House of Secrets (1936)

Article #498 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-26-2002
Posting Date: 12-19-2002

An American returns to England to claim a house he has inherited, only to find it occupied, and then encounters a conspiracy to keep him from going into the house.

The title of this movie sounds like it promises some good old-fashioned “old dark house” mystery fun, but that’s not really what it is. Instead, the movie seems to be some sort of experiment as to how long you can string the viewer along about mysterious goings-on before you finally show your hand. Hitchcock could pull this kind of thing off, but this movie falls short; it keeps you in the dark for sixty-five minutes (the movie runs about seventy), and I found myself getting horribly annoyed at the half hour mark. In order for this sort of thing to work, you can’t rely on the mere curiosity of the viewer to hold his attention; you have to make the events that happen in the interim striking enough to keep his interest at a high pitch. This movie offers a handful of interesting characters, a tepid romance, and an undernourished subplot about hidden treasure, and it ain’t near enough. It doesn’t help that the denouement and final revelation isn’t particularly satisfying either, though it does provide the science-fiction element that merits this movie’s inclusion in the marginalia of fantastic cinema.


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