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  • Last of the Inner Sanctum movies. It was pretty obvious these weren't making money--this doesn't even open with the floating head in the crystal ball.

    Attorney Wayne Fletcher (Lon Chaney Jr.) is in love with his secretary Donna Kinkaid (Brenda Joyce), but he's married. His wife is found smothered to death and he's the prime suspect. He's released (lack of evidence) but a seance is held and his wife is heard accusing him of murder...then her body disappears from the crypt...then members of the Kinkaid family are getting murdered...

    Busy little murder mystery. It's shot on big, beautiful, atmospheric sets (I'm assuming from another movie) and has good performances and keeps you guessing who's doing it, and why, till the very end. Entertaining--one of the better Inner Sanctums. I give it a 7.
  • I recently purchased the Inner sanctum box set with all 6 of the Inner sanctum movies and was not disappointed at all.I really enjoyed Pillow of Death, OK its a corny title but it had everything in it if you enjoy old dark houses, whodunits,murders in the night etc.Lon chaney gave a decent enough performance in it and was supported by a good cast including the lovely Brenda joyce and the solid J.Edward bromberg i have read a few reviews which slate this film so i watched with trepidation and was pleasantly surprised it is a great little B movie which universal made in the 40's to much credit, it is atmospheric with many twists and turns moving along at a lively pace, i personally didn't find it dull or slow..if you enjoy the old black and white horrors from this period i am sure you wont be disappointed..just watch it with no great expectations and im sure you will see its not as bad as it has been painted. Without giving anything away it will keep you guessing all the way through..enjoy it for what it is.
  • bsmith555221 October 2006
    "Pillow of Death" was the sixth and final film of Universal's "Inner Sanctum" series based on the popular radio series of the day and starring Lon Chaney Jr.

    Lawyer Wayne Fletcher (Chaney) and his attractive secretary Donna Kincaid (Brenda Joyce) return to Donna's home after working late one night. Fletcher promises her that he is going to talk to his wife that night about a divorce so that he and Donna can be together.

    Fletcher returns home to learn that his wife has been murdered and is greeted by Police Captain McCracken (Wilton Graff) and his wife's psychic Julian Julian (J. Edward Bromberg). McCracken immediately suspects Fletcher and arrests him. Next he goes to the Kincaid house, a creepy old mansion, to question the family.

    Among those questioned are Belle Kincaid (Clara Blandick), her brother Sam (George Cleveland), an English relative Amelia Kincaid (Rosiland Ivan) and Donna. McCracken discovers a neighbor, Bruce Malone (Bernard B. Thomas) peeping through a window and brings him in for questioning. Julian arrives and is also under suspicion.

    Fletcher is released for lack of evidence and he and Donna try to identify the killer. Julian later holds a séance where the voice of Fletcher's wife is apparently heard. Strange noises emanate from the attic of the old house. Secret panels are revealed. Suddenly other murders begin to take place. Finally, the murderer is discovered to be.............. And I'll bet you'll never guess what the murder weapon turns out to be.

    For Chaney, this film marked the end of his Universal contract. He would appear in two more films for them, "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948) and "The Black Castle" (1952). Over the period 1941-45 Chaney managed to appear as all four of the Universal monsters (Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, The Wolfman and The Mummy) as well as, in several other films and serials. They never really developed the promise he showed in "Of Mice and Men" (1939) and was effectively type cast for the rest of his career.

    The "Inner Sanctum" series (1943-45) at least gave him a chance to star in his own series, playing a different character in each film. The series, although a low budget "B" series was nonetheless an entertaining six mysteries and served to further display Chaney's talent.

    Brenda Joyce is probably best remembered as "Jane" in the RKO "Tarzan" films with Johnny Weissmuller produced between 1943-48. Watch for old timer J. Farrell MacDonald as the cemetery Sexton.

    Arguably the best of the six "Inner Sanctum" mysteries.
  • On video, this film is part of a two film set of Inner Sanctum mysteries--the other being the more interesting DEAD MAN'S EYES.

    PILLOW OF DEATH is a "B-movie"--a shorter film with a lower budget that is meant as the second film at a double-feature. In most cases, people came to the theater to see the "A-picture" and the B-movie was more like an added bonus. Most B-films are definitely on the cheap side and have pretty anemic budgets, though occasionally one rises above these lower expectations. While most of this film is purely average and not particularly noteworthy for the genre, the film definitely ends very well as a murder mystery--catching me by surprise by who the real murderer was. So, for lovers of mystery and suspense, this film is well worth seeing, though others might be a bit unimpressed by the overall product. Not bad at all, but far from great or memorable.
  • This is super good whodunit for those who have not seen it. The film will keep you changing your mind on who you think the murderer is up until the very end. If you like trying to solve a mystery then you might like this film. It has some cute moments and leaves you in suspense for most all of the movie.

