Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dr. Renault's Secret (1942)

Dashing Young Doctor American (Shepperd Strudwick) goes to a small village in France to visit his young hottie fiancee (Lynne Roberts), who lives with her uncle, the mysterious Dr. Renault (George Zucco). Dr. Renault's manservant, the mysterious Noel, meets him at an inn, where they stay the night because the bridge has washed out. Also in attendance is the mysterious Rogell, Dr. Renault's ex-con gardener. A drunk crashes in dashing American's room, so he swaps with him. That night, drunk man is mysteriously strangled. Mistaken identity? The Police think so. So was it the strange Noel or Rogell, the angry ex-con? Or was is somebody ... no, you can rule out everybody else.

Life goes on at Dr. Renault's house and the plot thickens. What is Rogell up to, and what's up with the strange Noel? Dr. Renault seems charming enough. But he has a secret (apart from making crappy cars). A secret so dark, it's worthy of naming the movie after it. What to know what the secret is? You could watch about three quarters of the film, but if you're in a rush, you can just read the back of the DVD box.

Damn! They totally blew most of the mystery out of this film! They suck. But this film didn't. The acting was good, the sets were beautiful, and the sense of atmosphere was wonderful! Exactly what you want from an old B horror film! It was a real treat. It kept you guessing who the real bad guy was until the very end. I don't want to blow any of the story, but I'll say this:
Dashing Young Doctor American is a wuss in a fight. Also his medical specialty is the frontal lobotomy. That's where you correct a personality disorder by sticking an ice pick into someones eye and scrambling their brain. How charming!

J. Carrol Naish plays a nuanced Noel. We're never sure what to think of him. Fear him or feel sorry for him? Can't be sure. I never heard of this movie before I picked it up, but I'm glad I found it. It's everything you want from an old B horror film! AMRU 3.5.

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