Horror

Seven Keys, Seven Locks and a… – Chamber of Horrors (1940)


Chamber of Horrors or The Door With Seven Locks as it was originally called, is not so much a horror film as it is a mystery, though it does contain elements of the genre within. Most of that shines through the simple atmosphere of the movie, at times it being a little creepy and director Norman Lee making his audience wonder just as to where he is taking them. There is the big bad of the picture as portrayed by Leslie Banks whose character collects medieval torture devices and who delivers a cracking performance as Dr. Manetta, but as his collection plays no part other than as display pieces and the atmosphere not inspiring anything in the way of fright, the movie is horror in name alone.

Also starring Lilli Palmer, Romilly Lunge and Gina Malo, the film does not lack for talent, but even for all of that, it fails to generate much interest as it is overlong, bloated with too much ‘comedic’ relief, with little music and little action or scares to move the picture along. It is almost boring, nearing the point of it but just narrowly avoiding being as such with thanks going to Palmer and her performance, for keeping what little interest the audience has in the movie. Palmer is fun to watch –  charming and cute, funny and interesting and the best thing about the entire affair. Lunge comes close and his performance is made better due to the good chemistry between him and Palmer, but it is Banks who almost steals the show as the campy Manetta who is looking to get his hands on the buried jewels which everything revolves around.

While the makers of this movie were probably going for something a little more serious, due to the amount of humour they wove throughout, much of it dated or simply not funny, it ended up taking away from the overall picture. The premise of the movie is a good one and the mystery definitely mysterious, but if there had been a stronger script and better editing, it would have made Chamber of Horrors far better than it was and not a film on the verge of being forgotten. Suffice it to say, there is enough here to keep the audience watching, but one’s time would be better spent elsewhere with other mysteries and other horrors.

2 out of 5

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