10 November 2006 | Bunuel1976
STRANGE CONFESSION (John Hoffman, 1945) **1/2
This is possibly the best of the "Inner Sanctums", though it's also not a typical one - being based on Jean Bart's impressive anti-war drama "The Man Who Reclaimed His Head" (already filmed by Universal in 1934 with Claude Rains; in retrospect, it's amusing to note that the remake starred the actor who had played Rains' son in THE WOLF MAN !). Still, even if the setting is effectively updated - the original had a pre-WWI backdrop - its dealing with the crooked marketing of an untried drug is not quite the same thing as the philosophical war-themed discussions which distinguished the play (and earlier film)!
Again, we're supposed to believe Lon Chaney Jr. is something of a genius in his field - in this case, medical research - but he allows himself to be exploited by his unscrupulous boss J. Carrol Naish (who even has designs on his wife!). Chaney is typically flustered but Naish is an ideal villainous substitute for Lionel Atwill; Brenda Joyce, then, fills in for Joan Bennett as the heroine yearning for a fuller life but, ultimately, unwilling to sacrifice her domestic harmony to satisfy her own selfish ends.
The pace is necessarily slow - there are no murders or detectives this time around - with Chaney recounting his tragic tale to a childhood friend, and the resolution rather skimps on the hero's particular 'crime' (which was certainly more explicit in the 1934 version, even if STRANGE CONFESSION itself was also known as THE MISSING HEAD!) - but, as I said, it's the most satisfying entry in the series (which, ironically enough, was the one to go unseen for decades due to a copyright dispute!).