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Gothic Pre-Code chiller debuts on home video 4 Stars

Best known today for the sublime film noir Gilda (1946), Hungarian born director Charles Vidor first came to the United States in 1922, after serving in the Austro-Hungarian army during the Great War (AKA World War I). After working as an assistant to Sir Alexander Korda, he made a short film in 1929 that got him a contract with Universal Pictures to work in the editorial department; after doing some uncredited work on The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), he made his official directorial debut with the Poverty Row feature Sensational Hunters (1933). For his sophomore effort, he went to Paramount, where they were adapting the Broadway hit Double Door; unavailable on home video for years, Kino has licensed the movie from Universal (the current rights holder) for its Blu-ray debut.

Double Door (1934)
Released: 04 May 1934
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 75 min
Director: Charles Vidor
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
Cast: Evelyn Venable, Mary Morris, Anne Revere
Writer(s): Jack Cunningham, Gladys Lehman, Elizabeth McFadden
Plot: In New York in 1910, wealthy spinster Victoria Van Brett controls with an iron hand both the family fortune and the lives of her younger sister Caroline and half brother Rip. When Rip marries Anne Darrow, a nurse who saved his life,
IMDB rating: 6.9
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 15 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 01/04/2022
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4/5

In 1910 New York City, spinster Victoria Van Brett (Mary Morris) rules her decaying 5th Avenue mansion with an iron will to match her fist. That rule is extended to her siblings – her sister Caroline (Anne Revere) and half-brother Rip (Kent Taylor) – whom she often manipulates to exert her influence over their lives. However, her reign of terror is challenged when Rip marries Anne Darrow (Evelyn Venable), a nurse who brought him back to health, and Anne starts to push back against Victoria’s domineering nature. But Victoria is determined to crush any chance of happiness Rip and Anne may have together, even using a deadly secret room kept behind a secret double door!

Fresh off of a smashing Broadway run, Double Door looked like it would also take Hollywood by storm as well. Based off of the play by Elizabeth McFadden – who, in turn, based it off of the real life Wendel family of New York, although the author would emphatically deny this – Paramount paid a handsome sum to bring this “old dark house” story to the screen. And the film version, directed with great style and zeal by Charles Vidor, opens up the play wonderfully with expressive camerawork by Harry Fischbeck and a solid adaptation by screenwriters Jack Cunningham and Gladys Lehman. Unfortunately, despite some solid notices by critics, audiences failed to see the point and the film faded into obscurity; a shame, since it’s a well done Gothic thriller of the Pre-Code era. Fortunately, Double Door has been rescued from obscurity and is ripe for reappraisal as one of the underrated gems of the era.

Reprising her role from the smash engagement on Broadway, Mary Morris excels in her only film appearance as the wicked Victoria; following the film’s release, she returned to the stage. Also brought over from the Broadway production was Anne Revere, also making her film debut as Victoria’s timid sister Caroline; she would return to Hollywood in 1940 and would also win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in National Velvet (1944) – plus two additional Oscar nods for The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) – before her career was halted by the blacklist in 1950. Paramount contract player – and later partial inspiration for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent (Clark Gable was the other half inspiration for the name) – Kent Taylor is decent as Rip while Evelyn Venable is luminous as Anne, the woman who becomes the focal point for Victoria’s smoldering resentment; the latter is better known today for providing the voice and model for the Blue Fairy in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio (1940). Rounding out the cast are Sir Guy Standing as the family attorney, Colin Tapley as Dr. Lucas, Anne’s friend and former lover, Halliwell Hobbes as Mr. Chase, the man who reluctantly hands Victoria the family heirloom pearls, and Virginia Howell, Frank Dawson, Helen Shipman and Leonard Carey as the Van Brett servants.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio for this release. Film grain is faithfully represented along with fine details and gray scale; there are instances where scratches and vertical lines are present but given the fact that the movie was unavailable until now, it can be forgiven. This is likely the best the movie will ever look on any home video format.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and brief music cues (Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is heard during the opening credits – like it was during the opening credits for Paramount’s earlier release of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1931 – and Air on the G String from Orchestral Suite No. 3 is played on the organ by Victoria in one scene) are all given clarity and strength in their faithful presentation. For a film that had never been released on home video until now, this release likely represents the best it will ever sound any format.

Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by film historian Tom Weaver – Newly recorded for this release, Weaver goes over the background of the film, the play, the real life inspiration behind both, as well as the contemporary reviews of the film; the playful nature concurrent with the facts is apparent throughout – note the use of the horse whinny from Young Frankenstein in the few times Victoria Van Brett’s name is mentioned.

Commentary by film historian David Del Valle and archivist/film historian Stan Shaffer – Also newly recorded for this release, Del Valle and Shaffer casually cover some of the same territory as Weaver, although some of their facts are a bit tangled up at times.

Bonus KLSC Trailers – Blackmail, Supernatural, The Undying Monster, The Spider Woman Strikes Back, Duel in the Sun & A Farewell to Arms

Overall: 4/5

Despite garnering strong critical notices, Double Door failed to ignite box office interest and faded into obscurity over the years despite an overall solid effort from everyone involved in front of and behind the camera. Kino has resurrected this effective Pre-Code chiller from the dead with a strong HD transfer and a pair of informative and engaging commentary tracks for bonus features. Highly recommended and absolutely worth checking out.

Amazon.com: Double Door: Evelyn Venable, Anne Revere, Mary Morris, Sir Guy Standing, Kent Taylor, Colin Tapley, Charles Vidor: Movies & TV

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