Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Inner Sanctum

Some months back, another of my DVD purchases was a cheap Mill Creek box set of crime movies. Looking for something short to watch and do a review on, I looked at the running times of the movies on the first disk I took out and settled on the movie Inner Sanctum.

The title really has nothing to do with the movie, instead being named after a popular radio show of the day. The movie starts off on a train, where a woman is a passenger next to a mysterious older man, Dr. Valonius (Fritz Leiber). Valonius has some sort of gift that allows him to tell the exact time without neding a watch. And then he tells his female companion not to file her nails because the train is about to go around a curve and she'll hurt herself. Sure enough she does, at which point Valonius goes into the main story....

Harold Dunlap (Charles Russell) gets off a train in some middle-of-nowhere town. He's having some sort of argument with his fiancée which results in the two of them getting in a scuffle and Harold accidentally stabbing her to death when she comes after him with a nail file. Harold figures the best way to dispose of the body is to put it on the train. It won't be found for a while, and nobody knows that Harold got off in this town. However, there's a catch, in that a slightly obnoxious young boy, Mike (Dale Belding), is at the train station, and saw Harold.

Harold tries to hitch a ride out of town, but there's been heavy rain and flooding has washed out several of the roads and bridges. He's stopped by McFee (Billy House), a journalist who went to cover the floods, and told that the road is going to be impassable in the direction he's going, so perhaps Harold should get in the car with him and go someplace where he can spend the night. In town, he's told to go to a certain rooming house where he'll find Mrs. Mitchell (Nana Bryant), who can put him up for a night or two until the roads are cleared.

Among the other people living in the house are Jean Maxwell (Mary Beth Hughes), a young woman with a past who came here from San Francisco for some reason that's never really explained, a couple of older guys, and widow Ruth Bennett (Lee Patrick), who is the mother to... Mike Bennett, whom we already saw back at the train station. Harold is understandably nervous, as he has good reason to believe Mike will put two and two together and figure out what really happened at the station.

Worse, Mrs. Mitchell is more or less out of rooms, so Harold is going to have to double up in the room currently given to Mike, with Mike getting a cot, which he thinks is a grand adventure. There's a sort of semi-suspense, semi-cat-and-mouse game in which Harold tries to figure out what to do while both Mike, and Jean, begin to figure out what happened.

Inner Sanctum is nothing more than a B movie, with a very low budget to go along with that. And yet director Lew Landers makes the most of what little he has. The acting isn't particularly good, but the story more or less works, especially the twist ending when we get back to Dr. Valonius and his passenger on the "real" train. Some of the IMDb reviewers compare it to The Twilight Zone, but I can think of some other comparisons that unfortunately would give away the twist ending.

Inner Sanctum definitely works, and for the price of this cheap box set, it's absolutely worth it. As for the print, it's not the greatest. I'm not certain how much of that is because it's an ultra-cheap box set, and how much of it is because this movie was already cheap at the time it was made. (The box set has a few better-known titles among the B movies.) The production company was something called "M.R.S. Pictures Inc.", which I had never heard of and which apparently only made this one movie. The title cards look vaguely like the producers had access to Columbia's art department since the typeface looks somewhat similar.

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