Tuesday, 21 February 2012

1,001 Films: "Secret Beyond The Door" (1948)

Secret Beyond The Door forms the illogical midpoint between Spellbound and The Fountainhead. Turmoil befalls dreamy heiress Joan Bennett - seen tossing and turning from the opening scene about signs and signifiers - when she marries super-stiff Michael Redgrave, a repressed architectural correspondent venturing a thesis that "certain rooms... cause murders". Oo-er. Our heroine's suspicions are piqued only when Redgrave moves the pair of them into his family home, to reside alongside his disfigured secretary, an estranged son from a previous marriage, and the house's pièce de résistance: a number of meticulously recreated crime scenes from history, the seventh of which has been kept locked away from sight.

Trying to juggle work with emotional fulfilment, the heiress makes for a very modern heroine, having to diagnose her husband's neuroses - and, in the final reel, stage an impromptu therapy session - in order to save herself, though Bennett is stuck with an overblown voiceover, which insists on explaining the script's various Women's Issues ("I wanted Mark's child, but not another woman's child") in the most florid language imaginable. A minor work, worth a look to see Lang imitating Hitchcock - there's a fair bit of Rebecca in here, too - although the Stanley Cortez photography isn't best served in the variable prints doing the rounds on TV. Remember, ladies: "If a girl dreams of daffodils, she is in great danger."

Secret Beyond the Door is available on DVD through Exposure Cinema.

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