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This is possibly the best of the "Inner Sanctums", though it's also not
a typical one - being based on Jean Bart's impressive anti-war drama
"The Man Who Reclaimed His Head" (already filmed by Universal in 1934
with Claude Rains; in retrospect, it's amusing to note that the remake
starred the actor who had played Rains' son in THE WOLF MAN !).
Still, even if the setting is effectively updated - the original had a
pre-WWI backdrop - its dealing with the crooked marketing of an untried
drug is not quite the same thing as the philosophical war-themed
discussions which distinguished the play (and earlier film)!
Again, we're supposed to believe Lon Chaney Jr. is something of a genius in his field - in this case, medical research - but he allows himself to be exploited by his unscrupulous boss J. Carrol Naish (who even has designs on his wife!). Chaney is typically flustered but Naish is an ideal villainous substitute for Lionel Atwill; Brenda Joyce, then, fills in for Joan Bennett as the heroine yearning for a fuller life but, ultimately, unwilling to sacrifice her domestic harmony to satisfy her own selfish ends.
The pace is necessarily slow - there are no murders or detectives this time around - with Chaney recounting his tragic tale to a childhood friend, and the resolution rather skimps on the hero's particular 'crime' (which was certainly more explicit in the 1934 version, even if STRANGE CONFESSION itself was also known as THE MISSING HEAD!) - but, as I said, it's the most satisfying entry in the series (which, ironically enough, was the one to go unseen for decades due to a copyright dispute!).
Mild-mannered chemist and devoted family man Jeff Carter (Chaney) is
exploited by his unscrupulous employer (Naish) until tragedy results.
A half-hour into this programmer and I still wasn't sure where it was going. It plays more like an ordinary melodrama than an entry in a horror series (Universal's Inner Sanctum). Nonetheless, it's the most coherently plotted of the six entries and features Chaney's best performance. He was always good at projecting pathos, unusual for such a hulking figure. Here he gets the opportunity and looks more engaged than usual for the series.
It's a good thing the cast is engaged because the set-up takes some time, enough time for viewers to otherwise wander off. The premise amounts to a cynical look at the pharmaceutical industry, circa 1945. I don't know where the federal Food and Drug Administration was in those days, but the screenplay amounts to a strong case for federal regulation of the drug industry. Not exactly what you'd expect from a horror feature, although there is strong episode of implied horror near the end that works very well.
Anyway, I rather liked this little oddity and enjoyed a young and vigorous Lloyd Bridges clearly on his way up the Hollywood ladder.
I am a big fan of Lon Chaney Jr.It was good to see a movie where Chaney was`nt a stupid monster killing people.This is perfect! I liked it.It was very good.We bought that two movie deal Calling Dr.Death and this.Strange confession beat Dr Death in my book.Oh my it was good.Lon Chaney was a great actor.And this movie is a good way to see his gift.A great mystery.And very suspenseful.It was a great movie.See it if you want a good movie to watch.
"Strange Confession" was the fifth of six "Inner Sanctum" mysteries
produced by Universal between 1943 and 1945 and starring Lon Chaney Jr.
The film opens with chemist Jeff Carter (Chaney) arriving on the doorstep of Parker (George Chandler) a lawyer he knew during his school days. He pleads with him to listen to his "strange confession".
In flashback, we see Carter content with his lot in life. He is a chemist whose boss Roger Graham (J. Carroll Naish) takes all of the credit for Jeff's work in developing new drugs. Jeff's wife Mary (Brenda Joyce) wants Jeff to be more ambitious and provide her and their son with the better things in life.
When Jeff refuses to provide Graham with his notes on a drug he is working on because of incomplete testing, he quits his job. Graham uses his influence to block Jeff's getting another job in the field. Jeff goes to work as a pharmacist and is content in that role. One New Year's Eve, Graham comes to Jeff's apartment to offer him his old job back with perks. At first Jeff refuses but at Mary's insistence, he takes the job.
