DR. RENAULT’S SECRET (1942) Reviews of J. Carrol Naish and George Zucco monster movie

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Doctor Renault’s Secret is a 1942 American horror film directed by Harry Lachman from a screenplay by William Bruckner and Robert F. Metzler. It is based on the story Balaoo by Gaston Leroux (author of The Phantom of the Opera) which was adapted as a film in 1913 and again as the 1927 “lost” film The Wizard.

The 20th Century Fox production stars J. Carrol Naish (The Monster Maker), Shepperd Strudwick, Lynne Roberts and George Zucco.

A young doctor named Larry Forbes arrives in a French village in order to wed the niece of a prominent local doctor, Doctor Renault (George Zucco).

Doctor Forbes learns from the innkeeper that a storm has washed out the bridge to Renault’s house and he ends up spending the night at the inn. There he meets Doctor Renault’s strangely deformed manservant, Noel (J. Carrol Naish). It is during the night that the first of the murders occur. Another tourist takes the room meant for him and is killed mysteriously…


“It features some amazingly solid acting, especially from Strudwick and Naish, and even George Zucco puts in a credible, restrained (by his standards, anyway) performance. The script does a good job of juxtaposing Noel’s and Rogell’s criminal activities, and with a running time in the 60-minute class, the film moves along at a good, steady clip.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting


” …contains one of my favorite performances by George Zucco as Doctor Renault, who makes the character seem so likeable in the first half of the movie that the revelations in the second half really do come as surprises. The unexpected presence of Mike Mazurki as the real villain of the story, Rogell, adds to the fun. The story gets a bit messy at times, but it has some unique and interesting touches to it.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“There are a few great things about this movie! One is that the director apparently saw Citizen Kane and liked it well enough to try replicating some of the shots! There are lots of low-angle close-ups of shadowed faces, and some deep focus of the sort we know and love from that movie! […] The other great thing is the cast, specifically George Zucco as Renault and J. Carroll Naish as Noel!” Ha ha, it’s Burl!

Doctor Renault’s Secret may be more charm than actual suspense, but it’s a pleasant and breezy watch, with a couple of good performances. It’s maybe not a great classic, but it’s certainly worth a look, especially if you’re largely unfamiliar with Naish, or are just looking for a good movie about a not-so-mad ape man.” Innsmouth Free Press

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“J. Carrol Naish’s performance shares considerable credit for making Noel such a strongly sympathetic character. Like Karloff, Naish is able to express a depth of woundedness and loneliness through the make-up and general oddness of the character that is genuinely touching.” Lair of the Boyg

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“While this is not a great film, it is an interesting and surprising offering, with a bit of mystery, some thrills, some chills and a dramatic climax in an old mill.  Very little time gets devoted to the mad scientist parts of the story and a lot to the story of the poor creature, which makes this a very rare sort of mix. And, as it is only a little over an hour long, it never wears out its welcome.” Rivets on the Poster

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