A shadowy sanitarium provides the claustrophobic stage for sadism paranoia and murder in this classic film. Studio: Kino International Release Date: 07/18/2000 Starring: Richard Carlson Lucille Bremmer Run time: 62 min... more »utes Rating: N/r Director: Budd Boetticher« less
"It seems like everything done in black and white in the forties, unless there was some singing and dancing in it, is now a film noir. (Well, excluding Olivier's 1949 Hamlet, I suppose.) When this "Poverty Row" production came out in 1948 I'm sure it was billed as a mystery/suspense tale, but never mind. "Film noir" is now a growth industry.There's a gumshoe, Ross Stewart played by Richard Carlson, whom I recall most indelibly as Herbert A. Philbrick of TV's cold war espionage series "I Led Three Lives" from the fifties when HUAC had us all looking under our beds for commies. Lucille Bremer, near the end (which was also near the beginning) of a very modest filmland career, co-stars as Kathy Lawrence, a newspaper woman with a story idea. She needs a private eye to do the investigative dirty work.Ross Stewart has just hung out his gumshoe shingle and had the frosted glass door of his office lettered and is paying the painter when Kathy Lawrence shows up. (I love all the private eye movies which begin with the dame showing up at the PI's office needing help. So logical, so correct; so like a noir "Once upon a time.") She wants him to pretend to be insane so that she can get him committed to a private sanitarium where she believes a corrupted judge is hiding, thus the locked doors in the title.What I liked about this is the way the low-budget production meshed with the gloomy and aptly named "La Siesta Sanitarium," the scenes shot in rather dim light giving everything a kind of shady appearance. The story itself and the direction by Oscar "Budd" Boetticher defines "pedestrian," but there is a curious and authentic period piece feel to the movie that can't be faked. Postmodern directors wanting to capture late-forties, early fifties L.A. atmosphere would do well to take a look at this tidy 62-minute production.Tor Johnson, the original "hulk" (perhaps) plays a dim-witted but violent punch drunk ex-fighter who is locked in a padded cell. He comes to life when the fire extinguisher outside his door is sadistically "rung" by one of the attendants with his keys, thereby springing the hulk into shadow boxing imaginary opponents. Could it be that he will get a live one later on...?See this for Richard Carlson who made a fine living half a century ago playing the lead or supporting roles in a slew of low budget mystery, horror and sci fi pictures, most notably perhaps The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)."
What kind of a joint is this?
Steven Hellerstedt | 08/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's something spare and muscular about Budd Boetticher's 1948 BEHIND LOCKED DOORS. Storytelling without any frills or ruffles, I guess you could say. A lean 62-minute, Poverty Row thriller that Kino International files under "film noir" because, well, noir sells. And because any film with deep shadows and venetian blinds can pass nowadays. Besides, you have to justify a rather inflated price for a video that contains nothing else besides the movie and chapter selections. Boetticher is better known for the westerns he directed in the 50s with the likes of Audie Murphy and Robert Ryan and, especially, Randolph Scott. Boetticher's westerns are currently unavailable on dvd and this is my first exposure to his work. If they were available I'd certainly put them at the top of the queue. On the basis of BEHIND LOCKED DOORS I've filed Boetticher under "storytelling genius." BEHIND LOCKED DOORS stars Lucille Bremer as an enterprising and ambitious reporter who is convinced a crooked judge is hiding out in a private sanitarium. Richard Carlson (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) plays private investigator Ross Stewart, who is convinced by the beautiful young reporter to pretend to be her husband and allow himself to be committed and do a little snooping inside the sanitarium. As further inducement, there's a $10,000 reward for the person who discovers the elusive jurist. Lucille Bremer sang and danced with Fred Astaire in a couple of MGM musicals (YOLANDA AND THE THIEF, ZIEGFIELD FOLLIES) before, apparently, MGM dropped her contract in the mid-1940s. She made three films for the Poverty Row production company Eagle-Lion Films in 1948 before retiring, that same year, at the age of 31. BEHIND LOCKED DOORS was her last movie. Her film career lasted less than a decade, and according to The Film Encyclopedia Ms. Bremer ran a child's clothes shop after retirement. Her and co-star Carlson have an easy, wise-cracking chemistry. Keep your eyes open for Tor Johnson (PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE) as the hulking, ex-boxer inmate and target of the delightfully sadistic attendant Larson (Douglas Fowley.) Although you can probably find a copy of BEHIND LOCKED DOORS for less than the listed retail price, considering the asking price it's hard to give this great film five stars. The print and sound quality are good.
Rather Stupid, But Very Tough For B-Fans To Dislike.
