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Calling Dr. Death (1943) **1/2
JoeKarlosi19 September 2006
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 ****
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Murder and the subconscious...
binapiraeus5 April 2014
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...
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A fun movie if you are a Universal horror fan.
bblumes10 February 2007
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.
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"This business of hiding the truth from one another -- that's not being honest."
utgard1424 March 2014
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 happened.

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.
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An OK murder mystery
preppy-319 December 2004
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.
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terrific little murder mystery
disdressed1216 November 2007
it may be an old movie,but i liked'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'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 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,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
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CALLING DR. DEATH (Reginald LeBorg, 1943) **1/2
Bunuel197610 November 2006
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.
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A Psychological Mystery
Rainey-Dawn22 December 2014
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 someone else?

A good watch if you like film-noir, mysteries, and the Universal classic horror films.

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Seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1975
kevinolzak22 February 2014
1943's "Calling Dr. Death" began Universal's six film 'Inner Sanctum' series based on the thriving radio show, all but one included in the popular SHOCK! package of Universal classics issued to television in the late 50s. The first three definitely benefit from the ambitious direction of Viennese-born Reginald Le Borg, recently graduating to features after nearly 30 shorts in seven years. All six titles starred the studio's top horror icon Lon Chaney, who does look the part of neurologist Dr. Mark Steele, despite awkward dialogue and characterization. Playing his faithful nurse Stella is luminous Patricia Morison, in her element as cool femme fatales in such films as "Hitler's Madman," "Dressed to Kill," "Danger Woman," "Tarzan and the Huntress," and "Song of the Thin Man." Steele is married to the beautiful (and faithless) Maria (Ramsay Ames), who enjoys her wealth and stature, refusing to grant him a divorce. Naturally, he becomes the prime suspect when she's horribly murdered, struck dead by a fireplace poker, then her face destroyed by acid. The most striking element used by Le Borg comes when Steele arrives at the scene of the crime, the camera effectively 'becoming' the doctor as he slowly approaches the front door and meets Inspector Gregg (J. Carrol Naish). Alas, the mystery angle falls flat, the killer's identity fairly obvious, so it's up to Naish's tenacious investigator to maintain a faithful vigil on things, and his Columbo-like determination does not disappoint. There was a detective in all but one future Inner Sanctums, none of which enjoyed the stature held by Naish. Other notable roles are played by David Bruce ("The Mad Ghoul") and Fay Helm ("The Wolf Man," "Night Monster," "Captive Wild Woman"), while actor David Hoffman provided the same mysterio crystal ball introduction for all but the last entry, "Pillow of Death." Reginald Le Borg had made his feature debut with the still unreleased "The Mummy's Ghost" (also with Chaney and Ames), and did two more for this series (along with "Jungle Woman" and "Destiny") before moving over to PRC (later titles included "The Black Sleep," "Voodoo Island," "Diary of a Madman," and "So Evil My Sister"). "Calling Dr. Death" made four appearances on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater- May 24 1975 (in the middle of a rare triple bill, preceded by 1940's "Chamber of Horrors" and followed by 1933's "Secret of the Blue Room"), Aug 14 1976 (following 1965's "Monster Zero"), Sept 10 1977 (following 1941's "The Wolf Man"), and Feb 19 1983 (solo).
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First Inner Sanctum Mystery
AaronCapenBanner26 October 2013
Lon Chaney Jr. stars as psychiatrist Mark Steele, who is an amiable man with a loyal nurse named Stella(played by Patricia Morison). Unfortunately, he is married to a wild, mean, and unfaithful wife(played by Ramsay Ames) who refuses to divorce him. After a mysterious blackout one weekend, Dr. Steele has no memory, but is told by the police that his wife has been brutally murdered, and the Inspector on the Case(played by J. Carol Naish) doggedly pursues him, convinced of his guilt. The man she was having an affair with is caught, but did he do it, or someone else? Reasonably good film could have dispensed with the head-in-a-crystal ball routine, but acting is good(especially Naish in a role quite similar to later "Columbo"!) Not bad for a low budgeter.
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Shows Some Promise for the Series
dougdoepke10 August 2010
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 passing—those Chaney voice-overs conveying his private thoughts are a carry- over from radio where they were necessary to prevent "dead air.")
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Pretty Good Start To The "Inner Sanctum" Film Series
jadflack-221301 October 2017
The first of the "Inner Sanctum" series of six films based on a popular radio show at the time. This is a well made, atmospheric almost film noir murder mystery. Good performances from Lon Chaney Jnr and J Carroll Naish , here cast in a good guy role. It's rather easy to guess who the guilty party is, but that's beside the point, this is a well made little film.
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From one suspect to another
bkoganbing7 May 2016
Shot on a shoestring budget Calling Dr. Death is not a half bad murder mystery. It has elements of I Wake Up Screaming and it anticipates Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound in its use of hypnotic sequences while a murder suspect is under.