    Someone killed Wayne Fletcher's (Lon Chaney Jr) wife - but who and why? Wayne is in love with Donna Kincaid (Brenda Joyce) she is in love with him. Bruce Malone (Bernard Thomas) is in love with Donna but Donna only likes him as her friend. So you have a strange love triangle going on in the film.

    Donna comes from a family with money. Her family has hired a medium Julian Julian to find the ghost in their home. Ironically, Wayne's wife was talking to the same medium before her death.

    Between the money, love triangle and the spirits in the home this sets up a strange but good whodunit story that is quite fun to watch.

    9/10
  • Pillow Of Death is the last of Universial's well-made, entertaining Inner Sactum series of second feature thrillers, all utilizing the often wasted talent of Lon Chaney, Jr., off-beat stories, a rather spooky, Gothic atmosphere, a battalion of fine character actors, and a covey of beautiful "B" leading ladies, and second female leads as the love interests of the unglamorous Chaney. All get the job done in under seventy minutes, Pillow being the longest by a bit at an hour and six minutes. It is also the only picture of the series not to use the spooky, distorted talking head in a crystal ball as a prologue, a device apparently inherited from the popular radio show which inspired the movie series. It wasn't really missed. Neither the worst nor the best of the series, Pillow has arguably the best production values with most of the action set in a lavish Victorian mansion.

    Chaney's secretary the beautiful Brenda Joyce, also his love interest in Strange Confession (see my review), lives in the "old dark house" with a set of eccentric, querulous relatives. Chaney, an attorney, leaves her there in the opening scene, then drives home and "have it out with" his wife. You see, he wants to marry said pretty secretary, who has apparently been sitting on big, strong bossy-wossy's lap while taking dictation. But he finds that his wife has been murdered by suffocation (with the title pillow no doubt). He becomes suspect numero uno of course and for the rest of the movie is subjected to investigation and harassment by the police and a goofy, fat spiritualist (J. Edward Bromberg). Seances and bodies pile up.

    This well done "old dark house" mystery has you suspecting everyone, including Chaney and Joyce, before it is over. The suspects, as is traditional in one of these, are eliminated by becoming victims -- except for the resident ghost of course, which turns out to be a raccoon in the attic. I'm not so sure I didn't suspect that pest, too. The identity of the killer did in fact come as a surprise! Big hint: it wasn't the butler. The clever drawing room mystery style was what kept this rather confused entry in the Inner Sanctum cycle interesting. Well-acted by all. Chaney was always fascinating, and Brenda Joyce deserved better than swinging through the jungle on a vine with Tarzan.

    Not as good as some of the others in the series, but mild entertainment for 66 minutes with the a/c going full blast on a hot August evening.
  • "Pillow of Death" is the last one of the six adaptations for screen of the hugely popular radio mystery show "Inner Sanctum" (which itself continued until 1952) - and it's a real shame that the movie series, made so excellently by Universal Pictures and all starring Lon Chaney Jr. in some of his best performances, ends here, because there would have been a potential for quite some more creepy, suspenseful murder mysteries in the same style...

    After some really 'modern' 40s Noir-style entries, this last "Inner Sanctum" movie returns to the good old-fashioned 'dark old house mystery', with all the ingredients from a spooky old manor with 'ghosts' in the attic to secret passages to doors opening and closing by themselves - and, of course, a whole series of murders, which begins with the wife of lawyer Wayne Fletcher (Lon Chaney Jr.), who's having an affair with his secretary Donna, who happens to be the heir to the big fortune of an old aristocratic family, whose female members are very much intrigued by the dubious 'medium' Julian Julian (J. Edward Bromberg), who had also worked with Fletcher's wife...

