DVD region 0. Odeon
Universal horror cycle that began at the start of the 1930’s
was generally held to be over by the end of the Forties, and so
1951 film The Strange Door has often been overlooked
by fans – a situation not helped by the fact that this film
has no supernatural elements. Yet to ignore this movie is a shame,
as it’s actually one of the better made and more interesting
of the Universal horrors.
on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Sire de Maletroit's
Door, the film opens with wealthy lecherous layabout
Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Stapley) apparently murdering a man
during a drunken brawl. Fleeing, he finds himself hiding out in
the home of the Sire de Maletroit (Charles Laughton), where he
quickly discovers that he has been framed and tricked into coming
here. He’s trapped in a house with only one exterior door
– a door without an inside handle. Maletroit plans to force
him to marry his niece Blanche (Sally Forrest), who is also a
prisoner and is being made to suffer as punishment for her mother
marrying Maletroit’s brother, who she believes to be dead.
In fact, he is also a prisoner, kept locked up in a dungeon and
guarded by loyal servant Voltran (Boris Karloff).
This gothic melodrama has many admirable qualities. Laughton is
head and shoulders above most of the stars found in Universal’s
horror film, one moment charming, the next cruel and ruthless,
with a pettiness and cowardly nature never far from the surface.
Stapely effectively manages to evolve from being an arrogant fop
to a solid hero, and Karloff is excellent too in one of his more
It’s more than likely that this is a classic horror that
you’ve missed. If so, the DVD release is a good chance to
correct that oversight.
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