Secret Beyond the Door is told by the main character (Joan Bennett), a new bride of a man she met on vacation (Michael Redgrave). She finds that her new husband has kept many things from her, most notably that he was previously married to a woman, now deceased, with whom he had a son. She feels lost and out of the loop in the home the two share with his sister and secretary. Soon, instead of feeling disoriented, she feels terrified for her life, and with good reason.
Fritz Lang directed this film and there are many characteristic elements. First, the initial foreshadowing by use of symbolism is evident both in Lang's silent films and in his film noir talkies. There are several other elements of film noir in this film like narration, flashback, and realistic, imperfect characters.
Joan Bennett is beautiful, like a slightly more plain version of Hedy Lamarr. She is relatable enough to like which makes the viewer more interested in the film.
Michael Redgrave plays the husband, a moody man almost to the point of being bi-polar. He runs a gamut of emotions throughout the film.
The great thing about this film is constantly not knowing what will happen. Although one can guess, other things arise that constantly surprise including a twist near the end. The music is agonizingly tense in moments or extreme danger which keeps one engaged and aching to find out what happens.
on February 10, 2009
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...
Secret Beyond the Door was a case of fourth time unlucky for Fritz Lang and Joan Bennett, who evidently put the past triumphs of the Woman in the Window and Scarlet Street behind them to fight like cats and dogs throughout the acrimonious and over budget production while at times reducing co-star Michael Redgrave to a nervous wreck with the director's tyrannical behavior to emerge with a film hated by its star, preview audiences and critics alike (one memorably described it as `a woman's picture made by a misogynist') that proved a disastrous box-office flop. Add to that censorship problems, Lang being singularly unimpressed by cinematographer Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons, Night of the Hunter) because Bennett overruled his original choice of Robert Krasker, the studio dropping his idea of having actress Colleen Collins deliver Bennett's voice-over narration as too confusing and having an affair with the screenwriter, Silvia Richards, that apparently led to some unfortunate rewrites, not to mention his leading lady and his co-producer Walter Wanger's marriage disintegrating throughout the shoot and the studio taking over and re-editing the film amid a flurry of lawsuits and it's no wonder that he dismissed it as `a very unfortunate adventure.' But it's certainly a fascinating one even if it never turns into the rediscovered masterpiece you'd like it to be to give all that blood, sweat and tears a belated happy ending.
Almost from the start there's a tangible air of suppressed perversity, be it Bennett's morbid pre-wedding thoughts about dreams set against opening Disney animation of weeds stretching out in the water like pained claws to her listless heiress being so transfixed by a knife fight and so jealous of the pride a peasant woman clearly feels that two men are willing to kill for her that she doesn't even blink when a blade lands an inch away from her. And that's before she falls for Michael Redgrave's architect with money troubles who collects `felicitous rooms,' has a strange son he never bothers to tell her about and more skeletons than closets. It turns out that he's been dominated by women all his life, and those rooms he collects, like something out of Madame Tussauds without the waxworks but with a bigger budget for furnishings, are all the scenes of famous murders of wives and mothers... and there's one murder room he claims is finished which he keeps securely locked at all times and forbids her to enter.
Playing like a perverse combination of the Bluebeard legend, Rebecca, Spellbound, Suspicion and all points east of sanity, it's an intriguing enough mystery even if the climax isn't entirely convincing - as Lang later noted, "Our solution was too glib, too slick. It would be very nice if a mentally disturbed patient could talk with a psychiatrist for two hours and then be cured; but such things cannot be done so quickly." Lang's dictatorial behavior may have made it an unpleasant set, but it pays dividends in the performances, with Bennett going from confidence to trying to assert some kind of control even though she doesn't know what on Earth is going on while Redgrave's own repressions come to the fore in a performance that's schizophrenic in all the right ways for the kind of man who dreams of putting himself on trial for murder and plays both defendant and prosecutor as logic gives way to an increasingly Freudian Liebestraum. Despite Lang's misgivings, Cortez's cinematography is particularly striking and is well represented on Olive's region-free Blu-ray, but the film's misfortunes have extended to the sound quality, with a combination of poor sound mix that seems a little dulled and a surprisingly low sound level for a film where much of the dialogue and voice over is already spoken very softly meaning you'll have to turn the volume way up to hear it properly (no such problems with Miklos Rozsa's floridly dramatic score). As usual with Olive Films' titles there are no extras.
on May 17, 2000
This lesser known old dark house thriller from Lang, comes highly recommended. It's not about a haunted house actually, but I'd still call it spooky. I first saw it only a few years ago, but it's already become a fave of mine in this particular category. -Sort of, anyway; the beginning is a bit slow and too romantic, and manages to look completely un-interesting to a Horror fan, but the wait is worth it. While on vacation in South America Bennett falls for stranger Redgrave, and promptly moves in with him. -He's strange indeed; with all the secret rooms in the big house, and two other just as strange occupants. I'll say no more; now go check it out. If you enjoyed the British "Dead Of Night" for instance, Lang's long corridors and the eerie atmosphere here should be a sure pleaser.
on January 31, 2014
My problem is not with the film, but the horrible job they did with sound. One minute you can't hear a damn thing and the next moment after you have turned up the volume there is an ear piercing scream. Plus, as usual with Olive Films, there are no subtitles. They are too cheap for that,and obviously spend no effort at all on the sound quality. At least, they could compress and equalize it. I think I'll pass on future Olive releases and wait for TBS.
on December 4, 2012
So glad to see a clear copy of this film!!! Although the movie has it's flaws, it holds your interest and Joan Bennett's clothes by Travis Banton are really something to see!!!
