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All six films star the phlegmatic Lon Chaney Jr., and most begin with a floating head in the crystal ball, welcoming us to the inner sanctum, "A strange, fantastic world, controlled by a mass of living, pulsating flesh... the mind." The vaguely supernatural promise of this grabby opening is rarely fulfilled by the movies, which tend to be acceptable murder mysteries with--despite the wacky titles--very little horror content. Chaney plays a man of some distinction (a professor in Weird Woman, famous mentalist in The Frozen Ghost, physician in Calling Dr. Death) who runs afoul of women (among them Evelyn Ankers and Patricia Morison) and murder. At some point in each movie he has some elaborate voice-over agony, making clear the connection to the radio series' interior monologue. The one-hour-and-change productions are handsome, considering their budget restrictions, and Universal's prints are well-preserved; the literacy of the writing is surprisingly high--although decent writing can't put much zip into the proceedings.
Weird Woman is probably the best of the bunch, an adaptation of Fritz Leiber's novel Conjure Wife (later filmed as Burn, Witch, Burn!). Chaney is an expert on superstition who marries a voodoo-obsessed woman, whose spells might be responsible for his rapid professional rise. The influence of Cat People is as strong as the source novel. Calling Dr. Death, the first in the series, is duller, with a hypnotism-minded Chaney bedeviled by a wanton wife who conveniently dies under mysterious circumstances. Dead Man's Eyes and the amazingly-titled Pillow of Death are more fun, the former a variation on the old eye-transplant story and the latter a whodunit with lawyer Chaney accused of his wife's murder (the supernatural touch this time: séances).
Strange Confession has Chaney as an honest chemist battling an evil pharmaceutical tycoon (J. Carrol Naish), and The Frozen Ghost combines two horror staples, the unstable mentalist and the wax museum. It's just crazy enough to be entertaining, even if there's no ghost (and hardly any freezing). All in all, the DVD set is a good look at Universal's second-tier output of the era. And then there's Chaney, whose jowly steadfastness can become weirdly fascinating if you watch a few of these close together. Universal put him hard to work after the success of 1941's The Wolf Man, and alongside his monster-movie excursions and his singular triumph in Of Mice and Men, the Inner Sanctum pictures represent Chaney's best moment as a leading man. Despite his limitations, he'll always have his spot in the Universal galaxy. --Robert Horton
It's a great set of movies. They all have lots of atmosphere and feature the talented Lon Chaney Jnr to perfection.Published 18 days ago by Diana N
I saw part of one of the movie selections on a late night show and couldn't find the whole movie. Of course, I found it Amazon. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Rhonda
So far I have been unable to access the second film on each disc, and the third film only with difficulty. I believe this is a problem with my player rather than with the discs. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Terence Mahoney
I just finished watching all 6 pictures in order, 3 on each dvd. And over all found them to be interesting mysteries ( little horror or supernatural) all starring Mr. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Classic George
These films I had never seen before. I liked that they contained a twist to the story lines.Published 4 months ago by Patricia C. Green
I had not seen this since I was a child and to get this DVD was like looking in treasure chest and finding a jewel!Published 4 months ago by Moody
I own practically every horror film, but not quit yet, these Inner Sanctum films is a must,very well made for the budget they had to work with. and very well acted.. Read morePublished 6 months ago by chip fortune