• The Strange Door (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: April 23rd, 2019.
    Director: Joseph Pevney
    Cast: Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Sally Forrest, Richard Wyler, Alan Napier
    Year: 1951
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    The Strange Door – Movie Review:

    Based on The Sire de Maletroit's Door, a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, the 1951 Universal Pictures production of The Strange Door tells the tale of the Sire de Maletroit (Charles Laughton), a French nobleman with a strange familial relation – he hates his brother Edmond (Paul Cavanagh) so much that he has the man rounded up and imprisoned deep within the bowels of his castle home. Why? Two decades prior, Edmond married the woman Sire loved only to then die during childbirth. Edmond has been locked away ever since.

    Not content just to lock Edmond up, he also recruits a patsy, a rascal named Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Wyler, credited as Richard Stapley), to marry Edmond’s lovely daughter, Blanche (Sally Forrest). Unfortunately for Sire, this bizarre plan backfires on him when Denis and Blanche really and truly fall quite deeply in love with one another. They decide, with some help from Sire’s put-upon servant Voltan (Boris Karloff), make a daring escape only to be captured by Sire once again where they’re put in a specially designed dungeon with walls that will close in and possibly kill the poor couple!

    Directed by Joseph Pevney (Female on the Beach), this is a pretty entertaining way to killer eighty-one-minutes. There’s plenty of tension here, and a few eerie moments that resonate quite effectively after the picture has finished. It was clearly made on a modest budget but the production values are pretty decent and the set design works quite well. The castle and dungeon interiors are interesting to look at and help add a good amount of to the proceedings. The whole thing has an effectively gothic look and tone to it, and that makes the story all the more interesting. Pevney paces the picture well, it never feels slow or dull.

    Performances are quite good. Charles Laughton is a bit of a powerhouse here, really giving 110% to his role. He chews through more than his fair share of the scenery but that doesn’t make him any less entertaining to watch. If he overdoes it, somehow it works in the context of that reasonably ludicrous story being told. Karloff is also good here. He doesn’t really go for subtle, and he matches Laughton almost every step of the way. There’s a lot of entertainment value to be had from watching the two act together. Stapley is fine here too, and Forrest and Cavanaugh are also pretty solid.

    The Strange Door – Blu-ray Review:

    The Strange Door arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in an AVC encoded 1080p presentation framed at 1.37.1 on a 25 disc. The transfer here is a very good one. The sharp black and white photography shows very good contrast and strong black levels. Detail easily surpasses the DVD edition (it was included in Universal’s Boris Karloff Collection DVD set), it’s very noticeable, and the whole thing just shows a lot more depth and texture than it has before. There’s the occasional white spot here and there but nothing too serious or distracting in terms of print damage. All in all, this is quite a pleasing presentation.

    The DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in the film’s native English, sounds very good for an older mono film. There are no problems with any hiss or any distortion and the levels are nicely balanced. Range is, understandably, a bit limited of course but everything sounds nice and clear. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    The main extra on the disc is a feature-length commentary from Tom Weaver, David Schecter and Dr. Robert J. Kiss. Weaver delivers the bulk of the track, with Schecter and Kiss chiming in on their areas of expertise when the movie calls for it (it’s like a scene specific tag team match), while occasionally voice actors are used to recreate interview text from past projects where Weaver spoke to both Pevney and Stapley about the project. There’s a lot of great info here, they cover the cast and crew as you’d expect but also dive into the music, the sets and production design, the producers involved in the picture, the directing style, the characters, the script and more while still managing to offer some interesting critical analysis along the way. This track is definitely worth a listen.

    Aside from that we also get trailers for Witness For The Prosecution, The Paradine Case, Black Sabbath, The Crimson Cult and Female On The Beach but no trailer for the feature itself. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    The Strange Door – The Final Word:

    The Strange Door is more of a suspense picture than ‘pure horror’ but genre fans shouldn’t let that dissuade them. The film is quite tense with a few solid jolts and it is also loaded with atmosphere. On top of that, it’s got an excellent cast and some strong direction. Kino’s Blu-ray release is a good one. The presentation is very nice and while it isn’t loaded with extra features, the commentary adds a lot of value. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Strange Door Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      I didn't like this movie when I first viewed it in the BK collection. But it has grown on me very much and I think it is almost upper tier Universal. The bd is great.