Secret Beyond the Door [Blu-ray]
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Secret Beyond the Door [Blu-ray]
Top Customer Reviews
I'm grateful to be able to have this film on a real DVD, not DVD-R; so many old films are now available only on DVD-R and they almost always freeze or skip on my standard DVD player.
The film is about 99 minutes long, which is the full length, at least according to the IMDb listing.
I cannot compare the picture and sound quality to that of any other DVD or VHS edition, as this is the only version I have ever seen. (If anyone has a VHS edition, I would welcome their comments on picture and sound below this review.) Here are my remarks:
Picture: Generally clear and watchable. However, there are a quite a few spots where one sees sparkles, physical flaws in the film, etc. These moments do not last long, however, and so don't interfere too much with the enjoyment of the film. It would be nice if Criterion or someone did a cleaned-up edition; this film is worthy of special treatment.
Sound: The sound is much worse than the picture. It is not that the sound is unclear; it is that the volume is very inconsistent. I usually watch movies at a volume of between 7 and 12; with this picture, I often had to crank it up to about 16 or 18, because the dialogue came through so weakly; but then, a moment later, the booming Rosza score would come through, and I quickly had to crank the volume down so as not to wake anyone in the house. Also, this movie has a good deal of running narration, especially in the first 2/3, by Joan Bennett's character, and often her narration is extremely soft, again requiring increased volume.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
The story is turgid and slow. Joan Bennett spends a lot of screen time staring and talking to herself, and Michael Redgrave spends a lot of time going into a pop-eyed trance which is supposed to represent a dark traumatic state, but it isn't very subtle. There is no chemistry between the two leads - especially when they kiss, it's hilarious! The actual "rooms" plot device is used very sparingly and without a lot of impact. But the worst offender is the music - it's huge, a really melodramatic and persistent dirge that smothers the emotions of the acting and script. A different approach to the musical score would have really helped, but this was 1948 and it is fairly typical of the period, although, even for the time, it does seem extremely heavy.
Some light spots and very mild suspense don't come up often enough to provide 95 solid minutes of entertainment
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...