    Providing a REALLY twisted plot, with great performances, a wonderfully old-fashioned mystery atmosphere, and quite some funny moments amidst all the suspense, this last "Inner Sanctum" movie will be a BIG enjoyment for all the fans of the GENUINE 'old dark house mystery', which was almost on the verge of extinction at the time of the making of "Pillow of Death"; and it's a REAL challenge for every 'whodunit' fan to find the murderer!
  • Lon Chaney is suspected of murder when his wife is found dead. It doesn't help any, when it's discovered he's been out with his secretary. This is my first experience with The Inner Sanctum mysteries. In the beginning, I didn't quite know how to take it, seriously or campy. The dialogue and stiff acting by Lon made the film feel amateurish and unintentionally funny. But I have to admit, watching more, I seemed to forget myself and was totally into it. A lot of it was due in part to other actors, adept at what they're doing, like Brenda Joyce, as the secretary, J. Edward Bromberg as a supposed psychic, and Rosalind Ivan as the eccentric housekeeper. Oh, and George Cleveland was especially good as the old man. Even now knowing the twist ending, I would watch it over and enjoy its spirit! So join in the séance and talk to dead people! They help find the murderer in "Pillow of Death."
  • Reviewers really disagree on the merits of this final Inner Sanctum entry. To me, it's the most fun of the six, although I think the first entry Calling Dr. Death (1943) is the most imaginative and comes closest to what the series was trying to achieve in the realm of psychological horror.

    What lifts this 60-minutes are several droll performances, a great Gothic set (no doubt left over from an A-production), and a pretty good whodunit that kept me guessing. George Cleveland's crusty old man remains a real hoot, and a role he appears to be really enjoying. Note too cop Winton Graff's subtly droll reactions to Cleveland's scrappy character. Too bad they don't have more scenes together. Then there're the two sourpuss old women. I especially like Rosalind Ivan's ditzy old gal with her subtle tongue-in-cheek. (At the same time, i also can't help noticing the rather woeful Bernard Thomas as the young neighbor, demonstrating again how the war had depleted Hollywood's ranks of young male talent.)

    And check out that elaborate Gothic set, so richly appointed that it adds needed spooky atmosphere. Speaking of atmosphere, the lighting bill must have come to all of five dollars. Come to think of it-- I wonder if the cast kept bumping into each other. Also, I certainly didn't anticipate the solution to the whodunit. Cleverly, it doesn't follow stereotype. No, there's nothing memorable here, but this series programmer is more subtly amusing than most and better than the series norm, at least, in my view.
  • Wayne Fletcher (Lon Chaney, Jr., "The Wolf Man") is an attorney in love with his hot young secretary Donna (Brenda Joyce, Jane in the "Tarzan" movies of the 1940s). This is despite the fact that he's still married. Then his wife is discovered dead, apparently smothered to death with a pillow. Donna's disapproving family, who make no secret of their hatred for Wayne, will find that the killings aren't going to necessarily end with the late Mrs. Fletcher. Who will be next? Is Wayne guilty, or is somebody attempting to frame him?

    Fans of the Inner Sanctum series of psychological thrillers will have some fun figuring it all out, even if the script (by George Bricker) is overall on the routine side. It's given pretty straightforward, if not stylish, treatment by director Wallace Fox ("The Corpse Vanishes"). It does go far enough on its inclusion of trappings of the thriller and horror genres, such as the standard Old Dark House with its secret passageways and hidden rooms. Viewers will be kept on their toes with a variety of suspects, including a rather creepy guy, Bruce (Bernard Thomas, "Gunman's Code") and a psychic medium, Julian Julian (J. Edward Bromberg, "Son of Dracula"), who is portrayed as being possibly a big phoney. Rounding out the cast are Clara Blandick (Auntie Em in "The Wizard of Oz") as the snippy Belle, Rosalind Ivan ("Scarlet Street") as the paranoid maid Amelia, hilarious scene stealer George Cleveland ('Lassie') as the cranky Sam, and a rock-solid Wilton Graff ("Bloodlust!") as the investigating detective. Lon, the star of this series, delivers a typically engaging performance as Fletcher. An uncredited Victoria Horne does the voice for the late wife.

    There is good atmosphere, all the way to the end, and if you're sharp enough, you can pick up on little things that get mentioned when all is explained at the big finish. If you've seen other entries in this series, you may miss what was before a standard opening sequence with a floating head in a crystal ball.

    Six out of 10.
  • The sixth, last and least of the "Inner Sanctum" mysteries and, curiously enough, the only one not to feature the 'talking head' intro. It's still fairly enjoyable, particularly in its first half (and, that, thanks largely to the presence of heroine Brenda Joyce's curmudgeonly uncle - played by George Cleveland), but rather sluggishly-paced (this being the longest in the series). At least, the final revelation provides a welcome change of pace.