Unbeknownst to Jeff, Graham has eyes for Mary. To that end he arranges for Jeff and his assistant Dave Curtis (Lloyd Bridges) to go to South America to continue work on an influenza drug. Meanwhile Graham and his assistant Stevens (Milburn Stone) steal Jeff's papers and market the drug based on an incomplete formula. Jeff eventually finds the missing link for his formula and wires the new formula to Graham. Graham and Stevens believe the re-working of the drug will take to long to produce, so they continue to market the drug made with the incomplete formula.
And then tragedy strikes. Jeff returns home and....................
This film is one of the better ones in the series. It has an excellent supporting cast and a good story to boot. Chaney as always is excellent. His performance as the meek and gentle chemist who is double crossed once too often is memorable. Naish makes a smooth villain. Brenda Joyce also stands out as Carter's wife.
Also in the cast are Addison Richards as Dr. Williams and Mary Gordon (Mrs. Hudson in the "Sherlock Holmes" series) as Mrs. O'Connor. For Naish and Stone, this was their second appearance in the series.
A compelling little drama with a few unexpected twists.
Idealistic chemist Jeff Carter (Lon Chaney Jr.) has all his boss Roger
Graham (J. Carrol Naish) take credit for all his discoveries. He
doesn't care about the credit--he just wants to help humanity. But when
Graham releases a drug that Carter discovered without Carter's approval
Easily one of the best "Inner Sanctum" films. It's basically a remake of a 1934 Claude Rains' film called "The Man Who Reclaimed His Head". The original is better but this isn't bad. It's interesting to see Chaney playing a sympathetic, cheerful guy for once and doing a pretty good job. Naish is (as always) very good playing the evil boss. And Brenda Joyce has her moments as Chaney's wife. And it's fun to see Lloyd Bridges in an early role.
This film really doesn't belong with the "Inner Sanctum" series--it's more of a drama until the very end. The film was low budget but looks just great--I assume they were shooting on sets of other movies. This was unavailable from the late 1940s to the early 1990s because of legal rights---but now it's out there and worth seeing. I give it a 6.
No great shakes but not bad at all.
Strange Confession (1945)
*** (out of 4)
Fifth in the Inner Sanctum series once again features Lon Chaney, Jr.. This time around he plays a brilliant scientist who's trying to find a cure for influenza. His greedy boss (J. Carrol Naish) puts the stuff out on the market before it has been proved to cure and this leads to a tragedy. This is probably the best of the series as it mixes some Frank Capra like quiet moments with some rather mean spirited stuff towards the end. Chaney gives a very good performance and Naish lends a very strong supporting performance.
You would think no one would want to mess with the Wolf Man,
Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, or Dracula -- all of whom the
brawny, sinister-looking Lon Chaney Jr would play during his years on
the silver screen. However, in Strange Confession he plays a
good-natured, altruistic chemist, interested only in helping mankind by
finding cures for diseases. So it's not surprising the amoral boss of
the pharmaceutical lab he works for, played with slimy sophistication
by J. Carrol Nash, takes advantage of his naive employee. It was bad
enough he took credit and even won awards for Chaney's discoveries. But
now he sends his star chemist out of the country so he can start
selling an unproven influenza remedy Chaney would have objected was not
reliable, and even more dastardly, so he can hit on Chaney's wife. When
Chaney returns home unexpectedly and is confronted with all the
distressing developments which have accrued from his sneaky boss's
nefarious doings, look out! No more Mr. Nice Guy!
