternate, Garden-of-Eden like world.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (short story)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Stephen Murray ...
Sir Frank Wallace
...
Henry Redmond
Leonard Sachs ...
The Father
Ann Blake ...
The Aunt
Malcolm Knight ...
Wallace as a child
Kit Terrington ...
Wallace as a schoolboy
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Anne Blake ...
The Aunt
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Storyline

A man is haunted throughout his life, by a magical door that opens onto an alternate, Garden-of-Eden like world.

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Genres:

Short | Fantasy | Sci-Fi

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Release Date:

June 1956 (UK)  »

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.96 : 1
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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

The end credits slide across the screen from right to left. See more »

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User Reviews

H.G. Wells meets the Boston Strangler
5 March 2004 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

In the 1970s, when I first became interested in film theory, I wondered if it could ever again be possible to revolutionise the entire art form of movies in the way that it changed utterly in the late 1920s, when silent films were replaced by talkies. I decided that the next logical step would be for filmmakers to have the power to change *the actual shape of the movie image* from one shot to the next, throughout a film. A few years after I came up with this brilliantly original idea, I was astonished to learn that someone else -- an engineer named Glenn Alvey -- had come up with the same brilliantly original idea a couple of decades ahead of me. 'The Door in the Wall', released in 1955, is the only film ever made in the Dynamic Frame process, in which the actual size and shape of the movie screen were intended to change during the course of the film.

I've seen some patent diagrams for the Dynamic Screen mechanism. It employed a standard (1950s) sound projector, connected to a clockwork timing device. What I don't know is whether Alvey ever succeeded in actually building this thing. In his blueprints, the movie screen was bordered by a series of linked sprockets, similar to a bicycle chain, which would stretch and contract the screen in various directions radiating along a two-dimensional vertical plane. The mechanism apparently did not work very well, and it made distracting noises during the running of the film ... which may explain why Dynamic Screen never caught on.

Eventually, I managed to locate a print of 'The Door in the Wall', which I was able to screen through a 35mm projector ... WITHOUT the Dynamic Screen process. This experience was rather like watching a 'flat' version of a movie that was originally filmed in 3-D, and wondering why the characters on screen keep chucking objects at the camera.

Upon repeated viewing, it now appears to me that Alvey shot this film in a standard screen ratio but masked different portions of his composition for different shots, so that the aspect ratio of the on screen image changes size and shape throughout the movie, without affecting the screen itself. In the 1968 film 'The Boston Strangler', director Richard Fleischer did something similar: I wonder if Fleischer viewed 'The Door in the Wall'. I wish that Alvey had used his innovative talents within conventional film-making techniques, so that 'The Door in the Wall' would have been judged on its own storytelling merits - which are considerable - instead of as a 'stunt' film.

Based on a story by H.G. Wells, 'The Door in the Wall' is narrated by Ian Hunter, who plays Redmond, the friend of a rather nervous man named Lionel (Stephen Murray). Redmond and Lionel have known each other since school days, yet in all that time Lionel has always seemed to be ... haunted by something. Now, in flashback, Lionel describes what has been haunting him.

As a very young child, before he entered school, Lionel discovered one day a green door in a wall. Opening the door and passing through, he found himself in a magical garden filled with beautiful flowers, friendly creatures and a smiling woman. Fearing that his strict father would be angry, young Lionel left the garden ... intending to return.

On several more occasions, throughout his path to manhood, Lionel encountered the same green door ... always in a different wall, and never appearing at any predictable schedule. On each occasion, he was so weighed by his burdens of responsibility (first as a schoolboy, then as a university student, later as a professional) that he could never bring himself to re-enter the garden, always hoping to have another opportunity on some later occasion when his responsibilities were not quite so pressing.

As the flashback ends, Lionel conveys to Redmond his fear that he will never again have a chance to enter the beautiful garden. SPOILERS COMING NOW. That night, wandering the streets alone, Lionel passes a familiar wall and encounters a green door that was not there the previous day. Resolutely, he opens it and steps through. The next morning, Redmond learns that his friend Lionel has been found dead at the bottom of a railway cutting. The door was installed by labourers to give them access to the excavation. Redmond is left to wonder if perhaps Lionel's childhood garden is the real world, and our own reality is the illusion.

This film captures the wistful mood of Wells's story yet makes several changes. In the original story, the child Lionel enters the garden and is greeted by two friendly panthers. (H.G. Wells seems to have had a cat fetish: in his erotic letters to Dame Rebecca West, he fantasised himself and Rebecca as a pair of jaguars.) In this film version, when Lionel enters the magic garden, he encounters a large friendly brontosaurus. Regrettably, the minuscule production budget makes it clear that this dinosaur is merely a large plaster replica.

'The Door in the Wall' is a fascinating film, with a beautiful story to tell. I'm astonished to find no other credits for Glenn Alvey, who directed this film from his own screenplay adaptation of Wells's story. Apparently, Alvey was more interested in developing the Dynamic Screen process than in conventional film-making.

I'll rate this very special movie 8 out of 10: six points for the sentimental fantasy and the actors' performances, and 2 more points for Glenn Alvey's risk-taking. This is a beautiful movie that deserves to be rescued from obscurity ... but I fear that modern audiences, jaded by the high-tech effects of 'Jurassic Park', would laugh at the low-tech dinosaur in this gently wistful film.


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