Y’all know by now I am INTO visiting early horror, especially pre-1960s, even 70s and I have been thoroughly enjoying it. Yes, there are TONS of recent horror that I am behind on like X/Pearl or catching up on the Halloween franchise, Smile, Barbarian, etc and I will get to those eventually. Those aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, especially with streaming. I am glad to see new ideas and new films being told on screen in horror. I think between this and sci-fi, it’s where originality kinda resides (despite remakes/reboots that either work or don’t) and it’s cool that in 2022, we’re still getting that!
But for me, I have really been into just watching older horror and I think we all should. These are foundational in horror, underrated or overrated. The ones I have been watching seem to be hidden gems or underrated compared to other counterparts from the time period like today’s film which was released in 1940. Guess what else came out in the 1940s? Cat People (1942), a big personal favorite, The Phantom of the Opera (1943), The Wolf Man (1941), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) and so many more.
So Friday, I watched the last film in a compilation dvd set from Dollar Tree. This film is called Chamber of Horrors (1940) but it can also be found under the name The Door with Seven Locks and it’s black and white and I did a brief review on Letterboxd.
But we’re gonna do a more thorough review here!
Oh this film.
This film is a mystery, thriller, horror type of situation but you clearly start to figure out things very quickly. The plot is very simple: there is a hidden treasure that can only be unlocked by seven keys and these keys are mixed around and scattered and one falls into the hands of a young woman who is then soon targeted by criminals who want her key. And her key is the LAST key.
One thing I did enjoy from the film is the lead character, June Lansdowne (played by Lilli Palmer). She was smart, capable, fearless, not a damsel in distress which I really enjoyed. She was very observant of her surroundings and I liked her presence.
The downside was that the antagonists, I wish there was more to them than shown. The main villain, Dr. Manetta, he is the “head” of this operation but all the time, I kept thinking he gave the energy of the Organ Grinder from Batman Returns because he had facial hair and the monkey on his shoulder! I just, it’s clear he was the bad guy from the beginning and like who the hell didn’t see that coming? His “partners” which had been following June and using her to get what they want which is an overdue share of funds. To be honest, I don’t think Manetta had any use for them and probably wasn’t going to pay them. He seemed like a slimy man who cared ONLY for himself.
A funny moment is when June is at a hospital ward visiting the man who sent her the letter (and key) and there’s this portrait in the room and the eyes are removed so someone can spy. I legit was like “what in the Scooby Doo” because that’s what you see! Well, you see it in episodes where it’s a museum/library area and I just laughed.
This film was more of a thriller. There are some tense moments, definitely a mystery but I can see some horror elements within it. Overall, the film is okay and not a waste of time. You can figure out what’s happening pretty quickly. I mean, even June does. Well, she theorizes and she’s pretty much correct on her theory. Other supporting characters are just fine as well. Nothing special about them, but they feel like they just fill out the quota? I don’t know.
The Door with Seven Locks or Chamber of Horrors was directed by Norman Lee and stars Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer, Romilly Lunge, Gina Malo, based on the novel “The Door with Seven Locks” and is given 3 out of 5 stars.