    The plot involves a lot of archaic (and, ultimately, irrelevant) haunted-house clichés, including a couple of séances presided over by J. Edward Bromberg as a medium who goes by the silly name of Julian Julian (the sight of his head tilted backwards in trance-mode is sure to provide convulsions of laughter - as does his deadpan delivery of the preposterous dialogue, my favorite being the film's very last line: "The word 'abracadabra' is anathema to the true believer in the occult"!)...but equally hilarious are Rosalind Ivan's melodramatic fainting spells (the script contriving to have her discover each and every corpse!). Regrettable, too, is the monotonous regularity of Bruce Thomas' unannounced appearances (as an insufferable teenage neighbor smitten with Joyce) at the Kincaid household - made via a secret passage in their basement.

    In the end, I have to wonder whether director Fox's involvement (who specialized in Grade-Z stuff) has something to do with the fact that this particular film is the one that comes closest to the level of a "Poverty Row" potboiler, with respect to its look and overall quality (as a matter of fact, even the cast is lackluster this time around)!
  • The awesomely-titled final entry in Universal's Inner Sanctum series. It's the only entry in the series to not feature the opening of the creepy head in the crystal ball introducing the Inner Sanctum. The plot is relatively simple with Lon Chaney, Jr. playing a married attorney who is having an affair with beautiful Brenda Joyce. Chaney intends to divorce his wife but before he can, she's found dead and he becomes the prime suspect. But this is the Inner Sanctum so it can't be that simple. So add a psychic, visions of the dead wife, and more murder to the plot. As usual with the series, there's a nice supporting cast behind Chaney that includes J. Edward Bromberg, George Cleveland, and Rosalind Ivan. Pretty good close to the series. Shame there wasn't more. By the way, pay attention to the book that Chaney's wife was supposed to be reading before her death. Who would write something like that?!?
  • Pillow of Death (1945)

    * 1/2 (out of 4)

    Final installment in the Inner Sanctum series has a lawyer (Lon Chaney, Jr.) suspected of murdering his wife. After her death he gets involved with a group of psychics. This film, even at 61-minutes, dragged along and bored the hell out of me from the start. Chaney is very bland here as are the supporting characters. The story really isn't too interesting and all the spiritual stuff comes off silly.

    This is certainly the worst in the series but you can now view all six films via Universal's DVD collection.
  • I'm not sure why the filmmakers decided to name this little below-run-of-the-mill clap-trap Pillow of Death because, frankly, it's false advertising. Call me shallow, but finding a movie like Pillow of Death- and then finding that there are practically NO pillows- is quite a surprise. Of course, the Inner Sanctum mysteries, as they were called, were little one-hour (give or take a minute) features involving some strange murder, or a demented doctor, and always involving the thin-mustached Lon Chaney Jr. This one features a plot that is of not too much consequence, and is pretty forgettable. It involves the death of some rich guy, played by Lon Chaney, and who might have killed her. He is looked at as a prime suspect, but is he the killer? Aren't there other people about in the mansion who could have had some motive? And what about supernatural elements?

