For my full review, and reviews of each individual story, please visit Casual Debris.
Bar the Doors is Hitchcock's second foray into the anthology field, and in my opinion among his strongest; certainly the strongest of the early books, though he likely had little or no input into this collection, ghost-edited by Don Ward.
I first read Bar the Doors when I was quite young, it may indeed have been my first Hitchcock anthology. The stories, for the most part, stand up well against today's standards; what they at times might lose to originality they have gained in writing. Reading these earlier suspense stories, whether they be of ghosts or strange island curses, it impresses me how much better our suspense writers were of old. Of course, at the time there were few stigmas associated with being a "genre" writer, so that Dickens and later Fitzgerald could create their own fantasies about haunted houses, railway stations or massive mountain-sized diamonds and people aging backwards, and no respected literary critic would roll his or her eyes. It is the attitude toward genre writing that has (partially, of course) helped to damage the quality of genre writing.
Whatever the cause for our literary decline, it is true that we must read the masters in order to learn the craft, or simply if we desire a cozy little fright.
I would like to reproduce the introduction in its entirety, but there's this thing called copyright. Many of the introductions in these AHP anthologies are brief and little more than introductory (and sometimes even less), yet this one is nicely detailed. "[T]he publishers asked me to bring together a group of tales which I admire because of their skillful handling of the element of terror." Hitchcock would be the person I too would turn to for such a grouping, and he (well, our ghost editor, really) does a fine job with the selections here, and in particular "The Storm," "The Kill," "Midnight Express" and "The Upper Berth" are perfect examples of the "skillful" treatment of terror and suspense. Some stories might appear a little dated in that their subject matter is by now all-too familiar, but I can imagine how in 1945 this little collection was such a great success for, as the blurb indicates, these are the "superlative" tales. Hitchcock/Ward points to the range of stories in the collection, acknowledging them as wide and hence not all readers might find each individual selection appealing, especially since the source of the terror is quite different in each of the pieces. He then proceeds to isolate the specific story elements that contain the terror, and this makes for a good read once the stories themselves have been read.