Dr. Renault’s Secret (1942)
Tagline: His animal instinct cannot be tamed!
Young Dr. Larry Forbes (John Shepperd) is traveling to his his fiancée’s home in France. He is delayed by bad weather and stops in an inn before he reaches the villa. He switches rooms with another drunken guest and later the guest is found murdered.
Rather than a science fiction story, this is more of a mystery. The suspects include a slow-witted assistant Noel (J. Carol Nash), an unctuous butler, and a truculent gardener Rogell (Mike Mazurki). And not least, her reticent father Dr. Renault (George Zucco).
Noel behaves in suspicious and odd ways. When the murdered guest is said to have been strangled by “fingers of steel,” Noel quickly hides his hands. (This was funny enough that we began referring to the movie as “Fingers of Steel.”) Noel is acutely sensitive to the presence of dogs but drifts off readily and has difficulty with simple conversations.
Larry would rather ignore the sinister events and focus on being reunited with fiancée Madelon (Lynne Roberts). His fiancée is a piece of work.
She states that she is kind to Noel but nothing she says or does proves this. She insists that he drive back to town to pick up something trivial that he forgot. She’s unfailingly condescending to him in her speech and body language. She even is furious with him for trying to protect himself when a stray dog savages his arm. The dog was not the bitch in the movie.
It’s pretty obvious what the titular secret is but it takes some time for anyone to figure it out. In the meantime, there are corpses piling up.
The sets were of high quality and gave me hope that the story would be a little more sophisticated that it ultimately proved to be. The finale is so abrupt that my viewing partner and I started laughing. On the other hand, it didn’t outstay its welcome. I don’t recommend it.
highlight for spoiler–Nash works hard at his characterization of the ape man, how he moves and holds his body. He is sympathetic and intriguing as a sinned against beast.–end
The featurette, with critics and film historians such as Kim Newman, was twice as entertaining as the movie.
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