28 February 2016 | lugonian
The Inner Sanctum: Eyes of Death
THE FROZEN GHOST (Universal, 1945), directed by Harold Young, the fourth in the "Inner Sanctum" mysteries by arrangement with Simon and Schuster Publishers, Inc., returns Lon Chaney Jr. in another one of his non-monster roles. Following his pattern of movie titles of "The Ghost of Frankenstein" (1942) and "The Mummy's Ghost" (1944), this latest installment of misleading "Ghost" titles doesn't deal with a scientific expedition in the Arctic Circle discovering a dead man inside a block of ice whose ghost haunts them by night. Instead, it's another tale of mystery and supernatural. In the tradition of its previous three "Inner Sanctum" mysteries ("Calling Doctor Death," "Weird Woman" and "Dead Man's Eyes"), there's that opening of a disembodied head of the Inner Sanctum (David Hoffman) seemingly floating back and forth inside a crystal ball addressing the movie audience once more with this statement: "This is the Inner Sanctum, the strange fantastic world controlled by mass of living, cult seeking flesh. The mind, it destroys, distorts, creates monsters. Yes, even YOU without knowing can commit murder." As the opening credits roll, the story scripted by Luci Ward and Bernard Shubert comes to life, sans any frozen ghost seeking seclusion in a warm haunted house.
The prologue starts off on a radio show (with good use of slanted camera angles) introducing a mentalist named Alex Gregor (Lon Chaney), professionally known as Gregor the Great, along with his assistant and fiancée, Maura Daniel (Evelyn Ankers), as his hypnotic subject reading inner thoughts from those selected from the studio audience. The show goes well until a drunken skeptic (Arthur Hohl) calls Gregor a fake, claiming his act is done with mirrors. Upset of being ridiculed and saying in an angry state of mind, "I could kill him," Gregor invites the drunk on the platform to prove him wrong. As Gregor puts the him under his hypnotic spell, the skeptic immediately dies. Although the coroner rules death from a heart attack, which prevents him from being arrested by Inspector Brandt (Douglass Dumbrille) from the Homicide Bureau, Gregor still insists that he's a murderer. Breaking off his engagement with Maura and canceling all future engagements, it's George Keene (Milburn Stone), Gregor's business manager and closest friend, who suggests Gregor go away for a mental relaxation, arranging a stay with Valerie Monet (Tala Birell) at her owned establishment of Madame Monet's Wax Museum who designs the costumes, accompanied by her young niece Nina Goldreau (Elena Verdugo), and Rudi Poldar (Martin Kosleck), who resents Gregor's presence at the museum. Gregor's stay is anything but restful when coping with expert dagger thrower Rudi and his jealous tendencies towards him and Nina; Nina finding her life in danger after discovering interesting facts about the wax figures; Gregor's argument with Valerie that causes to her mysterious disappearance; and the arrival of Inspector Brandt placing all suspicions on Gregor, who, by this time, is slowly going insane.
For the seventh and final of the Chaney and Ankers teaming, THE FROZEN GHOST belongs mostly to Chaney. What's interesting other than the use of hypnosis as the answer to the mystery and occasional use of voice over train of thought from Chaney's point of view, is how moments of the Wax Museum portions comes as a reminder to Lionel Atwill's MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (Warner Brothers, 1933), when watching Rudi Poldar, formerly Doctor Feldon, a plastic surgeon whose career was professionally ruined, conversing with his created wax figures of Napoleon, Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette as though they were living beings. The final moments involving the fire burning furnace looks as if this idea for a climax were lifted from the little known poverty row movie mystery, A SHREIK IN THE NIGHT (Allied, 1933) starring Ginger Rogers. Other than that, THE FROZEN GHOST, once shown frequently on commercial television before being phased out of circulation by the late 1970s, is a not-bad one hour quickie made agreeable for fans of this type of entertainment.
Formerly presented on home video in the 1997 as a companion piece with WEIRD WOMAN (1944), THE FROZEN GHOST can be found on DVD on a triple bill with its fellow Inner Sanctum mysteries of "Strange Confession" and "Pillow of Death" all featuring the mustached/guilt-ridden Lon Chaney. Next installment: the rarely seen STRANGE CONFESSION (1945) (**)