Dr. Renault's Secret

Dr. Renault's Secret is a 1942 American horror mystery film. The story was written by William Bruckner and Robert Metzler. It is loosely based on the 1911 novel Balaoo by Gaston Leroux. The production was directed by Harry Lachman and is a B movie with both mad scientist and monster themes.

Dr. Renault's Secret
Directed byHarry Lachman
Produced bySol M. Wurtzel
Screenplay byWilliam Bruckner
Robert F. Metzler
Based onBalaoo
by Gaston Leroux
StarringJ. Carrol Naish
Shepperd Strudwick
Lynne Roberts
George Zucco
Music byEmil Newman
David Raksin
CinematographyVirgil E. Miller
Edited byFred Allen
Color processBlack and white
20th Century Fox
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 19, 1942 (1942-10-19) (U.S.)
Running time
58 minutes
CountryUnited States


A young doctor named Larry Forbes (Shepperd Strudwick) arrives in a French village in order to wed the niece of prominent local doctor, Dr. Renault (George Zucco). Dr. Forbes learns from the innkeeper that a storm has washed out the bridge to Renault's house and he ends up spending the night at the inn. There he meets most of the film's main characters including Dr. Renault's strangely deformed man servant, Noel (J. Carrol Naish). It is during the night that the first of the murders occurs. Another tourist takes the room meant for him and is killed mysteriously.

The next day, Forbes travels to the house of Dr. Renault, where he is reunited with Renault's pretty young niece, Madeline (Lynne Roberts). A sequence of strange events, including an incident in which Noel is viciously attacked by a stray dog that Madeline picked up, convince Forbes that there is something unusual about Noel, but he does not know what it is. Also, it quickly becomes clear that Noel is interested in Madeline as well.

After Madeline's stray dog is killed, Renault confronts Noel and it is revealed that his man servant is actually an experiment - an animal given the physical and mental characteristics of a man. Fearing for Forbes' life (as well as his own), Renault locks Noel in a cage, but the former animal is able to use his strength to escape and follows Forbes and Madeline to a carnival. There he is heckled by a pair of villagers, who are promptly murdered in their homes.

Forbes' suspicions increase and he sneaks into Dr. Renault's laboratory. There he finds a book detailing the experiments Dr. Renault carried out to transform Noel from an ape into a man. Renault catches Forbes reading his notes and threatens to kill him if he reveals the truth to anyone, but Noel sneaks up on the both of them and attacks and kills Dr. Renault. In the closing sequence, Madeline is abducted by her gardener, an ex-convict named Rogell (Mike Mazurki), and Noel pursues them. After a lengthy chase, Rogell shoots Noel. Before succumbing to his wounds, Noel strangles Rogell.



The viewer is told that the story takes place in France in a remote village outside of Paris. To back this up we are told about the French holiday of Bastille Day. However no one in the film speaks with a French accent or uses any known French customs.

Relation to other filmsEdit

This B-film has been compared to H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau though the similarities seem minor. The film has also been part of a double-bill with another 1942 horror film The Undying Monster. The screenplay was inspired by the lost 1927 film, The Wizard, based on a novel by Gaston Leroux.[1]


  1. ^ Meehan, 2010, p. 97


  • Meehan, Paul (2010). Horror Noir: Where Cinema's Dark Sisters Meet. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-4597-4.

External linksEdit