Secret Beyond the Door DVD
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Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced in 1948
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
So there’s a young bride, who marries an aloof older man haunted by memories of his deceased first wife and it’s set in a baroque mansion staffed by creepy servants. No wonder Secret Beyond the Door is so often compared to Hitchcock’s Rebecca (not least by Fritz Lang himself).
But great directors make poor copyists; their talents are too distinctive and they can’t help bending the material to their own ends. Sure enough, Secret Beyond the Door is no mere retread. It’s suffused with Lang’s style and sensibilities, a striking showcase for his unique vision.
Our heroine is Celia (Joan Bennett), a wealthy young heiress. While holidaying in Mexico, she meets dashing architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave) and, after the proverbial whirlwind romance, marries him. The nay-sayers carp that he’s only married her for her money but Celia doesn’t believe that. At first...
When they return to live at his ancestral seat, Celia realises that Mark is more unusual than she had ever supposed. Down in the basement, he has reconstructed a sequence of rooms in which celebrated murders occurred and he has other morbid tastes besides. Could it be that he actually murdered his first wife? And does he mean to do Celia in too?
Secret Beyond the Door is something of an oddity in Lang’s filmography. Where normally he favoured an inexorably linear story line, the plotting here is frankly delirious. Drawing freely on the old folk tale of Bluebeard, the film has an unsettling gothic tone: perhaps it is better understood as a mad dream rather than a fervid melodrama like Rebecca.
Like many films of the 1940s (not least Hitchcock’s Spellbound), Secret Beyond the Door is fascinated by the theories of Sigmund Freud and supplies psychological motivations to the characters. True, these are simplistic (yup, it’s all mother’s fault) but it helps create a unique texture, a mental landscape that is accentuated by Lang’s careful design and spectral lighting.
For all the superficial similarities to other films, this is a movie that only Fritz Lang could have made. Often undervalued, Secret Beyond the Door is deserving of far more attention.
James Oliver on 9th September 2011
Author of 149 reviews
A classic film noir from Fritz Lang, Secret Beyond The Door stars Joan Bennett and Michael Redgrave. Inspired by Hitchcock's Rebecca and exploring similar ground to that of Spellbound and the myth of Bluebeard, Secret Beyond The Door sees Celia (Joan Bennett) meet millionaire Mark (Redgrave) whilst on holiday, fall in love and get married.
But Celia is apprehensive that she knows so little about her new husband. On their honeymoon Mark suddenly becomes cold towards her - he is called away on business, and when he returns his emotions veer from warmth to hostility...
Length: 94 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 23rd September 2011
Cat No: EX005D
Subtitles: , Hard of Hearing - English