Thursday, June 5, 2014

Three Inner Sanctums Make A Post: Read the fine print: you may have just mortgaged your life

Dead Man’s Eyes (1944): In this Inner Sanctum Mystery, Lon Chaney Jr. feels particularly sorry for himself after his artist character is accidentally blinded (which is the sort of thing that happens when your eyewash stands right next to your acid). That’s bad news for the audience, for the only thing standing between it and a dull yet melodramatic plot full of non-events that mostly aren’t shown by director Reginald Le Borg anyway is an extra helping of Chaney whimpering “I’m blind! I’m blind”, followed by Chaney shouting “I’m blind! I’m blind”, and other assertions of blindness. If you’re like me and find Chaney’s general tendency to regard whininess as the supreme thespian expression aggravating more often than not, Dead Man’s Eyes might just cause you paroxysms (“My brains! My brains!”) of annoyance.

Strange Confession (1945): Despite some – surprisingly – stylish direction by John Hoffman and an extra sleazy performance of J. Carrol Naish as the world’s sleaziest capitalist, this outing of Lon Chaney Jr., unluckiest man alive, isn’t very interesting. It fluctuates wildly between pretty tame melodrama, not very interesting mystery, and sub-Frank Capra gestures, without ever seeming to get to the actual point. Unless the point is to tell us that capitalists are evil bastards out to exploit even genius chemist Lon Chaney Jr., in which case I can only say “No shit, Sherlock”.

Pillow of Death (1945): This final Inner Sanctum mystery finds beleaguered Lon Chaney Jr. again having trouble with a murdered wife. An absurdly old-fashioned (for 1945) old dark house mystery ensues, fake séances are held by a psychic investigator called Julian Julian, and a guy who steals corpses and stalks the film’s heroine gets the girl in the end. The script of this thing is so crack-brained, it’s not difficult to imagine this to be a Monogram picture – nobody’s motives and actions ever have anything to do with each other, the film’s murder reveal tries and fails to get away with the old “he’s crazy, so it doesn’t need to make sense”, and things like attempted murders by gassing have no repercussions for the people involved whatsoever.

Because director Wallace Fox (him of Monogram’s magnum opus The Corpse Vanishes) does his job with visible enthusiasm expressed via random fast camera movements, and the script seems to be totally at one with its own idiocy, the resulting film is a very entertaining example of its type, the sort of thing I’d recommend to everyone who has seen all Monogram productions with Bela Lugosi and wants to see more of the same, just with Lonnie and a slightly higher budget. Which describes myself pretty well, actually. God be merciful on our souls.

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