Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Strange Door

"The Strange Door" (1951, Joseph Pevney, Universal Pictures] is a strange film, indeed. It is neither truly horror nor solely period drama. It's loosely based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story and it hails from the post-horror period of Universal's history.

A nobleman called Alain (Charles Laughton) tricks a high-born, drunken good-for-nothing called Denis (Richard Stepley) to enter the only door to his miserable mansion with the intentions of marrying him to his neice, Blanche (Sally Forrest).

He hates his neice for he blames her for the death of her mother, his forbidden love, who died in childbirth. He also hates his brother, Blanche's father, (Paul Cavanagh) for he accuses him of stealing his 'true love' in the first place. And so, naturally, he's locked up his brother and told his neice that her father is dead... As you do.

His devious plan is foiled, however, when Denis turns out not be such a bad chap afterall, Blanche decides that marrying him would be OK with her and his manservant, Voltan (Boris Karloff), changes his allegiences and throws a man-shaped spanner in the works...

A strange movie, that doesn't feature much of its namesake strange door, the highlights are definitely the wicked and pompous brushness of Charles Laughton's character, some of the more flowery scripting which elevates the film to a more cerebral affair and, of course, the brief but important presence of the wonderful Boris Karloff, who could have definitely been given more to do.

The main drawbacks are that it's quite slow burning with very little action and too much dialogue, the Denis character has too much screentime and is of little interest when compared with his screenmates and, like some other latter Universal works, Karloff's character smacks of after-thought and comes across as a little forced.

By far it is not the best Universal movie, but it has its own charms.

[Image: Universal Pictures]