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The Strange Door

The Strange Door(1951)

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At a tavern outside Paris in the 1600s, fiendish aristocrat Sire Alan de Maletroit signals his flunkies to embroil Denis de Beaulieu, a drunken ladies' man, in a fight for his life. When Denis is forced to shoot his opponent, the tavern mob immediately brands him a murderer and he is forced to flee through the countryside, arriving at the Maletroit castle as Maletroit has planned. Once Denis enters, the door closes behind him and will not reopen. Maletroit informs the startled young man that he is now a prisoner and will be forced to marry the aristocrat's niece, Blanche. After locking Denis in his room, Maletroit discusses with his henchman, Corbeau, his scheme to torment Blanche with this forced marriage. After a horrible scream echoes throughout the castle, Maletroit warns his servant, Voltan, to quiet the madman in the dungeon. That night, Denis finds a beautiful young woman in his room and, upon discovering that she is Blanche, distrusts her as a Maletroit. The next morning, however, he realizes that Blanche is innocent when she begs Maletroit to let Denis go and allow her to marry a man she loves. Maletroit scoffs at her request and visits the dungeon, where his brother Edmond has been imprisoned for years. He tortures Edmond with the news that his daughter will soon be married to a faithless rogue, but as soon as his captor leaves, Edmond, who only pretends to be insane to stay alive, secures a promise from the faithful Voltan to kill Denis. Meanwhile, Blanche reveals to Denis that everything she has ever loved has been taken from her, and they agree to escape together. Voltan plans to stab Denis that night, but when Blanche implores him to help Denis escape, Voltan agrees, and leads the young man through a secret passageway toward the burial grounds. Before Denis can escape, however, a guard attacks, and he is forced to kill the man. Upon recognizing him as the man he supposedly killed in the tavern, Denis realizes that Maletroit is a madman who orchestrated the entire scheme to hurt Blanche, and returns to the castle to protect her. During the wedding celebration the next day, Denis is grateful to see an old friend, Count Grassin, who arranges to help Denis and Blanche escape through the burial grounds that evening. Denis explains the plan to his new bride and they declare their love for each other. They manage to sneak out of the castle, only to find Grassin murdered and Maletroit's men surrounding them. Voltan tries to help them, but he is shot and the couple captured. Maletroit quickly notes that they are in love, ruining his plan, and decides to kill them along with Edmond. He informs Blanche that he once loved her mother, but after Edmond stole her away and she consequently died during childbirth, he vowed to destroy his brother and niece. He then locks Blanche and Denis in with Edmond and turns on a waterwheel, which causes the walls of the cell to press inward. With only fifteen minutes before the walls crush the prisoners, Voltan, who has survived the shooting, valiantly crawls back to the castle and fights with Maletroit, grabbing the key to the dungeon and pushing him into the waterwheel. Maletroit's body jams in the wheel, stopping it, and although guards shoot Voltan again, he kills them and struggles to reach the dungeon. He collapses outside the cell door, however, just as the wheel begins to turn and the walls close in again. At the last possible moment, Voltan pushes the key to Denis and the family is saved as Voltan dies. The next day, Edmond has the front door to the castle removed, but Denis and Blanche decide to remain there together.