This is a follow up on my post about secret rooms,
Three movies come immediately to mind when I think about hidden chambers.
1. The Haunted Palace:
The Haunted Palace is a 1963 movie starring Vincent Price and directed by Roger Corman. The story is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s tale of horror, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, but was named after the Edgar Allen Poe poem The Haunted Palace both for name recognition and so that American International Pictures could tie it in with a series of movies based on Poe’s work.
The film features an old palace with a secret door near a grand fireplace. The passage behind leads to a large open chamber, reached by walking down a high wooden staircase that wends its way around. In the center of the chamber is a raised platform reached by three stone staircases, on which a copy of the Necronomicon sits on a lectern, near a rack for holding prisoners and a well covered by a heavy grate. Within the well is an elder god who steals the will of those sacrificed by the three evil magicians.
The set is simple in nature, all bleak and smooth stone, but that bleakness works for the atmosphere. The added touches like the wooden stairs and the raised well stand out against the grey stone. Combined with the wonderful performances, particularly of Price and Lon Chaney Jr., this hidden chamber is an archetypical image for the hidden lair of any mad wizard. Particularly those of gothic nature.
2. The Pit and the Pendulum:
Another Vincent Price movie and again directed by Roger Corman, The Pit and the Pendulum is loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. It is another in American International Pictures’ series of Poe movies and was released in 1961.
In this case the chamber is not so much hidden as forgotten, being deep in the abandoned vaults of a 16th century castle, once used by the Inquisition. The chambers contain forgotten torture chambers, cells, and the final chamber holding the titular engine of doom. The pendulum chamber is again composed of stark stone walls and a narrow ledge at the door. The rest of the room is a black pit, except for the center where a single platform emerges from the darkness. On it is a table for restraining the victim and above hangs the pendulum’s blade. Best of all the walls are decorated with faded and chipped murals depicting a hellscape and hooded figures, their faces nothing but blackness with glowing eyes beneath the cowls.
3. The Black Room
The Black Room was released in 1935 and stars Boris Karloff as twin brothers; one rules as baron and has become cruel and evil, the other kind and well loved by the people. Karloff does a brilliant job playing both roles and the simple techniques they used to allow both characters to appear together work better than all the CGI tricks used by modern films.
In this case, the hidden room is an old torture chamber with an oubliette. The previous baron had received a prophecy that his sons would kill each other within the black room, so he ordered it walled off and forgotten. Through the course of the movie, the room is rediscovered.
In this case the secret of the Black Room is about more than just its existence. A secret history is revealed along with the lost torture chamber, of prophecy and forgotten evil practices.