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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Greenbriar Dares Again The Inner Sanctum


Thawing Out The Frozen Ghost (1945)

It's old news that the Inner Sanctums aren't much good, so I resolved this time to say nice things about repeat-watch of The Frozen Ghost, criticism suspended in consideration of forty-nine years it's been in my life (how many views? Only the man in the crystal ball knows). Let's start thus: it beats tar out of Columbia's Whistler, a Sanctum's closest relative among series mysteries. Any Universal B for me is better than Columbia's same. Sanctums are visually polished, support casts familiar and friendly, with Chaney combative (watch those lapels, co-workers --- he grabs!). Ghost's scheme is to drive Lon into a "psychopathic court." Did Simon and Schuster really publish books with plots like this? Apparently so ... they're credited in all six Sanctums. We expected too much of these as kids, but didn't TV GUIDE "melodrama" listing of a Frozen Ghost or Dead Man's Eyes, with Lon Chaney yet, imply horrific happenings?


Universal's was a same quack-like-a-duck ruse when The Frozen Ghost came out, pairing it with Jungle Captive for a show sold as shocking to 1945 audiences. But would The Frozen Ghost really "freeze blood" among first-run  viewership? Perhaps it needed companionship of a Jungle Captive to accomplish that. The ad here is from Chicago's first-run. That town's RKO Grand had a sock week with the horror combo ($14K) thanks largely to ongoing August '45 revelry over Japan's surrender and everyone crowding the Loop to celebrate. How they felt coming out of Universal's parlay might have been another matter. What to do when neither end of a double feature delivered? Small wonder Universal's monster franchise fizzled within a year after, though happy ending came when the six Inner Sanctums (including long out of circulation Strange Confession) took DVD flight with quality comparable to what froze 40's blood. We still await, with increasing anxiety, the disc bow of Jungle Captive, but in a meantime would tender below progression of Acquanetta, the original starlet-to-ape of 1943's Captive Wild Woman, first of Universal's "Paula Trilogy" that culminated with Jungle Captive.


More Inner Sanctum at Greenbriar's Archive.

3 Comments:

Blogger opticalguy said...

The Inner Sanctum series was pretty much "rock-bottom" Universal even though it did feature the first adaptation of Fritz Lieber's novel CONJURE WIFE. I have described the scripting of The Whistler series (too damned odd to be without interest) as examples of "radio drama logic." The Inner Sanctum series also had a lot of stream of consciousness narration and the oddly underpopulated world that was typical of radio drama. As a kid I felt extremely lied-to when I encountered these films packaged as "horror" films.

And yet I bought the DVD set. Cue the echo-y sound and eerie music … "I knew they weren't legitimate horror films yet I bought them anyway. My friends thought I was obsessed, unreasoning … mad! They all laughed at me at the Rondo Awards. And yet … for some reason … the obsession with having all of them … even borderline entries … all of the Classic Universal Horrors!"

9:12 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Funny thing, all the women in the INNER SANCTUM series were just plain nuts about that big lug, Lon Chaney. What a hottie! Now that doesn't make the movies any more 'horrific' but it does edge them a little closer to science fiction!

9:43 AM  
Blogger ClassicMovieFan said...

I have the DVD set too, and enjoy the high production values, gorgeous photography, sets and transfer quality. The stories are another matter---FROZEN GHOST may have even played on Detroit TV back in the 1950s in Shock Theater! Imagine the viewers' wonder WHERE the "shock" was in this--or many of the other Sanctum B-melodramas. Perhaps we are jaded nowadays and these old films seem sophomoric!

EvanToledo

1:07 PM  

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