Behind the Door

A sadistic aura surrounds this silent melodrama (1919), which hinges on scenes of torture, kidnapping, and xenophobic persecution. A taxidermist of German descent (Hobart Bosworth) living in a quiet Maine town courts the daughter of the town’s richest man, a coldhearted scrooge who wants better things for his child. This romantic tale is quickly abandoned, however, when America enters into World War I and the taxidermist enlists in the navy to prove his patriotism to neighbors who suspect him of being a German spy. What follows is an exciting (and increasingly improbable) wartime story featuring an entertaining turn by a young Wallace Beery as a sinister German submarine captain. The final scenes, which reveal the secret of the title, are shocking, displaying a warped imagination that elevates the film into the realm of the truly strange. Irvin Willat directed. 71 min.