Behind Locked Doors (1948)

“I’ve told you a dozen times not to abuse the patients.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a soft spot for films set in asylums. In the noir film Behind Locked Doors, intrepid newspaperwoman Kathy Lawrence (Lucille Bremer) suspects that a corrupt, fugitive judge is hiding from the police inside La Siesta Sanatorium. Undeterred, and determined to get her story–and the $10,000 reward for the judge’s capture–she employs private investigator Ross Stewart (Richard Carlson) to go undercover as a patient. Naturally, Ross doesn’t relish the assignment, but he needs the money–desperately–and he’s also attracted to Kathy.

Posing as husband and wife, Kathy takes Ross to a psychiatrist, and Ross is diagnosed as a manic-depressive. Kathy requests that he’s admitted to La Siesta Sanatorium, and there he’s supposed to find the judge amongst the patient population. Getting into the mental institution proves to be the easiest part of Ross’s assignment. Once there he has to deal with the complexities of the other patients, and the sadistic warder Larson (Douglas Fowley).

While Behind Locked Doors is a definite B noir film, it’s still refreshing entertainment for noir fans. One of the most intriguing parts of the film is the deranged Neanderthal ex-boxer (Tor Johnson) known as “The Champ” who resides in the dreaded LOCKED WARD where the “Violents” are housed. By using operant conditioning Larson has made “The Champ” into a human pet. This is obviously a low budget film, but the film capitalizes on small sets, clear characterizations and a tight plot. Directed by ex-boxer Budd Boetticher, Behind Locked Doors is a B film treat for noir fans.

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