Secret Beyond the Door… (Kino) – Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Lang's psychological noir returns to Blu-ray
Secret Beyond the Door Screenshot

Today, Secret Beyond the Door… After arriving in America, master German director Fritz Lang made his auspicious Hollywood debut with Fury (1936). Over the next decade, Lang dabbled in different genres but soon found the burgeoning film noir genre in the 1940’s to be well suited for him and his past experience in German Expressionism was put to great use. The decade brought some of his finest works in America, including Man Hunt (1941), Hangmen Also Die! (1943), Ministry of Fear (1944), The Woman in the Window (also 1944) and Scarlet Street (1945); however, one of his interesting efforts in the noir genre during this time was Secret Beyond the Door… Originally released by Universal-International Pictures (and released on Blu-ray by Olive Films in 2012 and by Arrow Films in a Region Free Blu-ray in 2018), Kino has licensed the movie from Paramount Pictures (the current rights holder for the movie) for its latest Blu-ray release.

Secret Beyond the Door... (1947)
Released: 12 Apr 1948
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 99 min
Director: Fritz Lang
Genre: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery
Cast: Joan Bennett, Michael Redgrave, Anne Revere
Writer(s): Silvia Richards, Rufus King
Plot: After a lovely woman and her new husband settle in an ancient mansion on the East coast, she discovers that he may want to kill her.
IMDB rating: 6.6
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
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. 38 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 05/07/2024
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4/5

When bored New York heiress Celia (Joan Bennett) meets and weds architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave) while on vacation in Mexico, she thinks she’s found the one to spend the rest of her life with. But a playful act done by Celia to Mark during their honeymoon reveals to Celia that her new husband might have a few demons and skeletons in his closet that he’s keeping secret from her. When they return to Mark’s estate in the upstate New York town of Levender Falls, more shocking secrets are brought to light and reveal that Mark has a strange obsession with murder and the death of his first wife Eleanor. Despite the risks to her life, Celia pledges to stay and discover the truth in order to find the key to her future happiness with Mark.

One of the more interesting films of Fritz Lang’s sojourn in Hollywood, Secret Beyond the Door… is an intriguing noir that mixes in several elements to this cinematic interpretation of the “Bluebeard” folktale. Based off of the story by Rufus King, Silvia Richards’ script mixes in elements from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) with a heady dash of Freudian undertones simmering beneath the surface of the story; this unique concoction brings a murkiness to the proceedings that’s actually a benefit rather than a detriment overall (even now, I still can’t tell if Mark actually did kill his first wife or not). The film also greatly benefits from the presence of cinematographer Stanley Cortez and composer Miklós Rózsa to create an intoxicatingly disorienting atmosphere that’s reminiscent of the German Expressionism films that first helped to make Lang’s career as a director. However, the cherry on top here is that in addition to Lang’s assured direction, he manages to elicit some great performances from his cast. In the end, Secret Beyond the Door… is one of the more underrated films in the career of Fritz Lang and the film noir genre as a whole, one that’s absolutely worth checking out.

In her fourth and final collaboration with Fritz Lang, Joan Bennett acquits herself very well as Celia, the socialite who may or may not be targeted for death by her new husband; while her working relationship with Lang ended, her association with the film noir genre did not, as she would go on to appear in The Scar (1948) and The Reckless Moment (1949) shortly after this movie. Coming in the same year which he earned his only Oscar nomination for Best Actor (Mourning Becomes Electra), Sir Michael Redgrave has one of his most underrated film performances of his career; his Mark Lamphere comes off as a cross between Laurence Olivier in Rebecca and Cary Grant in Suspicion. Anne Revere makes a memorable impression as Mark’s sister who keys Celia in on some of Mark’s secrets while Barbara O’Neil fills the Mrs. Danvers type role as the secretary with a few secrets of her own; while this would be Revere’s last appearance in the noir genre, O’Neil would make two more trips into the darkness, both with director Otto Preminger: Whirlpool (1949) & Angel Face (1952). Rounding out the cast here are Natalie Schafer as Celia’s chatty friend Edith, Paul Cavanagh as Celia’s close associate Rick, James Seay as another of Celia’s close associates Bob Dwight, Mark Dennis as David Lamphere, Rosa Rey as Paquita and an uncredited Virginia Brissac as Sarah the housekeeper.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio, taken from a 2022 HD transfer created by Paramount Pictures from a 4K scan of the film elements. Film grain, fine details and gray scale all appear to be faithfully presented with only minor cases of scratches, tears and dirt present on the transfer. This release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and easily surpasses the previous Olive Films Blu-ray.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and Miklós Rózsa’s suspenseful music score are all presented faithfully with minimal cases of distortion like crackling, popping and hissing present. Overall, this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and bests the previous Olive Films Blu-ray release.

Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by author/film historian Alan K. Rode – Recorded for this release, Rode delves into the film’s production history as well as the thematic threads woven into the movie and where it stands in Lang’s overall career.

Bonus KLSC Trailers – The Woman in the Window, The Mad Doctor, The Web, Alias Nick Beal, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Love Letters, So Evil My Love & Human Desire

Notably MIA from Arrow’s 2018 Region Free Blu-ray release is another commentary track by Rode, an introduction by author/scholar Barry Keith Grant, a visual essay by filmmaker David Cairns, a 1947 radio adaptation, a poster gallery and a trailer for Lang’s Hangmen Also Die!

Overall: 4/5

Initially garnering an ambivalent reception from both critics and audiences upon first release, Secret Beyond the Door… is now one of the more intriguing film noirs of the 1940’s and one of Fritz Lang’s more interesting American films as well. Kino has done a solid job of bringing the film back into print, with a terrific HD transfer and an informative commentary track as a special feature (not all special features from previous home video releases couldn’t be included here). Highly recommended and worth upgrading from the Olive Films Blu-ray (hold on to your Region Free Arrow Blu-ray release for the special features that couldn’t be carried over here).

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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jayembee

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I have the Arrow edition (as part of the Four Film Noir Classics box set). I had the Olive edition, but got rid of it when I got the Arrow. But it sounds like it's worth getting this, too. Kino has already released Force of Evil, and if they manage to do the same with The Dark Mirror and The Big Combo, I might be able to get rid of the Arrow set.
 
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