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Chamber of Horrors (1940) - Blu-ray Review

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Chamber of Horrors (1940) Blu-ray Review

3 beersThe fate of director Norman Lee’s Chamber of Horrors (aka The Door with the Seven Locks) is forever tied with Great Britain’s lifting of the Board of Censors’ ban on all things ghoulish and unsavory.  To say that the British response to the lifting of the ban was tepid is an understatement.  There was a bit of an unwillingness to believe that filmmakers could openly throw in supernatural elements into their pictures and so would peter about with darker films by cloaking them under the label of mysteries.

And the British made a ton of great mystery movies.  With the release of Chamber of Horrors; however, they were beginning their journey into the morbid and grotesque.  Ever so slowly, sure, but the beginnings are all evident in the successes of this 80-minute black and white film.

Loosely adapted from Edgar Wallace’s The Door with Seven Locks, the film was released in the United States with a new title by Monogram Pictures and was greeted with a better response.  Americans gobbled up its tale of gothic charm, as well as its murder and torture.  The comedy – thrown in so the British censors would give it a pass – helped, too.  And, yes, that comedy STILL works.

Starring The Most Dangerous Game’s Leslie Banks as Dr. Manetta, the beautiful Lilli Palmer as June Lansdowne, and Romilly Lunge as Dick Martin, Chamber of Horrors begins when Lord Charles Francis Selford (Aubrey Mallalieu, from The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) announces that upon his passing – which will be very soon – his vast wealth will go to his 11-year-old son.  Well, his staff is having none of that and plot out a decade long strategy to gain his wealth.

They just never guessed that the truth in their sidewinding plan to inherit a hell of a lot of wealth would be revealed beyond their inner circle.  Out come the silencers, the double-crossing, and – in quick sure-footed response – out comes Scotland Yard.  When not skirting the man-hunting antics of Judy’s lively aunt, Glenda Baker (Gina Malo), Inspector Cornelius Sneed (Richard Bird) and detective Richard Martin (Romilly Lunge) provide enough action and humor (through some seriously witty comments).

This is a creaky house classic that flirts with the ghastly and the ghostly elements more than it does court them.  That’s okay, though, as the banter between both the good and bad forces seems to roll off the tongues of these actors and actresses with ease.  The mystery isn’t a dynamic one, but it is a bit complicated and this complication extends to even itself as it becomes a bit self-referential toward the end of the movie.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Chamber of Horrors on blu-ray for the very first time.

Chamber of Horrors (1940) Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
79 mins
Director
: Norman Lee
Writer:
Gilbert Gunn; Norman Lee
Cast:
Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer, Romilly Lunge
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
What dark secrets lie hidden behind...
Memorable Movie Quote: "Women are like tiger cats. They ought to be caged at sixteen and shot at twenty!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Monogram Pictures
Release Date:
December 20, 1940
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 21, 2017
Synopsis: A murder is found to be connected to a false heir and a secret underground torture chamber.

Chamber of Horrors (1940) Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- March 21, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Chamber of Horrors is presented in 1080p with a crisp transfer that handles the blacks and grays quite well. Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it. The sound is presented in a solid DTS-HD Master Audio English track that is perfect for the film’s low budget demands.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Film Historian David Del Valle and Filmmaker Kenneth J. Hall provide the film’s commentary.

Special Features:

Only trailers from other Kino-Lorber releases are included.

Chamber of Horrors (1940) Blu-ray Review

 

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