Losing his memories of the last few days, neurologist Dr. Steele is told that his wife has been brutally murdered. Steele, aware of his conniving wife's infidelity, believes he may have been the killer and enlists the aid of his pretty nurse Stella to hypnotize him into recovering his lost memories. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
In between making his classic monster films for Universal studios, Lon Chaney was given a periodic break of sorts with this series of modest but enjoyable mystery films based on the popular radio program, "The Inner Sanctum". In them, Chaney sported a dapper mustache and wavy hair, and his central characters often were brooding intellectuals who wowed the ladies and regularly found themselves lost in a tangled web of mayhem.
CALLING DR. DEATH was the first of these, with Chaney playing a neurologist named Mark Steele who is hugely successful in everything but his own personal life. His unfaithful wife Maria (the ineffective Ramsay Ames, who later stumbled her way through THE MUMMY'S GHOST) tricked him into a worthless marriage where she manipulates him for wealth and prestige, and Steele would like to put an end to the charade, even entertaining the possibility of murdering her to be freed. Chaney is also in love with his dedicated secretary (Patricia Morison), and she comes to his aid one morning when he awakens at his office on a Monday with no memory of where he was or what he had done throughout the weekend, becoming even more bewildered when it is revealed that his controlling wife has been murdered. The chief suspect is the young man Mrs. Steele was having an affair with (David Bruce from THE MAD GHOUL). J. Carrol Naish is very good in this film as the tough Inspector Gregg, and his constant suspicions of Chaney being the killer make for some interesting exchanges between both actors.
None of the six Inner Sanctum thrillers could be called great movies, but they're quick and entertaining in their own right, and fans all have their own varying opinions of which are the best. Though it's not too hard to guess the outcome of CALLING DR. DEATH, I consider it a fine start to the series, and one of the better efforts.
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