Strange Confession is one of the best of Universal Studio's six spooky little "B" potboilers inspired by the popular "Inner Sanctum" radio show. Each stared Chaney, enjoying a change of pace from his monster image as a suave, nattily dressed leading man. Instead of monster or moron, as in Of Mice And Men, in these nifty little thrillers he plays sophisticated, well-educated men, variously a psychiatrist, a professor, an artist, a hypnotist, a chemist, and an attorney. In the line of duty he receives the sexy attentions of some of Old Hollywood B-movie land's most beautiful babes, the glamorous likes of Evelyn Ankers, Anne Gynne, Patricia Morrison, Aquanetta, Elena Verdugo, and the afore-mentioned pretty Miss Joyce. Wow! Must have been an ego boost for he not-so-handsome Chaney. Could all the cigarettes he smoked in these movies have been to cover up the steam coming out of his ears!
But Chaney was a better actor than his later unrewarding roles would indicate, and he carries these short but quite good little movies with his measured portrayals of the tormented heroes. I would rate Strange Confession as the third best of the series with Weird Woman (see my review) as the best. Calling Dr. Death (1943), first in the series, perhaps has a slight edge over Strange in spite of lesser production values, because it incorporates a strong mystery-suspense angle with a tense psychological element. Strange Confession is more of a straight melodrama and the least spooky of the series. Also, Dr. Death gets a boost from the always reliable Nash's scintillating performance as a sardonic detective. Because the six pictures of the series were big studio second features, rather than impoverished independent "B" productions, a lot of mileage was made out of small budgets by borrowing sets from other, often bigger productions and by tapping a stable of on-the-payroll solid character actors such as Nash, Thomas Gomez, Milburn Stone, Douglas Dumbrille, Lloyd Bridges, and Ralph Morgan. While tacky looking in places, these little flicks are not without artistic merit. Though seldom mentioned in the context, all six movies are fine examples of the period film noir style, all loaded with night scenes, darkly shadowed and obliquely angled cinematography, femme fa-tales, doom-laden ambiance, and themes of murder, corruption, and betrayal. All the Sanctums are well-acted, well-directed, handsomely filmed, and stylishly scored.
Strange Confession and the rest of the Inner Sanctum series are enduring examples of how the big studios of Hollywood's Golden Era could turn out good-looking, entertaining pictures while only half-way trying. Once you have watched the entire series on Universal's economically priced album of meticulously restored DVD's, you may wish, as yours truly does, they had made sixty of them, instead of only six!
Of the six Inner Sanctum movies Lon Chaney made at Universal, for me
this one constantly switches positions with two others in "Top Three"
status. Chaney plays Jeff Carter, a good husband and father who's too
soft when it comes to handling his domineering boss Roger Graham (J.
Carrol Naish). Jeff's a skilled, meticulous lab chemist busy developing
medicines with his partner (played by a very young Lloyd Bridges), but
for all his achievements still lives modestly with his family in a tiny
apartment. Jeff works hard while watching Graham take all the money and
credit, and ultimately becomes a pawn in Graham's game when the boss
sends Jeff away for a month on a job in South America for his own
selfish ulterior motives.
STRANGE CONFESSION benefits right away for being somewhat different in style and approach from all the other Inner Sanctum mysteries, and it ropes you in from its prelude where we see a tormented Jeff desperately consulting with a lawyer while carrying a black bag with something unspeakable inside it. The film is then told as a flashback where we can find out what happened and why. Chaney gives a good performance, and J. Carrol Naish (who was so perfect with him in CALLING DR. DEATH) again makes for a fine match. *** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tragedy befalls a brilliant chemist, Jeff Carter (Lon Chaney Jr), when
his employer, a crafty pharmaceutical marketer, Roger Graham (J. Carrol
Naish), steals the scientist's imperfect formula and begins to market
the drug before it is fully tested and proved through experimentation.
The "strange confession" of the title is the backstory presented by
Carter to a renowned district attorney Jeff knew from school, wanting
to provide reasons why he has a certain something in a doctor's bag.
