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Dr Renault's Secret

Entry updated 11 April 2019. Tagged: Film.

Film (1942; vt Buried Alive). 20th Century Fox Films. Directed by Harry Lachman. Produced by Sol M Wurtzel. Written by William Bruckner and Robert F Meltzer based on Balaoo (9 October-18 December Le Matin; 1912; trans 1913) by Gaston Leroux. Cast includes Mike Mazurki (uncredited), J Carroll Naish, Lynne Roberts, Sheppard Strudwick (as John Shepperd), Jean Del Val (uncredited) and George Zucco. 58 minutes. Black and white.

American Dr Larry Forbes (Strudwick) goes to France in order to marry attractive Madelon Renault (Roberts), niece of Dr Robert Renault (Zucco). He also meets Noel (Naish), Renault's oddly deformed manservant. A series of murders committed by someone extremely strong begins shortly thereafter. Noel reacts with hostility to a stray dog which Madelon has adopted; the animal is soon found dead. Larry and Madelon go to a carnival with Noel quietly tagging along; he is heckled as a freak by some people who themselves are soon murdered. With growing suspicions, Forbes breaks into Renault's laboratory and learns that Noel is actually a transformed and partially Uplifted ape from Java (see Apes as Human). Renault, revealed as a sadistic Mad Scientist, admits this and locks Noel away; the latter soon escapes, and kills the villainous doctor. Noel then attempts to kidnap Madelon, but she is abducted instead by Rogell (Mazurki) an ex-convict who works for the family as a gardener: Rogell and the butler Henri (Del Val) have been planning this for some time. Both Larry and Noel pursue them until Noel, Rogell, and Madelon end up on a rooftop where Noel strangles Rogell to death before finally being shot dead by Larry.

Dr Renault's Secret is a remake of The Wizard (1927), a film now lost. The plot bears similarities, perhaps coincidental, to The Island of Dr Moreau (1896) by H G Wells. Naish's performance as the doomed quasi-human lifts the film somewhat above routine melodrama. [GSt]


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