Behind Locked Doors (Budd Boetticher / U.S., 1948):

Budd Boetticher and the padded walls of film noir. "So you think you've got a beef with the world?" The ink is still wet in the office of the private detective (Richard Carlson), his client is a San Francisco journalist (Lucille Bremer) on a trail leading to the La Siesta Sanitarium. The crooked judge (Herbert Hayes) has absconded, the investigation requires infiltration, a "mentally unbalanced husband" is just the role for the insouciant shamus. Neither Wilder's Bellevue (The Lost Weekend) nor Litvak's snake pit, the madhouse is a compressed snarl of blank walls, side entrances and forbidden floors. Daytime murmurs give way at night to shadows and screams, the sadistic orderly (Douglas Fowley) negotiates the depressives and neurotics with a heavy set of keys. "You came here to be cured? You're more likely to be killed." Inside and outside, upstairs and downstairs, everything intricately woven in 62 minutes of pure shoestring panache. The nervous warden (Thomas Browne Henry) is tricked by a bogus diagnosis, the mistress in furs and veils (Gwen Donovan) is impersonated at gunpoint, deep in the bedlam lies little Dickie Moore, all grown up. The labyrinth has its minotaur: The mountainous wrestler (Tor Johnson) sits in his cell like a Titicut Follies snapshot, he's roused out of catatonia by the dinging of a ringside bell and rushes the barred window that is the camera. "A man of action" is to be valued, as always with Boetticher, whose sneaky self-portrait here might be the chess-player who quietly sets fire to the screen. Fuller in Shock Corridor takes over the asylum and blows it up. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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