Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Strange Door (1951)

Director: Joseph Pevney

Writers: Jerry Sackheim, Robert Lewis Stevenson

Composer: ???

Starring: Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Sally Forrest, Richard Wyler, William Cottrell, Alan Napier, Morgan Farley, Paul Cavanagh, Michael Pate

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Robert Louis Stevenson's masterpiece of TERROR

Plot:  Noble-born cad Denis (Stapley) has been tricked into a forced stay at the eerie manor of the Sire de Maletroit (Laughton), an evil madman who can't get over the death of his beloved, twenty years after she married his brother (Cavanagh) instead and subsequently passed away during childbirth. Maletroit is determined to have his revenge: the brother has been stowed away in the dungeon for two decades, while he's convinced his disreputable house guest will make a suitably hellish husband for his niece. As luck would have it, the young couple manage to fall in love, and with the help of manservant Voltan (Karloff), they try to make their escape, but not before a final confrontation with Maletroit in the dungeon's crushing deathtrap.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

Karloff fans will be disappointed to know that he's not in the picture much.  But then it's got lots of Charles Laughton having a ball playing a deliciously nasty cad.  The production design is wonderful as is the black and white photography.  The story is quite, good, too.  The one problem I have with this picture, and it's a doosey, is the wooden, near-monotoned acting from the hero lead, Richard Wyler.  He's bad.  I'd love to know how he got the role because it certainly wasn't on his ability.  It doesn't help that he's surrounded by much better actors.  He brings down the picture quite a bit but he doesn't come close to ruining it.  There's a lot to like with this film, with or without Wyler's contribution. The final ten or so minutes have minimal dialogue, no music and a good deal of suspense.  This is one of five films in The Boris Karloff Collection box set from Universal.  There are no extras for this film.

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