Director: Irvin Willat
Screenplay: Luther Reed
Release: Flicker Alley
When Flicker Alley announces a release I get excited, then I stop and look at the title. Behind the Door is not one of which I was aware. Let’s cut to the short, this release is spectacular, if you enjoy silent films, order it now.
From Flicker Alley:
Hobart Bosworth stars as Oscar Krug, a working-class American, who is persecuted for his German ancestry after war is declared. Driven by patriotism, Krug enlists and goes to sea. However, tragedy strikes when his wife (Jane Novak) sneaks aboard his ship and is captured following a German U-boat attack. Krug’s single-minded quest for vengeance against the sadistic German submarine commander (played with villainous fervor by Wallace Beery) leads to the film’s shocking and brutal climax.
In my experience, which is far from total, I do not remember very many early silents involving a good deal of water work. Sure, you have Battleship Potemkin but not many others. The same can be said for blood and this is, very, clearly a pre-code film; A disturbing pre-code film. And this is not even the most interesting part of Behind the Door’s story.
When the San Francisco Silent Film Festival decided that the film needed restoration they had two options. The first is a partial copy, with additional archival footage, from the Library of Congress. The second is a 35mm print from Russia. That is all. Two known copies. Two copies to scrub and reassemble into the most complete presentation possible.
There are a handful of clips what were clearly not salvageable, and some missing with production stills used as placeholders, but the vast majority of the film looked almost brand new, for a 98-year-old film. I have to make special mention of stunning Stephen Horne score. When the film was over and the disc menu reloads I had looked away for a moment and Horne’s theme started to play again, it was haunting.
Director: 7 – Cinematography: 7 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 5 – Main performance: 8 – Else performance: 3 – Score: 10 – Sound: NA – Story: 10 – Script: 9 – Effects: 7 – Design: 9 – Costumes: 8 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10