Behind the locked doors of a mental institution resides crooked politico Judge Drake (Herbert Heyes), free from prosecution so long as he pretends to be crazy. To get the goods on Drake, private detective Ross Stewart has himself committed to the asylum as a patient. Meanwhile, reporter Kathy Lawrence (Lucille Bremer), posing as Stewart's wife, acts as his liaison to the outside world.
I'm not getting myself locked up in any nut-house on some hunch! Behind Locked Doors is directed by Oscar "Budd" Boetticher and written by Eugene Ling and Malvin Wald. It stars Richard Carlson, Lucille Bremer, Douglas Fowley, Ralf Harolde, Thomas Browne Henry, Herbert Heyes, Gwen Donovan and Tor Johnson. Music is by Irving Friedman and cinematography by Guy Roe. Private detective Ross Stewart (Carlson) is coerced into going undercover at the La Siesta Sanitarium in search of a corrupt judge that reporter Kathy Lawrence (Bremer) believes is hiding out there. Getting himself committed under the guise of being a manic depressive, Stewart finds more than he bargained for once inside the gloomy walls of the asylum. Clocking in at just over an hour in length, Behind Locked Doors is compact and devoid of any sort of flab. Firmly a "B" asylum based pot boiler of the kind film makers always find fascinating, it's a picture dripped thoroughly in noir style visuals. This not only pumps the story with atmosphere unbound, it also allows the economically adroit Boetticher to mask the low budget restrictions to make this look far better than it had any right to be. Cure or be killed! Narratively it's simple fare, undercover man uncovers sadistic humans entrusted to care for the mentally ill. The "inmates" are the usual roll call of the unfortunates, the criminally inclined or the outright hulking maniac. There's a good male nurse who we can hang our hopes on, we wonder if our intrepid protagonist will survive this perilous assignment, and of course there's a love interest added in to spice the human interest factor. Cast performances are effective for the material to hand, but without the said visual arrangements of Boetticher and Roe the characterisations would lack impact. The camera-work shifts appropriately with the various tonal flows of the story, angles and contrasts change and with the picture almost exclusively shot in low lights and shadows, the Sanitarium is consistently a foreboding place of fear and fret. And not even some rickety sets can alter the superb atmospherics on show. 7/10