25 October 2014

The Strange Door (1951)
81 min.
Directed by Joseph Pevney.
With Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Sally Forrest, Richard Stapley, William Cottrell, Alan Napier, Morgan Farley, Paul Cavanagh, Michael Pate.
Laughton and Karloff are a promising duo, and together they give this 1951 horror tale everything they've got.

But unfortunately, it's not enough to bring this weak effort to life.

Based on a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, the plot is simple. In Victorian France, aristocrat Alain de Maletroit (Laughton) is driven insane after his brother Edmond (Cavanagh) steals his one and only love.

So, he fakes Edmond's death and imprisons him in the family dungeon.

But he ain't gonna stop there. Now, twenty years later, Alain has come up with a diabolical plan to get his ultimate revenge.

Aided by manservant Voltan (Karloff), Alain wants to marry his niece Blanche - poor Edmond's only daughter - to vagabond playboy/rascal Denis (Stapley).

(We said the plot was "simple." We didn't say it held together, did we?)

Turns out, Blanche and Denis fall in love, and Voltan has really pledged his allegiance to Edmond instead. Will evil Alain still rule the day?

Strange Door is pleasant viewing, to be sure. But it never manages to build a full head of steam, thanks to poorly drawn characters (Blanche might as well be a cardboard cutout), and sloppy pacing.

Laughton seems to be having fun, but this is a one man thriller party and no one else has been invited.

Karloff completists will want to check this out - it's by no means his *worst* hour - but most will find this humdrum at best.

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