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The Door with Seven Locks

Chamber of Horrors

UK 1940
produced by
John Argyle
directed by Norman Lee
starring Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer, Romilly Lunge, Gina Malo, Richard Bird, David Horne, J.H. Roberts, Cathleen Nesbitt, Harry Hutchinson, Philip Ray, Robert Montgomery (II), Aubrey Mallalieu, Ross Landon
treatment by John Argyle, screenplay by Gilbert Gunn, Norman Lee, based on the novel by Edgar Wallace, music by Guy Jones

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Back in the day, eccentric Lord Selford (Aubrey Mallalieu) wrote up an eccentric will just before dying that had something to do with seven keys for the family crypt and that somehow tied in with his son John (Ross Landon) inheriting the family treasure when coming of age. Now John has come of age - but is somehow elusive. Selford's niece June (Lilli Palmer) is to inherit the fortune in the case of John's death, and she's called to an old man in a retirement home, Silva (J.H. Roberts), who tells her something of a great injustice and hands her one of the seven keys, but then he's shot. June dashes out of the room to fetch someone, and meanwhile Silva's body disappears and she's told the retirement home is to be closed down. June knows what she has seen though, so she reports the thing to Scotland Yard - where she falls on deaf ears from official sources, but Dick Martin (Romilly Lunge), who has only just resigned from his job, takes an instant liking in June and decides to take on her case. So the two of them, accompanied by her aunt Glenda (Gina Malo) and Selford lawyer Havelock (David Horne) travel up to Selford Manor that's presently inhabited by one Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks), an avid collector of instruments of torture. He proves to be the perfect host, but naturally there's something sinister to him. June and aunt Glenda are left alone at the manor for the night, and June finds another key. As she figures the walls have ears in the manor, she walks to the next village to call Martin from there, but is intercepted by Manetta's driver Cawler (Philip Ray), who instead drives her to Manetta's neighbours and accomplices the Codys (Cathleen Nesbitt, Harry Hutchinson) - who think the girl and her key are perfect bargaining chips to get a bigger share of whatever everyone's after ... but they're then killed by Manetta's butler Craig (Robert Montgomery). By now it seems Manetta has all the keys to the Selford crypt, so he goes to retrieve the treasure and lock June inside the crypt. But in the meantime. Martin has returned, Scotland Yard detective Andy (Richard Bird) in tow, and he dukes it out with Manetta, deliberately letting him trip into one of his own devices, an iron maiden, making Manetta to confess everything, that Selford's son John died soon after his father but he and his accomplices quickly replaced him with Havelock's son just so they can get their hands on the boy's trust fund and ultimately the family fortune. After his confession, Manetta poisons himself, and it's left to Martin to free June from the crypt ...

 

The plot of this movie is a total mess of course, as much of it doesn't make any sense, and that which does make sense often feels terribly contrived. Plus the film is bombarded by too many genre mainstays and feels terribly convoluted given its simple premise ... and somehow one has come to expect all of this from Edgar Wallace adaptations, to the point where this is really part of their attraction. And as Edgar Wallace movies go, this is a pretty ok one - nothing to write home about perhaps and at times awfully stagy in its execution, but there are some darkly atmospheric bits in there, Lilli Palmer makes an engaging leading lady, and some of the dialogue's suitably sharp. So chances are you'll be well entertained.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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