The Inner Sanctum Mysteries blu-Ray release contains all six of the films starring Lon Chaney Jr.
“Inner Sanctum” was originally a Simon & Schuster book club publication (mystery and suspense stories), and then became a popular radio series in 1941.
Universal Studios wanted a series for Chaney who had done several horror films in the early 1940s – The Wolf Man, Son of Dracula – though the Inner Sanctum stories were more mystery than horror.
Universal didn’t use any of the book or radio plots and made the 6 films in the series over a 17 month period from 1943 to 1945. Unlike other series such as The Saint or The Falcon (with the same leading character), Lon Chaney played a different character in each of the 6 films.
- And here comes the problem – the leading character (played by Chaney) in all 6 films is an urbane, sophisticated professional man – lawyer, scientist, doctor, artist, college professor ( and a hypnotist!) – and a magnet for women!
Is this Lon Chaney? I dont think so . Although only in his late 30s, Chaney always looked older. His permanent expression in the films seemed to be worried.
Still, lovely actresses like Patricia Morison, Anne Gwynne, Brenda Joyce, Evelyn Ankers, Jean Parker, Tala Birell all find him irresistible.
In addition to the above ladies, there are great supporting casts: Milburn Stone, J.Carrol Naish, Douglas Dumbrille, Paul Kelly, Thomas Gomez, Lloyd Bridges .
One of the series’ themes is voice-over stream of consciousness by Chaney. We hear his thoughts : “Why is this happening to me….” “I’ll never paint again”……. “I mustn’t burden her with my troubles”…… “Tragedy is determined to follow me wherever I go.”
(I told you Chaney had permanent worried look through the films!)
The poor man loses his memory, his sight, his mind – and his wife (twice!)
Still, after he decapitates J.Carrol Naish in STRANGE CONFESSION, his lawyer says to Brenda Joyce:
“Dont worry, he’ll be alright. I’ll do everything I can for him!”
Each film, except for the last one, have the same introduction – a man’s head floating around in a fish bowl talking about monsters and murder!
The head and voice belongs to actor David Hoffman.
Best line in “Weird Woman” comes from Elisabeth Risdon to Evelyn Ankers:
“There’s something about your smile that makes me think of Jack the Ripper!”
Lon has the same moustache in each film.
Nice to see Rosalind Ivan in PILLOW OF DEATH, playing against type. She lives with her relatives in an old dark house. She describes herself – “I’m just a poor relative from England.”
Unlike her usual shrewish roles, Rosalind plays a cheerful lady who cooks for the family and accepts her lot in life.
The series is well worth a look if only for the casts. Just a pity we couldn’t have had a different leading man in each film. The villains are often unexpected.
I expect the films happily played the second part of a double bill and were popular with 1940s audiences.
(There was a 1948 film with the title, INNER SANCTUM, starring Mary Beth Hughes. A good mystery akin to a “ Twilight Zone” episode. ) .