Monday, October 30, 2006

Film Review--Behind Locked Doors (1948)

A brash young private eye (Richard Carlson) is hired by an equally brash young reporter (Lucille Brenner) to infiltrate a private sanitarium to corner a corrupt judge who is hiding from the police. Posing as a new patient, he discovers a lot more corruption in the asylum itself than the judge could muster.

The simple plot falls in line with the utterly cheap nature of this production directed by Budd Boetticher, who would go on to direct some of the most progressive and ambiguous American Westerns of the late ‘50s. Very darkly lit to hide this very cheapness, there is a palpable feeling of menace that emerges from the shadows as we watch this detective try and inch closer to the truth, all the while further suppressed by the asylum orderlies…ah, the disgusting corruption in the healing-for-profit game.

While the performances aren’t so hot, which include former professional wrestler and Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson as “The Champ,” a former boxing champion whose manias are regularly exploited for everyone’s amusement, the terse story and dark mood make up for it. In its 62 minutes, the film gives everything anyone could want out of the lurid “poverty row” pictures. It’s pretty good and worth a look, if for no other reason than its obvious comparison, if dubious influence, on Sam Fuller’s phenomenal 1963 thriller Shock Corridor. Despite the fact that the DVD release is part of a Kino collection of “Film Noirs,” it doesn’t really show any of the tell-tale signs of the genre. Really, it’s a simple crime drama but, in this day, if it’s cheap, dark, and old, it’s noir…whatever gets them through the night, I guess.