Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Secret Beyond the Door (1947)

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There have been plenty of films that have dealt with secrets kept behind locked doors. In these films there is the sketchy person who keeps the door closed and that one annoying person who has to find the secret behind it because they feel it is the key to helping the secret keeper. Oh and it looks like Fritz Lang made Noir about kept secrets behind doors in Secret Beyond the Door.
            Celia (Joan Bennett) is about to walk down the aisle to be married. We hear her internal monologue describing her feeling of getting married is as if she is drowning and parts of her life up to that moment flash before her eyes. She thinks about the last time she saw her older brother Rick and how that was the last time they had been on good terms with each other. She had been set to marry Bob, an old family friend. Before she was set to marry Bob, Celia and her friend had traveled down to Mexico for a vacation. While in a market shopping a duel of some sort breaks out between men who have been seeing the same woman. Celia describes how she was unable to move away from the scene she had to see the outcome. A knife flies right by her and lands very close to her hand she had leaning on the stall. There were so many eyes on her but there was one pair she felt linger and look at her like no one else ever has.
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            Celia and her friend are at a café. She sends her friend away when she sees the man enter the café. The man is Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave). Mark is unlike any man she has ever met. For the rest of the trip Celia and Mark are inseparable. She does not want to go back to her boring life in New York with Bob and her brother. She writes a letter to Bob to break things off with him and marries Mark.
            As she walks down the aisle to marry Mark, Celia feel frightened since she is marrying a man she barely knows and the dark voices in her head are not letting her be. Celia goes through with the marriage despite the voices and the feelings. While on their honeymoon, Mark explains his theory about rooms. He is an architect and has a theory that rooms can determine what happens in them. They can create bad moments or happy moments. That night Celia is getting herself ready after she has a bath. She decides to make Mark wait for her and toy with his feelings a little bit by locking the door. When she hears the door handle move and then Mark give up she runs out of the room and looks for him. Celia reaches Mark in the garden and he tells her he suddenly has to leave for New York because he has gotten an offer for his architectural magazine. Celia is upset that Mark is not taking her with him. She feels she has upset him by not letting him into her room. Those feelings change when a letter from Mark comes that things have been settled already and she can come to his family home in a few days.
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            Things surrounding Mark and his family are hinky almost as soon as Celia steps off the train. Mark is not there to great her instead his sister has been sent. The sister is a little tough and no nonsense. At the house Celia sees someone in the window. She sees it is a little boy. She now just learns that Mark has a son named David and that his first wife died some time ago.
            The house holds several secrets that Celia was not ready to face such as David having a collection of period rooms that are the actual rooms where historical murders have taken place and a secretary who has loved Mark for years. Celia goes back and forth thinking certain occurrences are her doing or that of the other people or the rooms in the house.
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            The rest of the story is a big “what the hell is going on”. As soon as Celia arrives at Mark’s house the whole story takes a dive. The reason Mark is a little odd is not good at all and neither is the reason his first wife dies.

            I was upset with the way Secret Beyond the Door unfolded. Joan Bennett and Michael Redgrave felt wasted. Any other actor and actress could have played their roles. Fritz Lang is such a great director. I loved his direction in his film despite the disappointing story. It felt surrealistic as if Celia was in a dream. If you think about it Celia was put/put herself into a surrealistic situation marrying someone she hardly knew and then finding out all these deep psychological secrets in her new husband’s house. I find characters that pry when they were told to keep out to be annoying. Obviously that has to happen otherwise there would be no story but Celia should have just kept her curiosity to herself! (was that harsh? That was harsh). Miklos Rosza provided a haunting score that created the tension that the story was missing. I am not going to say to not watch Secret Beyond the Door for three reasons: it is a Film Noir, Joan Bennett is always great to see in a film, and Fritz Lang’s direction. It is worth watching at least once. 
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