Inner Sanctum was a film imprint relating to six horror-mystery films that were produced in the 1940s. It was also the title of a 1954 television series that aired for thirty-nine episodes on NBC. The title is taken from Inner Sanctum Mysteries, which was a radio show that ran from 1941 to 1952. It was created and produced by Hinman Brown and aired on the Blue Network. Raymond Edward Johnson and Paul McGrath were the hosts of the series. One of the more notable voice talents featured on the series was Boris Karloff, who had carved out his own legend in the horror genre a decade earlier with his unforgettabel portrayal of the Frankenstein Monster in Frankenstein in 1931, The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935 and Son of Frankenstein in 1939. In addition to featuring original material, Inner Sanctum Mysteries also adapted classic Gothic literature including Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" in 1941 and "Terror by Night" in 1945.
A feature length mystery-thriller film entitled Inner Sanctum was released in 1948 and was directed by Lew Landers. The film starred Charles Russell as Harold Dunlap, Mary Beth Hughes as Jean Maxwell, Dale Belding as Mike Bennett, Billy House as McFee and Fritz Leiber as Doctor Valonius.
Film series Edit
Six films that were released by Universal Pictures between 1943 and 1948 bore the "Inner Sanctum Mysteries" banner. The first was Calling Dr. Death, which was directed by Reginald Le Borg and starred Lon Chaney, Jr. as Doctor Mark Steel. The film also starred J. Carrol Naish as Insector Gregg. Chaney and Naish would go on to work on several movies together over the course of their careers and both made appearances in other Inner Sanctum films.
The second movie in the Inner Sanctum stable was Weird Woman in 1944, which was also directed by Reginald Le Borg and reunited Lon Chaney with his former The Wolf Man love interest Evelyn Ankers as Illona Carr. The film also starred Anne Gwynne and Lois Collier. Though not wholly a horror film in the strictest terms, it does contain elements of the supernatural, including the practices of witchcraft and voodoo.
Following Weird Woman was a movie called Dead Man's Eyes, which was again directed by Le Borg and was written by Dwight V. Babcock. Lon Chaney returned once again, this time playing a character named David Stuart. His co-star in the film was Acquanetta, who had already earned herself a small place in film history with her portrayal of de-evolved gorilla Paula Dupree in 1943's Captive Wild Woman in 1943 and Jungle Woman in 1944.
The fourth film in the Inner Sanctum series was The Frozen Ghost in 1945. This movie was directed by Harold Young with a script by Henry Sucher based on an original story by Bernard Schubert and Harrison Carter. Lon Chaney returned once again, this time playing a stage mentalist named Alex Gregor, aka "Gregor the Great", who accidentally causes the death of a heckler at one of his shows and ends up becoming a narrator at a wax museum. Chaney once again co-starred with Evelyn Ankers and also played opposite veteran Western actor Milburn Stone as well as Douglas Dumbrille.
Strange Confession was released in 1945 and was the fifth film in the Inner Sanctum series. It was directed by John Hoffman and starred Lon Chaney as Jeff Carter with leading lady Brenda Joyce as Mary Carter. The film reunited Chaney with actors Milburn Stone and J. Carrol Naish and also featured a young Lloyd Bridges. This film focused less on the horror elements of the genre and centered more on the mystery thriller vein of story.
The final film in the series was Pillow of Death, which was also released in 1945. It was directed by Wallace Fox and written by George Bricker and Dwight V. Babcock. This film teamed Lon Chaney up again with Brenda Joyce in their respective roles of Wayne Fletcher and Donna Kincaid. Other stars in the film include J. Edward Bromberg, Rosalind Ivan, Clara Balandick, George Cleveland, Wilton Graff and Bernard Thomas.
All six of the films within this series were released to the home video market in VHS format in the 1990s by MCA/Universal Home Video. Each release was a double feature and bore the "Inner Sanctum" logo upon the box cover art. Calling Dr. Death was paired with Strange Confession. Weird Woman was paired with The Frozen Ghost and Dead Man's Eyes was paired with Pillow of Death.