Calling Dr. Death also gives Lon Chaney, Jr. a starring role in a film that's not a horror feature. Chaney plays a neurologist whose wife Ramsay Ames flagrantly steps out on him time and again. But when she winds up murdered it's her married lover David Bruce who winds up in the jackpot. Tried and convicted he's scheduled for execution. Still that doesn't satisfy police inspector J. Carrol Naish who thinks Chaney is the guilty party.

The mark of a good mystery for me is the fact that I did not pick the murderer out early on. In fact one of the strengths of this film is that it shifts your attention from one suspect to another just when you think you figured it out.

Calling Dr. Death is a cheapie from Universal's B picture unit. But it still delivers some fine entertainment.
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The Inner Sanctum: The Lost Weekend
lugonian6 February 2016
CALLING DOCTOR DEATH (Universal, 1943), directed by Reginald LeBorg, marks the first of the "Inner Sanctum" mysteries, all starring Lon Chaney Jr. (billed solely as Lon Chaney in the credits). These second feature productions offered the mustached Chaney the opportunity to carry on a story without portraying an assortment of Universal monsters since his breakthrough performance as The Wolf Man (1941), followed by the Frankenstein monster ("The Ghost of Frankenstein, 1942); Klaris, the Mummy (starting with "The Mummy's Tomb," 1942) and Count Dracula ("Son of Dracula, 1943). This, and some subsequent films in a total of six, mostly come with an introduction before the title credits with an image of a man's head (David Hoffman) floating inside a crystal ball looking directly into the camera, and saying, "This is the Inner Sanctum, the fantastic world controlled by mass of living, cult seeking flesh. The mind .. it destroys, distracts, creates monsters. Yes, even you, without knowing, can commit murder."

Taken from an original screenplay by Edward Dein, inspired by the "Inner Sanctum" stories owned and copyrighted by Simon and Schuster Publishers, this initial entry is not one about a doctor performing mercy killings, (though not a bad idea), but about a neurologist, Doctor Mark Steel (Lon Chaney), who, through the assistance of his confident, Stella Madden (Patricia Morison), enters the minds of patients through hypnotism, and solving whatever problem they may have. Though Mark is able to help those in need of his services, he's unable to do the same for himself, coping with his troubled two-year marriage to Maria (Ramsay Ames), an attractive, but faithless woman with outside affairs. Finding himself dining alone and awaiting to 3 a.m. for his wife's return (and suspecting another man involved), upon her return he asks for a divorce, but is refused. Maria intends remaining a doctor's wife and being part of the social circle. Later, after returning home late Saturday afternoon, Mark is told by Bryant (Holmes Herbert), his butler, that Mrs. Steel is gone for the weekend. In a delirious state, Mark drives to the country lodge to have a showdown. The next scene finds him being awakened by his nurse at his office Monday morning, unable to recall anything that occurred over the weekend. Then the arrival of detectives inform Mark of his wife's brutal murder with face burned with acid and head struck by a blunt instrument. In spite the fact that Robert Duval (David Bruce), Maria's lover and married man with an invalid wife (Fay Helm), being arrested, tried and sentenced to be executed for the crime, Mark still believes him innocent. With the help of Stella, hypnotizes himself to verbally record on Dictaphone to account for his missing alibi, but Inspector Gregg (J. Carrol Naish) of the police department has his doubts, continuing to hound and suspect Mark of foul play.