    These all lead up to a payoff that is only mildly ridiculous, and not enough to save what has been otherwise a fairly dull affair...plus, where are the pillows? As a joke, though also as a test, my friends and I tried to count how many times a pillow does pop up in the film, and we counted twice- once about 41 minutes into this 67 minute film, and then during the climax. But otherwise there's no other significance for it having that title, except to lure viewers in with the astounding contradiction of pillows (soft and inviting) and death (crushing and cruel). There is some death, to be sure, and some whacked out characters including an old lady with a gas hose and a young guy who keeps on using a secret door and creeping around for no reason in a nice suit. But it all leads up to not that much, and even at such a short length it doesn't leave too memorable an impression, except as a disappointment for not living up to a title with so many possibilities.
  • Lon Chaney Jr.(who starred in all six of this series) stars as attorney Wayne Fletcher, whose wife is found murdered. She was into the spiritual realm, and friends with a psychic, who decides to hold a séance in the home of a wealthy believer. Wayne was having an affair with his secretary(played by Brenda Joyce) though insists on his innocence, though when the spirit of his deceased wife accuses him of her murder, it starts off a series of new murders in the household. Who can be responsible? Last in this loosely-linked series is also the least, with an all-too-obvious plot that deteriorates into silliness by the end. Title gives away a key plot point too!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The final film in the Inner Sanctum Mysteries series and wouldn't you know it, Chaney stars as a lawyer, under suspicion (and arrested) for the suffocation of his wife. Chaney's boozing Wayne Fletcher is hearing his dead wife's voice, communicating to him—is it his guilty conscience or the actual voice of a woman he might have killed? While always a suspect, Fletcher could be the victim of some elaborate trap, orchestrated by another who wants to implicate him for a crime he possibly didn't commit. That's the beauty of "Pillow of Death", you are unsure of Chaney's innocence or guilt, while other films in the Inner Sanctum Mysteries series had murderers that were not as difficult to figure out. Brenda Joyce (Chaney's wife in the previous series entry, "Strange Confession") is Fletcher's secretary, Donna Kincaid, an heiress to the Kincaid fortune, in line to receive the mansion and wealth her name provides. Belle (Clara Blandick) and Samuel (George Cleveland) are two of the remaining Kincaids still alive, soon to be victims themselves of a suffocation killer, maybe tied to the Vivian Fletcher murder. Donna could be a suspect since she benefits from their demises, as well as, a supposed psychic, Julian Julian (J Edward Bromberg), a soft-spoken, even-tempered charlatan who gains the trust of Belle (and had convinced Vivian that she was a medium, one of the main reasons the Fletchers' marriage disintegrated) and the kooky maid Amelia (Rosalind Ivan), holding séances in the Kincaid mansion. Wilton Graff is the investigator, Captain McCracken, in charge of finding the psychopath. "Pillow of Death" is closer to a Universal Studios chiller than previous entries, with an "old dark house" (that has secret passageways and eccentric characters who live within, along with a door that seems to open on its own, not to mention, a cemetery nearby) and series of murders with the same modus operandi, a list of suspects with motive and opportunity. The film raises the question of Chaney's innocence more than previous films—while he's shown downing shots of liquor, puffing away on cigarettes, the typical weary expression and nervy disposition we do see in many of the films where his characters are burdened by the idea of being behind murders they either don't remember or possibly contributed to unknowingly/mistakenly, "Pillow of Death" includes a dead wife's voice goading Fletcher to follow. What sets this apart from all of the films in the series (except maybe "Strange Confession" which leaves us in the dark about what his character had done until the very end) is a shocking conclusion where the killer's identity is unveiled, not following the mould where Chaney and Blandick catch the person responsible by trapping him or her, normally with the investigator awaiting in another room to make the arrest. Having now finished the series, I did find it interesting how Chaney, despite the star status of the films for which he starred and finding himself embroiled in murder plots, was often a "spoke in the wheel" with the supporting cast given just as much screen time as him. What I found amusing about "Pillow of Death" was the way Chaney is always considered the prime suspect, Belle absolutely convinced of his guilt, while others weren't so sure. Despite pouring on the pathos, Chaney isn't granted a reprieve. The film never guarantees that Fletcher is just an abused victim while another is out there *really* committing crimes he is being accused of. Fun cast really get into their roles. Bernard Thomas rounds out the cast as a neighbor, Bruce, in love with Donna, always creeping about, spying on the Kincaids out of fear that Fletcher will kill them. Bruce is another questionable character, mainly because of his peeping tom antics. Bruce wholly believes, like Belle, that Fletcher is, no question about it, Vivian's murderer. The plot also points out that Fletcher and Donna were in love despite his marriage to Vivian, earning Belle's ire, further raising suspicions about either one of them.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Pillow of Death" is such a ridiculous title that one figures it must be good, and for the first two-thirds it more or less is so. Jerome Ash's cinematography is outstanding, Frank Skinner's music is appropriately dramatic; the sets -- left over from something else -- are fabulous and the performances are at least adequate in most cases to suit Babcock and Bricker's rather prosaic tale. However, a sense of routine starts to set in as the storyline advances -- each turn of the plot is accompanied by a shot of a screaming headline; characters begin to behave in a potted way and don't have very much dimension. Even given that, one can still have fun trying to figure out whodunit in this whodunit, but my crystal ball tells me very few will find the solution of this riddle particularly satisfactory. Ultimately, some may find the time spent watching "Pillow of Death" spent better in the company of one's own pillow, catching one hour's sleep rather than patiently enduring this title.
  • PILLOW OF DEATH (Universal, 1945), directed by Wallace Fox, marks the sixth and final installment of the "Inner Sanctum" mysteries. Following STRANGE CONFESSION (1945), the least known and atypical of the series, PILLOW OF DEATH resorts back to formula material of murder mystery and detective rounding out the usual suspects with his questioning and suspicions. Though still credited as "An Inner Sanctum mystery by arrangement with Simon and Schuster Inc. Publishers," this edition stands out among the others for not including the traditional disembodied head of Inner Sanctum inside a crystal ball addressing the audience that, "Yes, even you, without knowing, can commit murder." It not only resumes Lon Chaney Jr. (still billed simply as Lon Chaney) as its mustached central figure, but also reunites him with his STRANGE CONFESSION co-star, Brenda Joyce, then gaining recognition as the blonde Jane in the latter of the "Tarzan" series adventures (1945-1949) over at the RKO Radio studios.

