Dr. Renault's Secret


58m 1942

Brief Synopsis

A young man visits his fiancée in a remote French villa where her scientist father (George Zucco) resides. There he meets Noel (J. Carrol Naish), Dr. Renault's mysterious assistant, who has a strange attraction to Renault's daughter. Soon he learns Noel's true identity: he is an ape that was turned into a man by Renault's bizarre experiments!

Film Details

Also Known As
Buried Alive
Release Date
Dec 11, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Balaoo by Gaston Leroux (Paris, 1912).

Technical Specs

Duration
58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,210ft (6 reels)

Synopsis

American brain surgeon Larry Forbes travels to a small French village in order to accompany his fiancée, Madeline Renault, back to New York for their wedding. Larry is forced to spend the night at an inn, however, when a storm washes out the bridge to the Renault estate. Madeline's uncle, renowned brain specialist Dr. Renault, sends his handyman, Mr. Noel, to meet Larry, and Larry is intrigued by the shy, intense and odd-looking Noel, who is from Java. Also at the inn are Rogell, an ex-convict who is now Renault's gardener, and Austin, a drunken American who infuriates Noel with his insinuations about Larry's upcoming marriage to Madeline, whom Noel worships. When Larry goes to retire for the evening, he finds Austin passed out in his room and decides to sleep in Austin's room. Larry is awakened by a scream, and upon investigating, discovers that Austin's neck has been broken. Police Inspector Duval suspects that Larry was the intended victim and Rogell is the perpetrator, but he also ponders the possibility that Noel killed Austin because of his remarks about Madeline. Duval releases them in the meantime, and Noel drives Larry to the Renault estate. Soon after, Madeline's new dog is killed, and Renault accuses Noel of the crime. Renault brutally beats Noel and locks him in a cage, then forbids him to go with Madeline to the next day's Bastille Day celebration in the village. After everyone leaves for the celebration, Noel breaks out of his cage and joins Madeline, who praises him when he wins a strength contest. Meanwhile, Rogell admits to Henri, the Renaults' butler, that he murdered Austin because he had mistaken him for Larry, whom he wanted to rob, and also killed the dog, whose barking alarmed him. As Rogell and Henri plot to kidnap Madeline for ransom money from Larry, Noel's dancing is laughed at by Louis the waiter and Marcel, the town's barber. Furious about being belittled in front of Madeline, Noel kills his two tormenters, after which Larry takes Madeline back to the estate, then searches Renault's laboratory. There he finds Renault's notebooks detailing his experiments in transforming an ape into a human being through surgery. Larry is horrified by what Renault has done to Noel, a surgically altered ape who is the final product of this experiment. When Larry confronts Renault, the doctor threatens to shoot him rather than let him reveal the secret. Noel attacks and kills Renault before he can shoot Larry, however, then rushes outside after hearing Madeline scream. Noel follows Rogell, who has kidnapped Madeline, to an old mill. Larry and Duval follow as well, and watch as Noel struggles with Rogell and throws him off the building's roof to his death. Noel, who has been fatally wounded during the struggle, makes sure that Madeline is safe and before dying, assures her that everything is all right.

Film Details

Also Known As
Buried Alive
Release Date
Dec 11, 1942
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Balaoo by Gaston Leroux (Paris, 1912).

Technical Specs

Duration
58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,210ft (6 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Buried Alive. Although the onscreen credits list only William Bruckner and Robert F. Metzler as the film's screenwriters, the picture was based on Gaston Leroux's 1912 novel Balaoo. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Frances Hyland also contributed to the screenplay. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA was reluctant to approve an June 11, 1942 version of the script. The PCA told the studio: "The story is based on theories of human origin in such a way that, if presented to the public, will undoubtedly offend the sensibilities of large groups of religious people of different faiths, and, accordingly, could not be approved under the provisions of the Code. Secondly, there seems to be an excessive number of gruesome and detailed killings which could not be approved." After conferring with executive producer Sol M. Wurtzel and studio official Jason S. Joy, a PCA official noted in the film's file: "It was agreed to eliminate any reference to Darwin or to his theory, and to establish the ape as a throwback. Details involving gruesomeness will be handled with care."
       The picture marked Harry Lachman's last film as a director. While a studio publicity item announcing that Dr. Renault's Secret was to be the first horror film produced by Twentieth Century-Fox was technically correct, Leroux's novel had previously been filmed by the Fox Film Corp. in 1927 as The Wizard. The silent film was directed by Richard Rosson and starred Edmund Lowe and Leila Hyams (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.6445). A French version of the novel, entitled Balaoo, was produced in 1913 by Eclair. That version was directed by Victorin Jasset and starred Lucien Bataille and Camille Bardou.