A well-scripted 64 minute mystery, with eerie background music, voice-over thoughts through the minds of central characters, and occasional slanted camera angles, CALLING DOCTOR DEATH is satisfactory screen entertainment. With Lon Chaney performing more of an actor than his usual tormented wolf man in a series of films, he's in fine support by Patricia Morison as his loyal assistant with few key scenes along her way, and J. Carrol Naish in a performance not much different from Peter Falk's style from his seventies TV mystery series as "Columbo."

Not broadcast regularly on television since the late 1970s, this and other "Inner Sanctum" mysteries starring Lon Chaney became available in a three set, double-feature packages on home video in the 1997, with CALLING DOCTOR DEATH double billed with the rarely seen and revived STRANGE CONFESSION (1945), and later the DVD format with three films on two discs collection in chronological order. A treat for Chaney fans and or old-time movie mystery lovers. Next installment: WEIRD WOMAN (1944), which is somewhat better. (**1/2)
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Calling Dr. Death
Scarecrow-8815 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
An eminent neurologist, whose psyche is starting to fracture because of his bad marriage, is starting to unravel as his no-good wife continues to harass him, flaunting her adultery and basically challenging Dr. Steele to do something about it (she taunts his inability to free himself from her, not knowing what could possibly result as he contemplates in his tormented mind the idea of murdering her). When her body is found in Steele's hunting lodge, her face destroyed by acid, could the doctor be responsible? Even worse, Dr. Steele was found by his assistant, Stella, in his office, suffering amnesia, unable to determine his whereabouts during the weekend his wife was murdered. Duval, Maria's lover, is the one arrested for the crime because he was there near the time of the murder, had a quarrel with her over leaving Steele, and seems like as good a candidate as any to kill the woman who could not abandon the position and social standing attributing to a life of luxury and prominence which comes from being married to a prestigious neurologist. Sentenced to the electric chair in court by circumstantial evidence, Duval seems doomed to die for a crime he didn't commit as Steele tries to unlock the mystery of his *lost weekend*. Talking to Duval, Steele is convinced he's hiding something—but what?

An Inner Sanctum Mystery starring Lon Chaney Jr who, at this time in his career, continued to mine the sad pathos of Lawrence Talbot with characters like his Doc Steele, a wrongfully mistreated innocent, caught in a trap, seeking to escape. Maybe Steele isn't suffering from lycanthropy, but he's unsure of what took place for two days, having a hard time living with the thought that someone is possibly sentenced to death for a crime he might have actually committed, needing to reveal the concealed truth behind what actually happened and why. Of course, with any mystery, revelations regarding the true character of certain individuals emerge: Duval isn't a saint by any imagination and nurse Stella (the stunning Patricia Morison) may not be an angel Steele believes her to be. J. Carrol Naish is wonderful as Inspector Gregg, the detective on the case who seems convinced that Steele is behind the murder of his wife and often muses about his feelings to the doctor, a cynical air about him which seems to hit a nerve on every occasion they meet. My favorite scenes are between the uncomfortable Chaney and confident Naish, the insinuations and accusations freely offered by the cop to the man he considers (we think) the likely killer. Hypnosis is a device used in the plot to unearth the sinister details (Steele uses hypnosis as a technique to help his patients acknowledge what it is that has caused them such psychological crisis) behind Maria's violent death, explaining the unusual explosion in Steele's office (acid was used here as well) which led to certain important files in a cabinet being burned, and how a gambling debt, along with thousands of dollars taken from the doctor by his wife, was the culprit behind everything. Fay Helm, despite maybe one real scene, leaves quite an impression, as a nasty bitch who laughs in Chaney's face, mocking him, earning our immediate disgust because she has no qualms against torturing her devoted husband. Morison (the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes film, "Dressed to Kill" may be her most memorable role), I would have loved to see Universal use in more Gothic horror movies; not sure why she wasn't. I must admit that I found the disembodied head in the crystal ball setting up these Inner Sanctum Mysteries to be a bit tacky, but it has a charm that goes with that particular era in horror. Most of the film has Chaney, whispering in voice-over, explaining Dr. Steele's thoughts to us.
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Another decent installment of the Inner Sanctum series
MartinHafer8 August 2008
In the 1940s, Universal Studios made a short series of films dubbed "The Inner Sanctum" movies. They all apparently starred Lon Chaney, Jr. and were B-movies. In other words, they were lower budget and ran at only a little over one hour, as they were intended to be the second (and lesser) film during a double-feature. In general, Bs were not great films, though compared to other films of the style, Inner Sanctum films are definitely a notch above the rest.

