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. ) .
I haven’t seen these movies for ages. I remember quite enjoying the but you’re right that Chaney, even when young, never entirely convinced as a debonair leading man. I mean he obviously had the lead the Wolf Man but that was different somehow.
By the way, Weird Woman from a Fritz Lieber book, was remade as the much stronger Night of the Eagle.
Sorry about the last sentence in bold – it was a HTML gaffe as it ought to have been only the movie titles.
I didn’t know about Night of the Eagle, made in Britain.
Well worth checking out should you get the chance.
Night Of The Eagle is one of the few genuinely frightening films I’ve seen. Although I found the casting of Janet Blair very strange as she hadn’t filmed for about ten years., so I wouldn’t have thought sh e would helped sell it in the US.
Of course it’s Paul Kelly (not Stewart), Tony-winning actor who created the role of Frank Elgin in “The Country Girl” later played by Redgrave in London (renamed “Winter Journey”) and Crosby in the film with Grace Kelly.
Not that I meant to sound in any way snide – it’s as always an interesting post! – Greg
Not at all, it’s funny that I am still getting the two Paul’s mixed up considering I wrote an article about them! (“The Two Pauls”, May 2014).
I didn’t know Paul Kelly was in the original ‘Country Girl’.
Yes, it certainly contrasts with the tough movie roles he played. Odets directed his own script and it won a Tony (in those days called Perry Awards) for Uta Hagen and the set, with Kelly also highly praised for it.
Lon could get mean when he had been drinking . Anne Gwynne called him her least favourite leading man. When Evelyn Ankers husband Richard Denning visited Universal Lon tried to pick a fight with him. Richard dumped a large bowl of ice cream over his head!
I just found the films so interesting, If nothing more, than the great casts. Ladies and gentlemen who have important parts in this type of film, but in “A” movies, just supporting parts. I have had these films for years and every once in a while, bring them out, Great
seeing someone write about them.
I had never seen any of them before now and agree with you that the casts were very good. An unusual set of films.