Sunday 28 March 2021

Movie Review: Secret Beyond The Door (1947)

A woman-in-danger psychological suspense thriller, Secret Beyond The Door overcomplicates then deflates.

After she inherits a fortune, Celia (Joan Bennett) goes on vacation with her friend Edith (Natalie Schaffer) and meets charming architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave). Within days Celia and Mark are married. During the honeymoon Mark's behaviour suddenly changes. He hints at financial trouble and quickly leaves on a business trip. 

At the Lamphere estate Celia meets Mark's sister Caroline (Anne Revere) and secretary Miss Robey (Barbara O'Neil), who insists on hiding a facial scar. But Celia is most shocked to learn Mark was previously married and has a moody son David. Mark's erratic behaviour continues, and Celia is introduced to showcase rooms where he has painstakingly recreated murder scenes. One room is off-limits to all, and Celia's starts to suspect her husband may be emotionally disturbed, obsessed with death and planning to kill her.

Although director Fritz Lang deploys film noir stylings to excellent effect, no amount of shades, shadows and silhouettes can rescue Secret Beyond The Door from an inane script by Silvia Richards. The attempt to delve into the psyche of a deeply troubled man remains laughably superficial, Mark's damaged condition, wild mood swings and simplistic triggers only trumped by his instantaneous positive response to Celia's prescient intervention.

Celia's narration is more profound than befits the narrative, and the shredded sub-plots involving Mark possibly eyeing Celia's wealth, Miss Robey's warped perspective (she harbours a secret crush and has a troubled relationship with fire) and son David's passive aggressiveness (he blames Dad for inflicting pain) twirl around in a vacuum of distraction. And when Mark gives a tour of his macabre rooms to a houseful of guests and describes the gory details of the crime scenes, Secret Beyond The Door spirals into too much information with little relevance to the main story.

Joan Bennett and Michael Redgrave do their best to survive the prevailing clunkiness. Bennett allows Celia to demonstrate laudable resilience, while Redgrave holds on as best as he can to Mark's disorderly ups and downs.

Secret Beyond The Door actually has plenty of doors hiding too many secrets, none of them terribly convincing.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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