In this installment, Chaney plays a Neurosurgeon who also does hypnosis (an odd combination by the way). He seems like a nice guy and you have to feel sorry for him since he's apparently married a horrible woman who treats him like dirt. When this lady is killed, you'd think that would be the end of his problems, however, police think he might be the killer and Chaney isn't sure himself since his memories of that weekend are missing! Using hypnosis, he gets to the heart of the problem.

By the way, the hypnotic portions of the film were wrong in that hypnosis works very little like they showed it. However, as most people watching the film are NOT trained hypnotists (I am), they really won't notice or care that this aspect of the movie is mostly mumbo-jumbo. Aside from that, the acting, writing and direction are all pretty good--and the film is a nice diverting little mystery.

By the way, this film is one of six that have been released on DVD--with three episodes on each DVD. This is from Disk 1 and also includes DEAD MAN'S EYES and WEIRD WOMAN--both of which are of comparable quality. I strongly recommend you see the series and if you like it, also try Columbia Pictures' WHISTLER series--as it's very similar in style.
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Above-average of its type
gridoon20214 November 2014
Warning: 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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Good evening friends of the creaking door.
Mike-7647 June 2005
Dr. Mark Steele (neurologist) finds that his wife is being unfaithful and would love to divorce her and marry his nurse, Stella Madden, but Maria Steele would continue to be married to the doctor in order to keep her position and financial standing. Dr. Steele chases his wife to their upstate cabin, but the next thing Dr. Steele knows is waking up in his office and the police questioning him about the murder of his wife, especially Inspector Gregg, who is convinced that Dr. Steele killed his wife. Maria's lover, Robert Duval, becomes arrested and convicted of Maria's murder even though he swears his innocence. Dr. Steele, who is becoming convinced that he killed his wife during his amnesia, hypnotizes himself to find the truth. The film is very similar to the radio show, with the main character having the mind game with his conscience, but like the show, Calling Dr. Death suffers from a weak and factless climax. Chaney is good (considering he was in a couple of the OTR shows) and Morrison is adequate as Stella. Naish is very convincing as Gregg. This film could have used a script that rounded up more of the plot holes and explained itself better. Rating, 6.
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Chaney's first Inner Sanctum mystery...
simeon_flake21 February 2015
As many astute reviewers have already pointed out, this was the beginning of the "Inner Sanctum" series--a series that gave Lon Chaney Jr. the chance to break from his heavily made up monster roles and stretch his acting skills a bit.

"Calling Dr. Death" is a good start--although, if I had to rank the entire series, I would probably have this one down near the bottom with "Pillow of Death"--which is not to say that CDD or POD are bad movies; far from it. It's just that there were better Innner Sanctum Mysteries to come--namely "Dead Man's Eyes" and "Strange Confession."

Some points of CDD that I liked--Chaney of course, was very good in his role as was J. Carrol Naish as the tough police inspector--watching this and "Strange Confession" just makes me marvel more at how Naish was able to literally transform himself and become the pitiable hunchback for "House of Frankenstein."

