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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. **1/2 out of ****
Dr. Steele (Lon Chaney Jr.) is a psychiatrist married to a cheating
wife who refuses to give him a divorce. He's in love with his nurse
(Patricia Morison) who loves him back. Then he blacks out one weekend
and awakens to find his wife was brutally murdered. Did he do it or is
he being set up?
The first of Universal's "Inner Sanctum" series based on a popular radio show of the time. It's introduced by a floating head in a crystal ball (!!!!). Not a horror movie as believed but a murder mystery. It was made on no budget with a half hour script padded to an hour (notice how many times J. Carrol Naish's policeman hounds Chaney). Also I had the murderer figured out about 20 minutes in but I had no idea why. Still, for what it is (a low-budget B picture) it's not bad. Chaney is OK and Morison and Naish are actually very good. This is not some unsung cinema masterpiece just a quick, efficient B movie. There are worse ways to kill an hour.
it may be an old movie,but i liked it.it's a very interesting,well acted murder mystery.the dialogue was quite good,the writing was good and the music adds a real atmosphere of creepiness to the proceedings.there's' not a lot of action.it's more of a psychological character study.and for me,unt9il near the very end,i wasn't sure who the murderer was.Lon Chaney Jr. is the main star.he plays a neurologist/hypnotist who ends up being accused of his wife's murder.the thing about it is,he can't remember the last couple of days,including the day his wife was killed.at least that's what he says.this is part of the Universal Pictures Inner Sanctum Mysteries movie collection.basically,an anthology series along the lines of Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.anyway,i thoroughly enjoyed this movie,and if you are a Lon Chaney Jr.fan,you might want to check out not only this movie,but the box set collection(five other movies)all starring Chaney.i give Calling Dr. Death a solid 8/10
the music is very good and a cast with Lon Chaney Patricia Morison J.Carrol Naish makes this a great little b movie. Also Ramsey Ames is Quite stunning as always. These inner sanctum movies are a lot of fun if you are a fan of the thirties and forties Universal horror pictures. The director Reginald Leborg was a skilled director who never got the credit he deserved. The movie has some very interesting camera techniques rarely seen in pictures of this era. Patricia Morison once said that Lon Chaney came up to her and shook her hand and told her that it was an honor to work with her. She was quite touched by this and had a number of nice things to say about Lon in an interview she gave about ten years ago.
I hadn't intended to purchase this Set - and only did so after constant
prodding by Joe Karlosi; in essence, these films are no worse than the
lower-profile sequels of the Universal monster pictures, such as the
follow-ups to THE MUMMY (1932) and THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933).
This was the first of six "Inner Sanctum" mysteries all starring Lon Chaney Jr. (with his frequent voice-over linking them rather naively with the concurrent noir subgenre) and featuring portentous - and hilarious - intros by a disembodied head in a crystal ball! It's not too bad in itself, with the plot overly familiar but fairly involving - Chaney's mind goes blank one weekend and when he comes to, discovers his unloving wife has been murdered! Of course, he's the chief suspect of dogged detective J. Carroll Naish (the best thing about the entire film) though it's the woman's lover, named Robert Duval(!), who's actually accused - and convicted - of the crime. The characters are all relatively engaging (Chaney is a celebrated neurologist with beautiful Patricia Morison as his devoted assistant) and the plot development plausible enough, making for an entertaining and fast-paced 63 minutes. The final revelation, then, is at once surprising and satisfying.
After the radio mystery show "Inner Sanctum" had been running for two
years with huge success, Universal Pictures decided to make a movie out
of it - which was itself so successful that it became a movie serial,
consisting of six films altogether, all of them starring Lon Chaney Jr.
in different roles; just like Richard Dix in the "Whistler" series -
only with MUCH more suspense, mystery and a DEFINITE touch of Film
Noir, especially this first and enormously impressive entry...
Here, Lon Chaney Jr. plays a successful neurologist who's helping lots of people with severe psychological problems by entering into their subconscious hypnotizing them, and finding the underlying reasons for their diseases - only he can't help HIMSELF: his marriage has been unhappy for years, his beautiful wife has turned away from him, cheating on him with other men, making him feel ridiculous and jealous - and ANGRY... And one day, after another quarrel about her affairs, she is found murdered - while Dr. Steel finds himself in his office the next morning, suffering from amnesia. And while hard-boiled Inspector Gregg starts bothering him immediately, trying to get a confession out of him, Steel himself begins to believe that he's guilty; so the only way to find out the truth (while his wife's boyfriend, who keeps protesting his innocence, is waiting on Death Row for his execution), he thinks, is by having his faithful assistant Stella hypnotize him and record his memories on disk...
