Secret Beyond the Door (1947) | Four Film Noir Classics
November sees the release of the lavish FourFilm Noir Classics, a fantastic box set that brings together dazzling high definition prints of some of the best films in the acclaimed crime genre: The Dark Mirror (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers), starring Olivia de Havilland; Secret Beyond the Door (1947) directed by Fritz Lang (The Big Heat), starring Joan Bennett and Michael Redgrave; Force of Evil (1948), directed by Abraham Polonsky, and starring the legendary John Garfield; and Joseph H. Lewis’ brutal and brilliant The Big Combo (1955), with Cornel Wilde and Richard Conte. Limited to 2000 copies and packed with superb extras, the Dual Format box set also comes with a highly-collectable hardback book on all the films.
Headlining the selection comes a dark domestic drama from Fritz Lang. THE SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR stars a luminous Joan Bennett as Celia, a elegant woman who marries a troubled and mercurial architect Mark (Michael Redgrave) with a secret past. Lang himself had started studying the profession in Vienna (his father was an architect). Film Writer Walter Benjamin wrote: “that watching films is a simultaneous and collective effort, therefore architecture is closest to the cinema of all the classical art forms. They are related and they are viewed the same way, but cinema is able to show the masses in their way of life. Film shows us an enlarged, unbelievable new world”.
So Death and architecture are again the themes here, as they were in Metropolis (1927): more than twenty years after Der Müde Tod Lang (1921) Lang again picks one of his favourite combinations. The feature has a layered Russian-Doll like structure, there are continuous flashbacks – optical, verbal and architectonic – including daydreams, hallucinations and phantasies that come to life. All the time, the objects become symbols, which often in a pathological way, transform memories and phantasms into a much more potent layer of consciousness than the real world.
The architect Mark Lamphere (Redgrave) has closeted himself in a gothic mansion where he has designed three rooms, filled with furniture from a secret room where a murder had occurred. This room is dedicated to the memory a wife stabbed to death by a husband who thought she was being unfaithful. In the second chamber, a young man tied his mother to a chair, and drowned her. The third room is the copy of the bedroom of Mark’s first wife Caroline (Revere), for whose death Mark feels responsible. He has certainly a very disturbed view of women, and when he shows his second wife Celia (Bennett) the third room, she is stunned to recognize her own bedroom. Since his childhood, Mark had repressed murderous instincts, for which he feels guilty. Celia knows that if her “therapy” is not successful, she will pay with her life.
Lang himself was no fan of this feature – during the shooting there were many setbacks. “The ending is really ridiculous. Nobody is healed so quickly from traumatic obsessions”. But there is much to be said in favour of Secret Beyond the Door: Silvia Richards’ screenplay, based on the novella by Rufus King, is very tight but also innovative. veteran DoP Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Andersons, Night of the Hunter) excelled with his stylish dissolves and long panning shots and the music of Miklos Roza is haunting, but never competes with the visuals. Lang might not have like the end product, but Secret is a small masterpiece.
OTHER TITLES IN THIS DUAL FORMAT LIMITED EDITION ARE THE DARK MIRROR (1946), FORCE OF EVIL (1948), THE BIG COMBO – Main picture – (1955)| AVAILABLE FROM 20 NOVEMBER | ARROW@FETCH.FM| INCLUDING A HARDBACK BOOK ON ALL THE FILMS