Patricia Morison herself was another highlight of the film for me. I was very captivated by her--one of those classic Hollywood beauties and a good actress too.

The few minuses of the picture--well, there is Ramsay Ames as the Doctor's wife. Ms. Ames was very talented when it came to filling out her nightgowns in "The Mummy's Ghost", but as far as her acting ability (or lack thereof), maybe the less said the better.

And the ending is kind of a downer for me, if only because I wanted to see the 2 principles of the story have a happy ending together, but I won't go into too much detail--trying not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't seen it.

Overall, I rate it a 7 out of 10...
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First of the "Inner Sanctum" Mysteries!
bsmith555226 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Calling Dr. Death" was the first of six "Inner Sanctum" mysteries produced by Universal between 1943 and 1945 starring Lon Chaney Jr. They were adapted from the popular radio program of the day of the same name.

In the opener, Chaney plays neurologist Dr. Mark Steel who is stuck in a loveless marriage with gold digging wife Maria (Ramsey Ames) who is having an affair with Robert Duval (David Bruce). After he learns that the two plan a weekend together at the Steel's country house, Mark becomes despondent and drives aimlessly around the country.

The following Monday morning Mark's assistant Stella Madden (Patricia Morison) finds him asleep at his desk. He is unable to remember his whereabouts for the last part of the weekend. Suddenly he is arrested for Maria's murder. Detective Inspector Gregg (J. Carroll Naish) is assigned to the case.

Later it is learned that Maria's lover Duval has been arrested for the murder. He is convicted and sentenced to death. Meanwhile Insp. Gregg who believes Duval to be innocent, continues to dog Mark. As Duval's execution date approaches, Mark allows himself to be hypnotized in order to find the truth. Who done it? Hmmmmmmm.

Universal continued to use Chaney to the maximum, not really knowing how to handle his talent. In addition to his horror roles (Wolf Man, Dracula, Frankenstein's Montster etc.) he would also show up in the studio's serials, westerns or even in Abbott & Costello comedies.

Watch for 30s "B" movie hero Rex Lease as one of the detectives who arrest Chaney.
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A decent start to this film series.
Hey_Sweden22 January 2021
Lon Chaney Jr. is front and centre here as Dr. Mark Steele, a successful neurologist who's married to a conniving, selfish, status-hungry woman named Maria (Ramsay Ames). He'd like to be rid of her, and in fact he's not terribly distraught when she does turn up dead. The trouble is, he's afraid he might have killed her himself, since there ARE 48 hours of his life which he cannot account for. An unrelenting homicide detective (J. Carrol Naish) is absolutely convinced that Mark is the killer, and always lets him know it. He stays right on Marks' tail, hoping that the good doctor will slip up.

Inspired by the radio program, this initial entry into the six-film "Inner Sanctum" franchise is no great shakes, but is reasonably entertaining and features a couple of solid performances. The script, by Edward Dein (later director of things like "Curse of the Undead" and "The Leech Woman"), is not exactly airtight, but director Reginald LeBorg gives it some style, especially when it comes to visually portraying the lead characters' inner turmoil. A repeated device has us constantly hearing his unspoken monologues; while sometimes effective, it's not always necessary. Good acting by Lon, Naish, Patricia Morison as the devoted nurse, David Bruce as a suspect, Fay Helm as his wife, and prolific Holmes Herbert as the butler, helps a lot.

These "Inner Sanctum" features were indeed modest productions, and were for the most part enjoyable yet forgettable. Although not as thickly atmospheric as the horror pictures churned out by Universal in the 30s and 40s, they did have their share of ambiance, and gave Lon good opportunities to play different types of characters, who were surrounded by death and intrigue. The next feature after this one, the Fritz Leiber adaptation "Weird Woman", is the best of the bunch in this viewers' humble opinion, and is also his personal favourite.

