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  Calling Dr. Death An Inspector Calls
Year: 1943
Director: Reginald Le Borg
Stars: Lon Chaney Jr, Patricia Morison, J. Carrol Naish, David Bruce, Ramsay Ames, Fay Helm, Holmes Herbert, Alec Craig, Frederick Gierman, Lisa Golm, Charles Wagenheim, Mary Hale, George Eldredge, John Elliiott
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dr Mark Steele (Lon Chaney Jr) is performing his specialised treatment of hypnotism on a young girl, and is able to tell her concerned parents exactly what is wrong with her: boyfriend trouble has put her in a state of voluntary paralysis, apparently. But Steele has problems of his own, as he frets over his wife's wicked ways; they have been married two years and in that time not only has he grown closer to his nurse, Stella (Patricia Morison), but his wife, Maria (Ramsay Ames) is rejecting him. Could this be enough to make him... murderous?

A remarkable change of direction for the left wing comedian and writer - no, wait, it's a different Mark Steele we're concerned with here, as this was the first of Universal's Inner Sanctum mysteries, inspired by the success of the similarly named radio series. As with all six of these brief films, Chaney starred, putting in his even by this time familiar tortured soul act for the sake of a plot that required him to sweat out a possible murder conviction and a trip to the electric chair.

The script was from Edward Dein, a director of low budget fare himself, and as with all in this series presented a thriller with horror overtones. The "supernatural" element this time was a faith in the powers of hypnotism, as practiced by Dr Steele, but first he has a pressing concern: his unfaithful missus has turned up dead in an out of the way country house, skull crushed and face obliterated with acid (not sure why, it's just a gruesome detail maybe to make us question the corpse's identity).

Sadly for Dr Steele, he can't recall what he's done the weekend the killing occurred, which makes him suspect number one - at least until his wife's lover, Robert Duval (no, not that one, he's a character played by David Bruce) is collared for the slaying. Will Duval be executed for a crime he didn't commit? The real killer's identity is fairly well hidden, but with such a small cast it can be worked out, the investigating detective Gregg (J. Carrol Naish) looking more like the villain than anyone considering his continual needling of Dr Steele. Director Reginald Le Borg offers some nice visual tricks, with a few good, hallucinatory sequences that stand out and a nervy, whispery voiceover for atmosphere, but largely the film is rather plain, the kind of thing that would turn up on television in decades to come.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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