The story runs like this: Joan Bennett is a wealthy socialite heiress, meets architect Michael Redgrave while on holiday in Mexico, falls in love and impulsively marries him. While still on honeymoon , he starts to show signs of mood swing, and leaves abruptly saying he will meet her at home. Arriving at his family home, Bennett is surprised to find he has a sister (Anne Revere) who runs the household, and that he also is a widower w/ a teenage son. He and the son have a bad relationship. There is also a rather possessive secretary ( Barbara O' Neil) with a secret. He also collects "felicitous " rooms which turn out to be rooms where horrible murders were committed . Little by little Bennett's suspicions begin to overwhelm her. My main problem w/the film is that none of these secrets are really explained eg; how did his first wife die, why did his son hate him, why the mood swings, why the obsession w/ grisly murder rooms. The explanation given at the end is rather weak and pat. The only redeeming feature of the happy ending is that the couple agree that he needs professional help. I am a fan of Redgrave, in fact I think he is one of the greatest actors ever, he shows the pathos of the character, but again I would have liked to understand the reasons for what appears borderline homicidal/ maniacal behavior. But it is entertaining and seeing the fabulous couture creations worn by Bennett are fun. Also in a showy and funny role is Natalie Shaefer , (Mrs. Howell from Gilligan's Island" ) as Bennett's chatty , gossipy society gal pal.
on March 23, 2014
Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door is so full of holes it would embarrass Swiss cheese. Usually I can find something to recommend a movie. But this one would have rated a zero star from me. Dead end plot points, awkward use of the flashback, and a truly ridiculous plot; all about a guy who collects 'rooms' recreated in his basement, where unspeakable acts of spousal betrayal and murder took place, and the doe-eyed naive woman who ought to have known better than to get mixed up with him at a moment's glance. Michael Redgrave is about as alive as a stick of kindling. There's no chemistry between him and Joan Bennett. The plot goes nowhere and neither do the performances.
Of course, we might have forgiven it if Olive had given us a good, or even competent transfer. But no - this one's a Frisbee; riddled in age-related artifacts, extremely softly focused and with its soundtrack suffering from excessive hiss and pop. Why bother slapping movies out in hi-def if the proper care isn't to be taken to get the visuals and audio up to snuff. Don't waste your money on this one. Skip!
on September 23, 2013
In 1951 the movies discovered Freudian themes or so it would seem with so many dark, deep psychological dramas from the late 40's and early 50's. e.g. The Snake Pit, etc. This one measures up as to some suspense (not exactly nail-biting but there) and some fairly good acting by the prominent players, Joan Bennett and Michael Redgrave, and the always wonderful character actress, Anne Revere. However, she is a far cry from the role she played as Elizabeth Taylor's mother in National Velvet or her short scene as Monty Clift's mom in A Place in the Sun. She does make the film worth watching.
The major character in this mystery-drama is really Freud and the movie makes that announcement early on when a budding-psychologist interrupts Michael Redgrave's house tour and murder stories with her interjections of Freudian lingo. Yet, we do notice when Redgrave refuses to open one door so that the others can look within. Ah, secrets there.
Redgrave's character is plagued by childhood memories of mom. He admits that she was once his "whole world." And from then on it's Oedipus all over the place. From this we are to deduce he is suffereing from an urge to kill his own wife, played by Bennett, and guilt stricken over the death of his deceased wife even though the first wife seems to have died from "natural causes." The tragic hero on the verge of his fall....
There are flaws. Like...
We are never really sure how his son from a previous marriage fits into the picture because his character is just moody and not developed in the film. And the son's exit with his Aunt Caroline (Anne Revere) is down played with little care on anyone's part. The broken relationship with his father is never quite settled or even closely resolved. So loose ends wreck what may have been easily made into a better story line. If it was based upon a book..then maybe there are links there.
Also if you ignore some bad acting by Barbara O'Neill (remember her as Scarlet's mother in GWTW.)it's not bad for an afternoon's viewing. But the VHS price $40.+ is unbelieveable for this old flick especially if you search you just might find it free on the Internet.
on January 13, 2013
I've never seen this movie looking so good, and it's complete. Fritz Lang was a master of visual composition; of handling actors. His films are always a sight to behold. Like many of the dramas/thriller of the 40's, its main weaknesses are that it makes the process of psychoanalysis so easy, and the plot, a man who collects infamous rooms, is rather silly. Once one accepts these, the film is thrilling, and holds the attention throughout. Not great Lang, but well worth the purchase.
The powerful talent of Fritz Lang was indomitable. The relentless energy he put around every one of his films denotes the admirable capacity to weave a story.
This is far from being the most relevant issue in his extensive career but there's an admirable performance of both of them. Joan Bennet and Michael Redgrave.
She, alone and closed inside an emotive bubble searching for someone; he hides a secret. The progressive tension will lead you to discover what's beyond that closed door.
Don't miss it.