Six out of 10.
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A neurologist suffers a break down.
michaelRokeefe26 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Lon Chaney Jr is called Dr. Death. This is the initial mystery from Universal's "Inner Sanctum" series. Doctor Steele (Chaney Jr.) is a well known neurologist plagued by a beautiful, but unfaithful wife (Ramsay Ames). Despondent dealing with the thought of his conniving wife, Steele blacks out and loses track of time; upon returning home, he is met by Inspector Gregg (J. Carrol Naish), who advises him of the murder of his wife. The doctor is browbeaten in search of a confession. Steele is almost convinced that he did kill his cheating wife. The doc's attractive nurse, Stella (Patricia Morison), in her loyalty tries to prove her boss is innocent.

This Film-Noir thriller is directed by Reginald Le Borg. Atmospheric and well acted. Other players include: David Bruce, George Eldredge, Holmes Herbert, Fay Helm and Charles Wagenheim.
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Good movie, but it's not just the door that creaks
mgconlan-113 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Calling Dr. Death" is a good movie and its DVD release as part of the "Inner Sanctum" series collection is welcome. Lon Chaney, Jr. wasn't as rangy an actor as Universal clearly thought, but the part of a neurologist tortured by the clash between an unfaithful wife and an obsessive nurse, who blacks out and is unable to tell from his own conscious knowledge whether he killed his wife, suits him perfectly. Patricia Morison is also good in her role as the nurse who (here comes the spoiler) actually committed the murder — it's not such a big surprise given that writer Edward Dein only gave us three suspects and it's clear early on that he wasn't going to make Chaney's character the real killer — as is Ramsay Ames as the faithless wife. In some ways this story is what "Rebecca" would have been if Rebecca had actually been shown as an on-screen character, and it's one of the first uses of the gimmick of the innocent man who can't be sure of his own innocence because he was on a binge when the murder occurred. (Films as diverse as "Black Angel" and "The Morning After" have used that plot trope since.) There are points where the plot of this one creaks big-time, but it's a nicely honed, marvelously atmospheric mystery and director Reginald LeBorg (I love that name and can only wish he'd married actress Veda Ann Borg so she could have been Veda Ann Borg LeBorg, though in real life LeBorg was Gay and one of Gay-rights pioneer Harry Hay's lovers, so named in Stuart Timmons' biography of Hay) seems better suited to a suspense thriller like this than an out-and-out horror movie like the pretty awful "Jungle Woman." It's also nice to see J. Carrol Naish as a good guy for a change, a homicide detective whose dogged pursuit of one suspect even as another is charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to death anticipates Peter Falk's TV character of Columbo.
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Watch it only to add it to your Chaney, Jr. list.
Byrdz10 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
One of the Universal INNER SANCTUM series and not one of Lon Chaney's greatest. He is a psychiatric hypnotist with an odd way of waking his patients up . He gives them a smack on the face.. hard ! He also does an annoying whispered voice-over narration through the entire film ! It really wasn't very good but it's enjoyable to watch Lon, Jr. in anything, just to see him.

Co-starring as Chaney's overly-devoted nurse is Patricia Morison. Perhaps better known as Broadway's original Kate in "Kiss Me Kate" and in Alfred Drake's "Kismet". She celebrated her 101st Birthday in March of 2016!

Also present as a police inspector hot on the trail in the murder case is J. Carrol Naish always his excellent self.
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Death Would Be Preferable!
dmh714 December 2004
I didn't expect much from this, and my expectations were met brutally: it seemed to be five hours long. The "mystery" is easily solved a good hour or more before the actual revelation, and mainly nothing happens unless you really enjoy watching Creighton rub his kneecaps as a sign of "inner turmoil." Really quite awful...

I've seen a number of these "Inner Sanctum" stories, and this is easily among the worst, although few of them are exemplary. The radio show also had rather plodding story lines, but that medium's reliance on sound made that show a a stand-out in merely technical terms. On-screen however, it is difficult to comprehend how such badly-written tales could be watchable, even if the main actor wasn't Lon Chaney Jr. He is so bad in this film that even the usually moribund J. Carroll Naish appears forceful beside him.

A good way to ruin an evening.
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