Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Laughton vs Karloff in a fight to the finish!
THE STRANGE DOOR (1951). Director: Joseph Pevney.

"Don't think badly of me. Family affection was never my strong point."

"I'm sorry I can't invite you to the wedding, but I fear a man who's been dead for twenty years might cast a gloom over the company."

"The Sire De Maletroit's Door" is not one of Robert Louis Stevenson's more memorable short stories, but it was expanded into this interesting film which teams Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff and turns them into adversaries. Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Stapley/Wyler) is on the run from a murder charge when he happens upon an entrance to De Maletroit's manor house that locks firmly behind him. De Maletroit, sitting calmly in his parlor, informs Denis that he is his nephew -- by marriage -- and a sort of shotgun wedding is in the offer. Seems De Maletroit has a pretty niece, Blanche, (Sally Forrest), who is in love with a man who vanished, but whom her uncle wants married to a mountebank so as to make her life miserable. His motives become clearer as the film progresses, climaxing with a wild scene in a dungeon with a cell whose walls slowly and inexorably come closing together. Laughton is as wonderful as ever, Karloff is fine as a manservant who is loyal to another, and Stapley is okay, although Sally Forrest is more decorative than anything else. The Strange Door is not a great movie, and one might have wished for more interaction between its two famous stars, but Laughton is given some great dialogue and delivers it with his customary aplomb.

Verdict: Anything with these two ... ***.

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