Carter had worked for Graham, knew his boss was always quick to rush
product to the market despite the proper protocols needed to make sure
drugs were safe, resigning from the job out of discomfort for his
mistreatment. Graham, out of pure meanness, uses his clout to keep
Carter from getting work elsewhere, soon returning to the chemist when
other scientists he hired failed to deliver results. Because he had to
resort to working as a pharmacist in a drug store, Jeff's family live
in a cheap boardinghouse, with a small laboratory in the corner of a
tiny bathroom. Under pressure from wife Mary (Brenda Joyce) to accept
Graham's offer to return to work for him under better conditions,
Jeff's status, financially, changes but there are repercussions he
couldn't possibly foresee.
Naish is spot-on as the treacherous scoundrel after Chaney's lovely wife, so despicable in how he uses another man's genius to profit substantially, even stealing the scientist's notes so he can quickly market a drug that isn't ready for distribution. Graham's shipping off Jeff to South America to find a particular mold needed as the final ingredient important in successfully creating a "miracle drug" just so he can get chummy with Mary while the hubby is far away, Naish is developed as the perfectly conniving heel, more concerned with financial rewards (and phony public praise for a drug he takes credit for) than having a viable cure for diseases. The tragic consequences, based solely on greed and lust, which affect the Carter family set up Chaney's chemist as quite the sympathetic victim. You'd be hard-pressed not to want Jeff to skin Graham's hide due to the boss' underhanded antics. While Chaney is considered the star of "Strange Confession", this is really Naish's film. The opening is wonderfully puzzling and the shocking conclusion, when Carter gets his revenge, adds a potency that caps off this quality entry in the Inner Sanctum Mysteries series. One of the few films which actually features Chaney as a "Leave It to Beaver" family man, only for this bliss to be shattered by a no-good sonofabitch.
Interesting how the missus is actually the true source for the Carter family's downward slide, mainly because she expresses her dismay with living under less-than-desirable conditions, urging her husband to return to work with a proved crook/charlatan so that she could have the "finer things". A young Lloyd Bridges is Carter's assistant, Dave Curtis, quite charming and handsome. This, I'd have to say, is the most different from the other films in the series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From 1943 through 1945, Universal Studios made a string of six movies
that starred Lon Chaney, Jr. that were all termed "The Inner Sanctum".
Many of the actors were seen in several of the films, though Chaney
managed to play the lead in all of them. The stories were B-films--with
small budgets and running at just over 60 minutes each. In many ways,
they were similar to the later "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV series.
In addition, Columbia Pictures apparently thought there was money in
the concept and brought out The Whistler series just a year after the
first Inner Sanctum film. Like the other series, the same actor was
supposed to star in the films and they all had different stories about
murder and mayhem. Of the two series, I think the Inner Sanctum ones
were just a bit better and part of this was because Chaney was
excellent in the films. This film is the best of the six films and
oddly it just happened to be the last I happened to see--making this an
excellent way to complete the series.
Chaney plays a kind medical researcher who cares much more about mankind than he does about getting rich. However, his boss (J. Carroll Naish) is a real dirt-bag--with little interest in anything other than getting rich and claiming credit for Chaney's hard work. Oddly, Chaney doesn't mind, as he's happy with his work and just wants to help people. However, when Naish wants to cut corners and possibly risk lives, Chaney is incensed and quits his job.
Some time later, Naish finds Chaney and apologizes for the past and begs him to return to his old job--at a much higher salary and all the independence he wants. Chaney isn't convinced, as he knows Naish is a weasel, but Chaney's wife convinces him to take the job. Things go fine for a while, but Naish definitely didn't learn his lesson and comes up with an evil plan to both steal Chaney's wife AND market a drug that could kill. In the end, the plot works perfectly--leading to a dandy conclusion and making the audience really sympathize with poor old Chaney.
When it comes to writing, the series had great ideas but often the scripts were full of holes. However, this one is not Swiss Cheezy and works great. Exciting and tense--this is the series at its best.
By the way, they never said exactly what was in Chaney's bag. I assumed it was Naish's head or brain but it was deliberately left vague. I like it that way, as it tends to let your mind conjure up all kinds of interesting images.
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