    With the original story credited to Dwight V. Babcock, the plot development opens with the introduction of characters of a gloomy mansion estate consisting of the Kincaids: Amelia (Rosalind Ivan), her cousin, Samuel (George Cleveland), and his wife, Belle (Clara Blandick). Belle has returned from her visit with Vivian Fletcher to have her talk her husband into dismissing her niece, Donna (Brenda Joyce). Donna, a loyal secretary to Vivian's husband, Wayne (Lon Chaney), a prominent attorney, is suspected by Belle for having an affair with him, especially when working nights together. Belle's hunch is proved correct when Wayne, after taking Donna home, intends to have a showdown with his wife dismissing him from his loveless marriage and spend more time with Donna. Upon his arrival, Wayne finds his home invaded by police, Captain McCracken (Wilton Graff) of the detective bureau, and Julian-Julian (J. Edward Bromberg), a psychic investigator, to learn Vivian has been found dead through suffocation. Regardless of the fact that Vivian has suicidal tendencies, owning a book titled "Famous Suicides of History," and because of her association with Julian-Julian wanting to learn more about life after death, and referred to as a "perfect medium," Wayne is arrested for suspicion of murder, later to be released through lack of evidence. During the course of the story, Wayne continues to become the prime suspect, especially by Aunt Belle. Soon Aunt Belle and Uncle Samuel are found murdered. Unforeseen circumstances occur as Wayne starts hearing the voice of his dead wife, following the voice to her crypt in the cemetery during the after midnight hours as witnessed by its caretaker (J. Farrell MacDonald). Vivian's crypt is later discovered empty. Baffled, Wayne begins to wonder if Vivian is still alive, and why he's continued to become the suspect of these other murders. He begins to have his suspicions as to why Julian-Julian is allowed to conduct his séances inside the Kincaid estate, along with noticing Bruce Malone (Bernard B. Thomas), Donna's former suitor and lifelong friend, mysteriously peeping inside the windows and roaming through secret passage ways.

    With this being an obvious attempt in outdoing the previous "Inner Sanctum" products though some interesting camera tracking, mysterious voices in the air in place of inner thought voice-over, eerie underscoring for gruesome feel effect, the main support by a medium psychic and unsuspecting finish connected to the movie's title. At first glance, especially when first watching this one on Fright Night on WOR, Channel 9, in New York City prior to 1974, PILLOW OF DEATH turned out to be one real sleeper. It wasn't until many years later did I get to comprehend and appreciate the purpose of this deliberately slow-pacing mystery. Though Wilton Graff makes good in his Douglass Dumbrille-type performance of the ever suspecting detective, the familiar presence of either J. Carrol Naish or Thomas Gomez might have added some spice to the story. J. Edward Bromberg, who shares billing above the title with Chaney and Joyce, gets his share of scene stealing through his medium séances methods while its leading player, Chaney, is noticeably absent through a couple of long stretches, one going as long as 13 minutes, to allow more time devoted to other characters.

    For this being the conclusion of the "Inner Sanctum" radio based mysteries, the similar but lesser known series of "The Whistler" (1944-1948) with Richard Dix starring in all but one, is a worthy rediscovery that in some respect, holds up better. Formerly available on the double-bill of DEAD NAN'S EYES (1943) on video cassette distribution in 1998, PILLOW OF DEATH (not to be confused with another 1945 release, PILLOW TO POST), is available on DVD on a triple bill along with other 1945 releases of THE FROZEN GHOST and STRANGE CONFESSION. (**)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Not the most clever, but very watchable this sixth and final episode from Universal's popular "Inner Sanctum" mysteries. Busy, with a creepy old house, spirits, a medium, right atmosphere and plenty of suspects. Wayne Fletcher (Lon Chaney Jr.) is a lawyer in love with his beautiful secretary Donna Kincaid (Brenda Joyce). After working late one night, Fletcher promises to go home and ask his wife for a divorce. When the attorney gets home, he is greeted by Police Captain McCracken (Wilton Graff), who arrests him for the murder of his wife. McCracken goes to the old Kincaid estate to question Donna and her family. Even the dead woman's psychic (J. Edward Bromberg) is under suspicion as well as a neighboring "peeping Tom".

