Chamber of Horrors

06/24/2020 06:30

Film: Chamber of Horrors

Year: 1940

Director: Norman Lee

Writer: Gilbert Gunn and Norman Lee

Starring: Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer and Romilly Lunge



This was a movie that I actually never heard of until I was working through all of the movies from 1940 for Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast and my segment of Journey Through the Aughts. It took me a bit to find a way to watch this, I had to do so through YouTube, which I was thrown off that there are two different titles for this movie. The synopsis here is murder is found to be connected to an heir and a mystery locked tomb.

We start this off on the death bed of Lord Charles Francis Selford (Aubry Mallalieu). He has some of his family around him, as he knows his time is short. He reveals that he is going to lock away the family jewels with him and it will be locked by 7 keys that will be kept by Edward Havelock (David Horne) until the wedding night of his son. Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks) is attending to him and there is also Luis Silva (J.H. Roberts), amongst others in attendance. Lord Charles relays some information to his son before he dies.

The movie then shifts to what was the present. Luis writes a letter for a young woman and we see it delivered by some boys. This is to June Landsdowne (Lilli Palmer). She is speaking with her roommate and friend, Glenda Baker (Gina Malo), who is in the bathtub. Glenda is a bit loose with how she talks and really is a progressive woman for the era. Despite what she is told, June goes to see Luis in the nursing home. He also sent a key to her, telling her to keep it safe.

Before she arrives, we see a couple of men talking in the hallway. June is taken to Luis’ room where he gives her an address to the Selford estate and that she needs to go there. The movie shows us a painting where the eyes move and then a secret door opens where someone shoots Luis. June goes for help and a nun tells her this is not possible. The place is to be closed down and there are no patients. June is in flabbergasted and takes her into the room to find that Luis is gone. She flees the hospital to find the police.

At Scotland Yard, Dick Martin (Romilly Lunge) resigns from the force and is talking with his friend, Det. Inspector Cornelius ‘Andy’ Sneed (Richard Bird). The two of them go back and forth with ribbing each other until June arrives. She tells her story and Dick offers his help, despite no longer being a cop. He decides to help though as a ‘friend’. He goes home with June where they discover a burglar. Dick and this person get in a tussle until the man from the nursing home shows up and intervenes. The burglar gets away, but doesn’t find what they’re looking for.

This all then culminates at the Selford estate. Dick, June and Glenda all first go to see Havelock and discover the keys to the Selford tomb are missing. This causes the four to go to the estate itself where Andy joins as well. We do see that the man who was helped the burglar escape is a handyman there, Tom Cawler (Philip Ray). There is also the butler, Craig (Robert Montgomery), and Dr. Manetta.

It becomes the goal of Dick, June, Glenda and Andy to get to the truth of what really happened to Lord Charles as well as the keys to his tomb. There seems to be a conspiracy and group of corrupt individuals that are involved, but who can be trusted?

That’s where I want to leave my recap for this movie, as to avoid spoilers. I will say though, this film is pretty entertaining. It is a bit problematic though to be honest. The idea of keeping the family jewels in the crypt with Lord Charles is a bit odd, but I mean it was the 1940s, so I mean I can let that slide. What doesn’t make a lot of sense to me is the idea of the 7 keys. They’re all given over to Havelock’s office until he realizes that they’re missing. I know this is based off of a novel, which I would be intrigued to read now to see if there’s more information on this. It would make more sense to have something that could be divided between 7 people and the way of preventing someone from stealing it is to need all the keys and everyone to agree to get to it in my opinion. It really seems a plot device to divide the keys between the groups.

This movie is supposed to have a mystery to it, but I feel it plays its hand a little bit too early. We know most of the people that are involved with it from the first time we meet them. The core group of our heroes doesn’t necessarily know so it is a bit suspenseful to see them not knowing and us seeing them interaction with individuals. There are a few reveals that happened from there, but it wasn’t that big of a deal to me if I’m being honest.

That’s not to say that I hated this movie though. I really didn’t actually. I thought that it was pretty fun of a movie with an interesting premise, despite my issues. It is aided by the fact that I found Palmer to be quite attractive. I know it is weird to say for her age, but she is stunning and I thought her performance was solid. Lunge is pretty good as well. His role though is odd that he quits the police officer and then immediately ends up helping this girl. This is obviously playing up the romance angle, which I didn’t necessarily need. Banks is interesting for his back-story. He is supposed to be an ancestor of the Grand Inquisitor from Spain. He has a museum-like building of torture devices that you know come into play which was kind of cool to see. There’s a take on the iron maiden, that I’m not for sure was real used here as well. The Dr. Manetta character isn’t great, but he is fine along with the rest of the cast.

Aside from that, there’s not really a whole lot more to talk about. This movie is really based more around a mystery that is lacking a bit for me. It doesn’t hold my attention as much as it should, but there are interesting aspects to the movie for sure. I really like Palmer’s performance and look of June, with Lunge being a good counterpart along with the rest of the cast rounding this out. There’s not much in the way of effects, but it also isn’t that type of movie. The soundtrack didn’t necessarily stand out to me. It also doesn’t hurt the product either. I think this has some good aspects, but for me, it is just lacking a bit to really hold my interest all the way through if I’m going to be honest. Not a bad movie, also not a great movie. I’ve say just over average for me.  


My Rating: 6 out of 10