The Strange Door

The Strange Door is a 1951 American film noir thriller horror film, released by Universal Pictures, and starring Charles Laughton, Boris Karloff, Sally Forrest and Richard Stapley. Karloff's role is actually a supporting one but his name carried significant weight in the billing. The picture was directed by Joseph Pevney and was based on the short story "The Sire de Maletroit's Door" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Its alternative title was Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Door.[1]

The Strange Door
The theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Pevney
Produced byTed Richmond
Written byJerry Sackheim
Based onThe Sire de Maletroit's Door
by Robert Louis Stevenson
StarringCharles Laughton
Boris Karloff
Sally Forrest
Richard Stapley
CinematographyIrving Glassberg
Edited byEdward Curtiss
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 8, 1951 (1951-12-08) (New York City)
  • December 14, 1951 (1951-12-14) (Los Angeles)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited States


Sire Alain de Maletroit (Charles Laughton), plots revenge on his younger brother Edmond (Paul Cavanagh) for stealing Alain's childhood sweetheart, who died giving birth to Edmond's daughter Blanche (Sally Forrest). Alain secretly imprisons Edmond in his dungeon for 20 years and convinces Blanche that her father is dead.

Alain intends to further debase Blanche as revenge against Edmond. Alain tricks a high-born drunken cad, Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Stapley), in to believing he has murdered a man. Denis escapes a mob by entering the Maletroit chateau by an exterior door which has no latch on the inside. Alain makes Denis a captive intending to force the delicate Blanche into marriage with him.

Alain goes to the dungeon to torture Edmond with the news Blanche will be married to Denis, an unworthy rogue. After Alain leaves, Edmond asks the family servant Voltan (Boris Karloff) to kill Denis before the wedding. However, Denis shows unanticipated redemptive qualities and he and Blanche fall in love. When Voltan comes to kill Denis, Blanche pleads with Voltan to spare his life and help him escape.

Their attempts to escape are foiled by Alain, who then seals Edmond, Blanche and Denis in a stone cell and starts a waterwheel that presses the cell walls inward to crush them to death. Voltan fights Alain and gets the key to the dungeon and pushes Alain into the waterwheel, temporarily stopping the crushing walls. Wounded by the guards, Voltan struggles to the dungeon and, with his dying breath, gets the key to Denis just as the walls start moving in again. Denis, Blanche and her father escape the cell. Denis and Blanche decide to stay together and Edmond has the strange door removed from the chateau.


Home video release

The Strange Door, along with Night Key, Tower of London, The Climax and The Black Castle, was released on DVD in 2006 by Universal Studios as part of The Boris Karloff Collection. In 2019, Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release featured a fact-filled audio commentary by Tom Weaver, Dr. Robert J. Kiss and David Schecter.


  1. Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 353-354

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