    Rounding out the cast: George Cleveland, Rosalind Ivan, Bernard Thomas, Clara Bandick and Harry Strang.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the second "Inner Sanctum" film I have watched so far, after "The Frozen Ghost", and this one is the better of the two, mainly because it follows a traditional "whodunit" format where nearly every character is considered a suspect at one point or another. There seem to be two basic alternatives: either there is something truly supernatural going on, or someone is trying to make others believe that there is something supernatural going on. But in an effective and startling ending, a third option is revealed....Just don't read Leonard Maltin's comment before viewing the movie because he spoils everything! As in "The Frozen Ghost", the production is polished and the casting is good. **1/2 out of 4.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I said in another review that I reserve one star for movies so awful I couldn't finish watching them, but I have to make an exception for Pillow of Death. Spoiler alert, please do not read this review if you have not watched the movie because I am going to describe the ending, so you are warned. This movie sets up the viewer to cheer for Lon Chaney's lawyer character as well as his secretary, after he is accused of murdering his wife. The police in this movie seem obsessed with arresting and charging people with murder for almost no reason at all, and then immediately releasing them for lack of evidence, raising the obvious question of why they were arrested in the first place. Anyway, other murders follow, and the viewer is led to believe that someone is trying to frame Lon Chaney. An especially obnoxious, annoying, stupid jerk of a guy keeps popping up and sneaking around and trying to get Chaney's secretary romantically interested in him, and she constantly tells him to get lost. I thought maybe this jerk was a "red herring," then after a while I thought maybe he was actually the murderer. My prime suspect was the fake medium, who also seemed intensely interested in using his supernatural hocus-pocus to prove Chaney guilty. Near the end of the movie I was sure of three things. One, Chaney was innocent. Two, Chaney and his secretary would wind up happily together. Three, the real murderer would at last be exposed (along with superstition), and justice would prevail. In case you missed my earlier warning, stop reading now unless you have seen the movie, spoiler ahead. I was wrong. In one of the most absurd endings to a "murder mystery" I have ever seen, Chaney turns out to be not only guilty, but also a raving lunatic. That's right, his only motive is that he is insane. And if that were not enough, his secretary, who seemed to love him and believe in him, immediately winds up with the stupid annoying little jerk who has chased her and enraged her. Give me a break. Now I know why that weird guy who was the talking Inner Sanctum head in the first five was absent from this one -- he was embarrassed to be associated with it! One star, but my actual rating would be about minus 100.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    According to cranky old goat George Cleveland, the Kincaid house is filled with ghosts, some of whom he obviously thinks are still alive. That includes his imperious sister, Clara Blandick, who acts like she runs the county and would like to see Lon Chaney Jr. to the sheriff's and make sure he's destroyed. The victim is the wife of Chaney, who has been dating Brenda Joyce (Cleveland and Blandick's niece) behind his wife's back. Having wanted a divorce, he's spared from that thanks to the wife's timely demise. All of these characters (plus a few more) become suspects, and thanks to an amusing script, this final "Inner Sanctum" film is a treat.

    The set of the Kincaid home is very familiar from many other Universal films, including some of their classic horror films. Of the "Inner Sanctum" films, this is the closest to a horror film, with the ghostly element bringing along a spooky pacing, complete with strange laughter, the crackle of moving chains in the attic, and insinuations of the family's shady past. Blandick is delightfully imperious, a far cry from her strict but loving Auntie Em in "The Wizard of Oz". It's also her last extremely large part in a film, and she chews it up delightfully. Cleveland is a lovable delight, arguing with his sister as if they were still teenagers.

    A reunion for Chaney and Joyce after "Strange illusion", this is one film where I didn't find Chaney ridiculously miscast as a romantic character. He's just part of the ensemble here, given as much as everybody else, and strictly part of the ensemble. J. Edward Bromberg plays an expert on matters of the spirits of the dead, while Rosalind Ivan is coldly polite but less outspoken as a distant Kincaid relative obviously mooching off the family. There's also an eerie seance, complete with ghostly voice. The "Inner Sanctum" series may not be filled wiry masterpieces but at least it ended with a fairly enjoyable finale.
  • The cheapness of the production and the fact that for some reason some very good players seem to be sleepwalking through their roles prevents me from rating Pillow Of Death higher. It was the end of Universal's Inner Sanctum series and maybe they just wanted to get it over with.

