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Secrets Beyond the Door: Treasures from the UCLA Festival of Preservation

Friday, August 7, 2009
9:00 p.m. Secret Beyond the Door
Fritz Lang (U.S., 1948)

Like many popular Hollywood women’s melodramas, Secret Beyond the Door begins with a plot twist: a young woman (Joan Bennett) marries a man she barely knows and soon feels he is threatening her life or trying to drive her insane. Fritz Lang acknowledged that Hitchcock’s Rebecca was an inspiration; Gothic themes of madness mixed with Freudian psychoanalysis were particularly in vogue in films of the late 1940s. The story—in which Bennett’s husband Michael Redgrave believes that rooms have the power to cause violence, even murder—affords Lang the opportunity to indulge in the kind of Expressionist shadowscapes he had been famous for in Germany in the 1920s, as well as his longstanding interest in architecture and its metaphoric connotations. Ultimately, the film is less about psychoanalysis than about Stanley Cortez’s beautifully photographed pastiche of Gothic and Expressionist imagery.

—Jan-Christopher Horak

• Written by Silvia Richards, based on a novel by Rufus King. Photographed by Stanley Cortez. With Joan Bennett, Michael Redgrave, Anne Revere, Barbara O’Neil. (99 mins, B&W, 35mm, Permission Swank Motion Pictures. Preservation funded by The Film Foundation and the Franco American Cultural Fund, a partnership of the Directors Guild of America; Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique; the Motion Picture Association of America; and the Writers Guild of America—West.)