24 February 2014 | kevinolzak
Seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1966
1944's "The Frozen Ghost" was fourth of the six 'Inner Sanctum' mysteries (released only an entire year after completion), later included in Universal's popular SHOCK! package of classic horror films issued to television in the late 50s, its intriguing title and stronger than usual cast perhaps explaining its more frequent showings than the four other SHOCK! titles. As a vehicle for Lon Chaney however, it's probably the weakest, repeating his pity party from the previous entry, "Dead Man's Eyes," this time as Alex Gregor, successful stage hypnotist, whose latest subject, an alcoholic skeptic (Arthur Hohl), succumbs while going into a trance. The amazingly cloddish and unsympathetic Gregor has no one but himself to blame for all his subsequent troubles, blaming his mesmeric powers for the man's fatal heart attack, and ending his engagement to his lovely partner, Maura Daniel (Evelyn Ankers). Gregor's business manager, George Keene (Milburn Stone), hits upon the brilliant idea of having his downtrodden client begin working at the wax museum of Valerie Monet (Tala Birell), whose teenage niece, Nina Cordreau (Elena Verdugo), quickly develops a crush on the older man. Unhappily, this conflicts with Valerie's own designs on Gregor, who continues to behave in such a crestfallen manner that one would think that any self respecting female would preferably flee from him with great haste. Once the action shifts to the waxworks, Chaney's hapless histrionics fade into the background, actually not a bad thing, as Universal's latest discovery, Martin Kosleck, was making his feature debut for the studio (following a 13 chapter serial, "The Great Alaskan Mystery"), as Rudi Poldan, curator and former plastic surgeon of dubious accomplishment, who hasn't entirely given up his experiments. With so many broads hot for the disturbed yet dull-as-dishwater Gregor, Rudi has his sights set on young Nina, displaying his knife throwing abilities when rebuffed (as they were in "The Mad Doctor," "The Mummy's Curse," and "Pursuit to Algiers"). This entry's police detective is played by Douglass Dumbrille, usually cast as surprise killers, rather more amiable than his predecessors, but also more bland. Exotic beauty Tala Birell, an enticing 36 at the time, was mainly reduced to Poverty Row titles at this juncture, others of interest including "The Lone Wolf Returns," "One Dangerous Night," "Isle of Forgotten Sins," "The Monster Maker," "The Power of the Whistler," "Philo Vance's Secret Mission," and "Philo Vance's Gamble." Dimpled darling Elena Verdugo was no stranger to Lon Chaney, previously providing his love interest in "House of Frankenstein," and still proving an eyeful opposite Lon in 1952's "Thief of Damascus." She also did "Little Giant" (Abbott and Costello), "The Sky Dragon" (Charlie Chan), "The Lost Tribe" (Jungle Jim), and "The Lost Volcano" (Bomba the Jungle Boy), before switching to television, where she endured as Robert Young's devoted nurse on MARCUS WELBY. It was a bittersweet swansong for the departing Evelyn Ankers (after 29 Universal features in four years), clearly pregnant with her only child, whose movie career covered only 11 more films. As for Chaney, this lukewarm repeat role clearly did him no favors, somewhat reviving himself for the climax, which also allowed Evelyn Ankers a chance for redemption. As one might expect, "The Frozen Ghost" made an astounding eight appearances on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater- Apr 16 1966 (following 1958's "Night of the Blood Beast"), June 21 1969 (following 1940's "The Man with Nine Lives"), May 12 1973 (preceding 1969's "It's Alive!"), July 20 1974 (following 1950's "Missile Monsters"), Mar 15 1975 (following first feature "House of Horrors," from 1946, and second feature "The Invisible Woman," from 1940), Dec 4 1976 (preceding 1966's "The War of the Gargantuas"), June 17 1978 (preceding 1955's "Revenge of the Creature"), and Apr 23 1983 (solo).