There are SO many twists and turns in this REALLY 'noirish', gloomy and fateful story (underlined by surrealistic camera and sound effects) that towards the end, we all feel almost like being under hypnosis ourselves, and no one knows anymore who the real killer is - and those who are realistic enough to guess, just don't want to believe it... But the MOST unbelievable thing is - that a movie of THIS class today seems almost forgotten, and isn't even considered by most people as 'Noir'!! While in comparison to this dark masterpiece full of doomed men, reckless femmes fatales and cynical cops, even some of the greatest and most celebrated Noirs (like, let's say "The Big Sleep", which is full of murders, but also of playful jokes, and does have its cheerful happy ending) look almost like children's films...
Calling Dr. Death (1943) is the first of six Inner Sanctum films
starring Lon Chaney, Jr. The film is a dark mystery-thriller about a
neurologist named Dr. Mark Steel and his cheating wife Maria. Maria has
a lover which has upset Dr. Steel. Dr. Steel and his nurse Stella
Madden has developed a closeness but refrains themselves from a
romance. Maria goes away for the weekend but has been found murdered.
The police are investigating while Dr. Steel feels he may have murdered
his own wife... the question is did he (Dr. Steel) kill her or was it
A good watch if you like film-noir, mysteries, and the Universal classic horror films.
The first of Universal's fun series of thriller films under the Inner
Sanctum banner. Each one starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in different roles. In
this one, Chaney plays Dr. Mark Steele, a neurosurgeon and expert
hypnotist. Steele's unfaithful wife (Ramsay Ames) is found murdered and
he's a prime suspect. But Steele has lost his memory of the last few
days and can't remember if he killed her or not! So he gets his nurse
(Patricia Morison) to hypnotize him so he can try to remember what
Chaney's great in this. I'm sure at the time he welcomed the chance to get out of playing movie monsters. Morison and Ames are lovely to look at and good in their roles. The always-solid J. Carrol Naish plays the hard-nosed police detective investigating the case. Holmes Herbert appears in one of his many butler roles. I really like this series. A little silly at times but it just adds to the entertainment value for me. It has that distinct look and feel Universal movies had at the time. Calling Dr. Death is a very good start to a fun, enjoyable series of mystery thrillers.
Hypnotist's faithless wife is murdered and cops suspect him until a
likelier suspect emerges who may or may not be guilty.
Old radio fans no doubt recognize the Inner Sanctum origins of this film and the series that followed. Those old radio half-hours emphasized the mysterious and the darkly psychological and were nearly always entertaining. (In fact, I think the origins of post-war noir lie as much in these radio shows as they do in the better-known movie precursors.) Fortunately, this series, like its radio namesake, trades on the offbeat and chilling, and though these programmers fail to reach the memorable level of Columbia's comparable Whistler entries, the Inner Sanctum movies have their own virtues and are worth catching up with.
This first entry doesn't really grab until the last 15 minutes or so. Then it takes off with a surprise ending and especially with the surreal dream sequence. There's one got'cha in the sequence that shows real imagination. Yes, the storyline doesn't always make sense and I'm still puzzled by some of the relationships. Then too, looks to me like Chaney's not too interested in his part as the psychologist. Catch that one confrontational scene with faithless wife Maria (Ames) where both deliver their lines like they've been woodenly memorized. Nonetheless, Ames is drop-dead gorgeous in her high-fashion gown circa 1943, while Morison (nurse Stella) has the most fetching over-bite this side of Gene Tierney. All in all, this hour of intrigue is spotty but does show promise for future entries.
(In passingthose Chaney voice-overs conveying his private thoughts are a carry- over from radio where they were necessary to prevent "dead air.")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The "Inner Sanctum" films, of which I have now seen four, seem to fall somewhere between the "A"- and the "B"-movie categories; they're too "small" for the former, but also too polished for the latter. This one, "Calling Dr. Death", is an above-average little murder mystery that keeps you wondering for quite a while. Lon Chaney Jr.'s voice-overs are very effective - he has a genuinely hypnotic voice. And J. Carrol Naish, who usually played villains, gives a decidedly offbeat performance as a police inspector who seems obsessed with getting Chaney to confess to the crime. My main objection has to do with the way the film telegraphs its surprise ending slightly earlier than it should. **1/2 out of 4.
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