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The Strange Door

The Strange Door


Charles Laughton - Alain de Maletroit
Boris Karloff - Voltan
Sally Forrest - Blanche de Maletroit
Richard Stapley - Dennis de Beaulieu
Paul Cavanaugh - Edmond de Maletroit
Joseph Pevney - Director
Ted Richmond - Producer
Jerry Sackheim - Screenwriter
Irving Glassberg - Cinematographer
Miklós Rózsa - Music Cues

The Strange Door Very much a B movie, luridly adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson's story "The Sire de Maletroit's Door," The Strange Door attempts to revive the Universal style of the thirties but emerges more like a prototype for the Roger Corman Poe series that started in 1960 with House of Usher. Charles Laughton goes enjoyable over-the-top as a 17th-century nobleman madly dispensing tortures and prowling the gothic castle where the rightful owner--his brother (Paul Cavanagh), who had the temerity to marry the woman he loved--lies rotting in a dungeon with Boris Karloff as his baleful (but sympathetic) keeper.

Frustrated in his plan to complete his revenge by marrying Cavanagh's daughter to a drunken rake, Laughton throws both the daughter (Sally Forrest) and her lover (Richard Stapley) into her father's cell for a thunderous climax in which he starts the waterwheel mechanism that will bring the cell walls slowly crashing together. Karloff, biding his time and beautifully balancing Laughton's bravura with his quiet understatement, survives several bullet holes and stabbings long enough to ensure that Laughton's body, snared in the waterwheel, brings the mechanism grinding to a halt.

Much better than its reputation suggests, the film is surprisingly imaginatively directed by Joseph Pevney, not noted for horror movies although he did direct the Lon Chaney biopic, Man of a Thousand Faces (1957).

--PHIL HARDY, ed. from The Encyclopedia of
Horror Films
, 1986

A selection of The Strange Door related films.

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A selection of The Strange Door in books.

A History of Horror

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