27 September 2007 | Bunuel1976
SOMEONE BEHIND THE DOOR (Nicolas Gessner, 1971) ***
I'd always been interested in watching this one (which occasionally turns up on late-night Italian TV) due to its star combo; now that I've caught up with it, I found it to be an intriguing if deliberately-paced psychological puzzler where, as was the case with the later THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976), director Gessner demonstrates himself an unsung master of the offbeat and provocative thriller. Leads Charles Bronson and Anthony Perkins work very well off each other; while the latter has played this type of role before (it's what he does best, yet given enough subtle shadings to retain an element of surprise), the former credibly stretches his range with his amnesiac role (duped into committing murder by Perkins' scheming cuckolded doctor).
Most reviews I've read seem unable to swallow the central premise that Perkins would devise the perfect crime by 'brainwashing' Bronson into believing himself to be a totally different person but I feel that it works most of the time mainly due to the excellent leads (nearly falling apart at the climax but picks up again nicely with the ending, as Bronson's memory is suddenly jolted back through ironically similar circumstances and his real-life spouse Jill Ireland confronts on-screen husband Perkins with his failure as both doctor and man). The film, then, concludes on a marvelous note a series of close-ups, alternating between Ireland and Perkins, that follow the rhythm of a beating heart (though the effect is somewhat dissipated by going on too long).
My viewing of SOMEONE BEHIND THE DOOR came via a public-domain print on a budget DVD I rented (which slapped this Bronson title together with two other lesser vehicles GUNS OF DIABLO  and COLD SWEAT , both also watched recently). I'd like to own the Gessner film someday; at least, I know it's available in widescreen on a bare-bones disc from Lionsgate though I wonder how long it will stay in print...