Behind the Door
About the Film
Oscar Krug, an old sea-faring man, returns to his village in Maine after a long absence and reminisces. In a flashback, he is seen as a middle-aged German American who faces anti-German sentiment when the United States enters World War I. He enlists as a navy captain to prove his loyalty, then secretly marries Alice Morse who follows him on his boat after being thrown out by her father who objects to the marriage. A German submarine sinks their vessel, and Oscar and Alice are the sole survivors. Days later, a German U-boat appears and takes Alice aboard, but abandons Oscar, who vows revenge after being rescued. A year later Oscar takes Lieutenant Brandt, the U-boat commander, prisoner. When Oscar learns the sad fate of his wife who was brutalized by Germans, he retaliates by killing the man, attempting to skin him alive behind a closed door. Back in Maine, the broken old man has a vision of his bride. His soul rises and embraces her.
About the Restoration
What survived of this Thomas Ince production is an incomplete print, a roll of outtakes, and another small roll of shots from the estate of Hobart Bosworth preserved at the Library of Congress, as well as the remains of an edited export print safeguarded at the Gosfilmofond, the Russian national archive. In 1994 the Library of Congress created a reconstruction based only on the material in its vaults, inserting titles to cover large gaps in the narrative. With the participation of Gosfilmofond, however, a brand new restoration became possible and Behind the Door, which Kevin Brownlow called “the most outspoken of all the [WWI] vengeance films,” can now be seen in its most complete form since its release in 1919. Film historian Robert Birchard lent his copy of director Irvin Willat’s original continuity script to help ensure that the reconstruction matched the original editing sequence and as a reference for the reel missing its English-language intertitles. The original color tinting scheme is also restored, based on analysis of the film leaders and the structure of the printing rolls. A new 35mm preservation negative and a print are now housed in the San Francisco Silent Film Festival Collection at the Library of Congress. Another 35mm print is also housed in the archives of restoration partner Gosfilmofond in Moscow.