Doghouse King | Omaha, NE United States | 11/21/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This entertainingly old-fashioned descent into dystopia would be most accurately categorized as noir, but there are a number of ways this feels like a 50's sci-fi or horror film. This feeling is heightened, and borders on (or smacks headlong into) camp during those scenes boasting the presence of one Tor Johnson. (Hey, it may just be the best film Tor ever appeared in.)The somewhat Woolrich-esque plot has to do with a carefree detective teaming up with a pretty Bette Davis looking newspaper reporter to scope out the whereabouts of a wanted criminal called The Judge. She thinks he is hiding in a nearby private sanitarium because she has seen his moll sneak in the back way late at night. But she needs a man on the inside. Hoping to score a date and half of the reward money, the detective agrees to play someone in need of therapy. He goes in, but will he be able to get out alive?Don't expect a realistic examination of mental illness like in The Snake Pit. This was meant only to shock audiences of an era when even minor disorders were still a dark unknown. The fact that its alternate title was The Human Gorilla should tell you where it's coming from. Still, dont expect tawdry thrills like in Shock Corridor, either. A couple of screams in the night, a polite pyro and a punchdrunk boxer are all you'll see. The lead actor's affected manic-depressive bent seems like little more than slight case of the grumps. And aside from a severely fat lip and two shiners, he is unchanged by his experience behind these locked doors.In tone I liken this movie to High School Confidential; that was not its intent, mind you. But more than 50 years of hindsight into the subject matter make its treatment of it not very disturbing, even vaguely comic.Yet the movie has its own unique charms. It's faster than Detour, weirder than DOA, not as mechanical as T-Men. The cast is one well-known to genre fans. Besides Tor there's Richard Carlson of Creature From the Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space, as well as Tom Browne Henry, who acted in The Brain From Planet Arous, Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, The Beginning of the End, and many other treats. Director Budd Boetticher, known mostly in connection with a series of intelligent and low-key Randolph Scott westerns, directs this work solidly. He demonstrates an understanding of the chiaroscuro but seemed reluctant to go far very with it. In addition, there is some forced but peppy dialogue in the beginning, and a few instances later on which aim for Hitchcock-style suspense. That they do not attain that rarified level is, to my way of thinking, not as important as that the attempt was made. The climax is decently thrilling yet seems somehow pat, perhaps because it is predictable.Yet the movie never dull, and come on, it has Tor...See also: The Unearthly; Fear in the Night"
Short and Sweet B-Movie Thriller.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 07/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At just over an hour long, "Behind Locked Doors" is a short B-movie that would have played as part of a double bill in the 1948. Now it seems barely longer than a television episode, but its style is decidedly cinematic. Investigative reporter Kathy Lawrence (Lucille Bremer) has tracked a disgraced judge, Finlay Drake (Herbert Hayes), to a private mental hospital where he is hiding from the police. To get proof of Drake's whereabouts, Kathy enlists the aid of private detective Ross Stewart (Richard Carlson) in infiltrating the sanatarium. In exchange for half of the $5,000 reward for Drake's capture, Stewart poses as a mental patient and is committed to the asylum. The plan seems simple enough until Stewart discovers that he is in real danger. The sanatarium is ruled by a sadistic, abusive attendant named Larson (Douglas Fowley) whose suspicions are aroused by Stewart's snooping.
"Behind Locked Doors" is sometimes categorized as "film noir", but this is a thriller without any implication of noir except perhaps its claustrophobia. It does showcase several elements common to film noir and to 1940s cinema in general: low key lighting and night scenes enabled by improving film technology, confinement, and the prevalence of psychology -although this film doesn't take psychology seriously. "Behind Locked Doors" isn't a great film, but I was surprised by how really entertaining it is. It's short, predictable, and has elements of suspense and romantic comedy. The characters don't have depth, but they have enough pluck to keep the audience interested. Kathy is a no-nonsense, ambitious, career woman with a sense of humor. Ross is smitten with her, even as he has gotten himself locked in a looney bin. Don't expect the sophistication of film noir, but director Oscar Boetticher made "Behind Locked Doors" a captivating little film. 3 1/2 stars. The Kino Video (2000) DVD has an acceptable print but no bonus features."
MINIMALIST GEM OF A THRILLER
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 01/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ever say, "Everyone here's crazy but me"? Then you'll love this frightening, minimalist, low budget and very claustrophobic 1948 thriller. Detective Richard Carlson checks himself into an asylum in an attempt to find a crooked judge hiding from justice. But before he can nail the judge, his identity is uncovered and he becomes a prisoner of his own scheme. And the only person who can rescue him is the double crossing woman who sent him there! A hard-edged, bare-bones thriller from director Budd Boetticher ("The Killer is Loose," "Comanche Station," "Bullfighter And The Lady") who would later gain fame from a series of stark, existential westerns ("The Tall T," "Ride Lonesome," "Seven Men From Now" etc.) starring damaged, moral loner Randolph Scott adrift in an ambiguous amoral environment. Personal note: In the 70's I got to know the late Budd Boetticher as a friend. We'd go riding in Griffith Park on his Andalusians and we made several trips to Mexico where he still practiced his dangerous and beloved craft of fighting bulls from horseback. In life and in films, he seemed obsessed with playing out the role of male antagonist in constant battle with his surroundings. Boetticher preceded director Sam Peckinpah in themes that made the latter famous. Boetticher was the real thing. It's great to see this early gem available on DVD. (Full Screen, B&W, 68 minutes, Not Rated.)"