A naive woman marries an older man who is still obsessed with his dead first wife, then takes up residence in his family’s stately home, that’s ruled over by a domineering sister. Sound familiar? Well, if Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca springs to mind, then you’re on the mark.
But this is actually a film by another cinema legend – Fritz Lang, the director behind such German classics like Metropolis and M (read Pete’s review here); a host of classic film noirs, including While the City Sleeps (read Pete’s review here); and lavish spectacles like Indian Tomb (read Pete’s review here).
Sure Secret Beyond the Door treads familiar ground – and basically relocates the old Bluebeard legend to contemporary New York – but it’s a real gem of a discovery. Joan Bennett plays Celia, a wealthy, lonely New York heiress who falls for the charming of Micheal Redgrave’s architect, Mark, while holidaying in Mexico.
After a quick romance, they marry – but things don’t begin well. Mark leaves suddenly – on the pretext of going on a business trip, leaving poor Celia worrying if he really does love her, or if he just wants her money. Of course, he comes back and all is forgiven… for now!
When Celia and Mark return to live in his stately home, Celia discovers her new husband is even more complicated than she first thought – especially when she heads down into the basement and discovers a sequence of reconstructed rooms in which celebrated murders occurred. Could this mean he murdered his first wife? And could Celia be next on the list?
If you love your melodramas with a gothic flourish and a dash of Freudian psychology like Spellbound and Gaslight, then Secret Beyond the Door is a winner, helped greatly by Lang’s stunning design, haunting visuals and spooky lighting. It also sports a great supporting cast, including Natalie Schafer, better known as Mrs Howell (aka Lovey) in TV’s Gilligan’s Island, Barbara O’Neil and Anne Revere.
Secret Beyond the Door can be ordered on DVD here, but we also had four copies for you to win, courtesy of Exposure Cinema, just by telling us who’s your favourite screen star from Hollywood’s golden years and why?
Out of a very large hat we picked the following winners: Heather Gutowksi who thinks the late Elizabeth Taylor was ‘pure glamour’, Tom Morrison who fancies Betty Grable’s ‘million dollar legs’, James Holyland who believes Kirk Douglas made some ‘quality movies’, and Johannah (aka JoC) who loved Noel Coward’s melodic voice. Congratulations film fans.
To claim your prize, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your home address.
And if you are big fan of Film Noir, don’t forget to check out BBC2’s season of Fritz Lang films over the festive period. Just click here to find the full schedule.
To leave comments about this post, click on this link.