    A whole family named Kincaid is being systematically murdered. As they are a rich bunch it looks like someone is trying to collect a big inheritance. The cast is dotted with players who do villainous roles so it could be any one of them.

    Of course this film quite obviously borrows from the classic Agatha Christie mystery Ten Little Indians. Only they're not on an isolated island and law enforcement is trying to figure it out before all the Kincaids end up in the morgue.

    The most interesting member of the cast is the soon to be blacklisted J. Edward Bromberg playing a psychic hired by one of the family members to contact the deceased Kincaids so they can find out who's behind all these killings. They're all smothered to death with a pillow, hence the title.

    I think it was obvious who it was myself.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    OK, so maybe my title line for this review doesn't apply--seeing as how by this point in the Inner Sanctum series, the prologue with the floating head in a crystal ball was not used. "Pillow of Death" was the last of the popular Inner Sanctum series--a series that gave Lon Chaney a chance to act minus arduous monster makeup & I would agree with the sentiments that this is the least of the 6 films that were made--which is not to say it's a bad movie; far from it--but it does have a very slow pace to it.

    The story itself is engaging enough to overcome the slow movement of the film & the cast is first rate. Aside from Chaney--who I'm a big fan of--I enjoyed J. Edward Bromberg as "Julian Julian" & George Cleveland was quite the hoot as Sam Kincaid.

    POD probably stands out from the rest of the Sanctum series as it's the sole picture where Lon turns out to be a true bad guy. I also enjoyed the dark atmosphere of the film as seemingly all the action takes place at night--making for some interesting visuals and use of shadow.

    Overall--while I probably would dock this one a few points--I think it only speaks to how highly I thought of the previous Inner Sanctum mysteries that came before it.

    7 stars
  • Warning: Spoilers
    1945's "Pillow of Death" marked the last of Universal's six Inner Sanctum mysteries, adding some genuine supernatural elements to its undernourished brew of a script. Lon Chaney again stars, here as wealthy attorney Wayne Fletcher, whose affection for his secretary, Donna Kincaid (Brenda Joyce), has her family in an uproar, since he's still legally married to wife Vivian. The disapproving Kincaid matriarch is Belle (Clara Blandick, "The Wizard of Oz"), who, like Vivian Fletcher, has fallen under the questionable spell of a spiritualist who calls himself (I kid you not) Julian Julian (J. Edward Bromberg). Wayne decides to ask his wife for a divorce, only to return home to a murder scene, Vivian having been smothered to death by pillow (thus the title). Every damn character is so determined to railroad Wayne for the crime, that even a patently phony séance depicts Vivian's spirit accusing him herself. It's this aspect of the film that makes one fervently wish that Chaney will again be innocent of all charges, not one likable character in the entire sour bunch, apart from the old man obsessed with food (naturally, he's the next to go). Even lovely Brenda Joyce (his wife in "Strange Confession") doesn't escape intact, winding up in the arms of the juvenile trespassing neighbor (Bernard B. Thomas, only seven other credits on his resume), whose obnoxious ego resorts to body snatching in his maniacal effort to win her over (sneaking around at all hours of the night proves him irresistible). This entry's rudimentary police detective is the forgettable Wilton Graff, quite a comedown from character star J. Carrol Naish, from "Calling Dr. Death." One positive aspect of the film, unlike all previous entries, is the (apparently) genuine presence of Vivian's ghost actually communicating with her husband on two occasions, first luring him to the graveyard (her crypt empty), then lending him some help in the climactic clinch (that bedroom door didn't just close by itself!). In the 17 months since beginning the Inner Sanctums, Chaney changed from a still-handsome, believably suave professorial type to a noticeably older frazzle of his former self, the only monster titles done in that same period being "House of Frankenstein" and "The Mummy's Curse." With only "The Daltons Ride Again" and "House of Dracula" still ahead, it's apparent that the actor himself saw the writing on the wall at Universal. Included in the popular SHOCK! package of classic Universals issued to television in the late 50s, "Pillow of Death" appeared twice on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater- Sept 8 1973 (following 1967's "Journey to the Center of Time") and Oct 16 1976 (following Al Adamson's "Blood of Dracula's Castle").