As the U.S. prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of entering World War I, BEHIND THE DOOR (1919) offers a unique time capsule of the period. Legendary producer Thomas H. Ince and director Irvin V. Willat made this -- “the most outspoken of all the vengeance films” according to film historian Kevin Brownlow—during the period of World War I-inspired American patriotism.
Thomas Ince produced and directed CIVILIZATION in 1916, an anti-war film which was part of Hollywood’s support of President Wilson’s policy of staying out of WWI. But when the United States entered WWI, all of Hollywood supported the war effort, including Ince. After the conflict, the studios were making films about people healing from the horror of the war and for better understanding of the German people who were caught up with war fever of that time in Europe.
Hobart Bosworth stars as Oscar Krug, a working-class American, who is persecuted for his
German ancestry after war is declared. Driven by patriotism, Krug enlists and goes to
sea. However, tragedy strikes when his wife (Jane Novak) sneaks aboard his ship and is
captured following a German U-boat attack. Krug’s single-minded quest for vengeance
against the sadistic German submarine commander (played with villainous fervor by
Wallace Beery) leads to the film’s shocking and brutal climax.
The Thomas Ince Studio backlot was used for the village scenes, and the water scenes depicting the battleships and U-Boat encounters were taken in San Pedro Harbor, where Bosworth, the star of the film, did his own stunts.
This newly restored edition, produced by Flicker Alley, represents the most complete
version of the film available since 1919, thanks to the collaboration of the San Francisco
Silent Film Festival, the Library of Congress, and Gosfilmofond of Russia. The numerous bonus features include the re-edited Russian version of the film, outtakes, and an in-depth interview with renowned film historian Kevin Brownlow.
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