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  Pillow of Death Smother Love
Year: 1945
Director: Wallace Fox
Stars: Lon Chaney Jr, Brenda Joyce, J. Edward Bromberg, Rosalind Ivan, Clara Blandick, George Cleveland, Wilton Graff, Bernard Thomas
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Kincaid mansion house is inhabited by three elderly relatives, and tonight Sam Kincaid (George Cleveland) is keen to have his dinner but the English relation who doubles as his housekeeper, Amelia (Rosalind Ivan), won't oblige until his sister Belle (Clara Blandick) arrives back. Even as she does so, their niece Donna (Brenda Joyce) is being driven home - the mansion - by her boss Wayne Fletcher (Lon Chaney Jr) who she is having an affair with. Wayne vows to have a "showdown" with his wife Vivian and have her agree to a divorce, but when he returns to his apartment he has a shock waiting for him: Vivian is dead. Murdered, in fact - smothered by a pillow of death...

This was the sixth and final Inner Sanctum mystery, but what's this? Isn't there something missing? A certain head floating in a glass sphere perhaps? Intoning the same speech he has for the previous five instalments? Well he's not here this time, as we dive straight into the action for a spooky thriller that sums up the problem with this series. Save for the same leading man for each of the films, there wasn't much to connect them, and Pillow of Death could have been any number of B movie chillers of the nineteen-forties. Luckily, it was one of the better ones, even if a lot of the entertainment value rests upon camp nowadays.

On the other hand, a measure of creepiness is achieved thanks to a plot that had its cast gingerly wandering about the old dark house of the Kincaids, or even a graveyard during nighttime at one point. Of course Wayne is arrested for the crime of murder, meaning Chaney is offscreen for most of the first half as Donna attempts to clear his name and the police inspector, McCracken (Wilton Graff) does his best to get to the bottom of the puzzle. For the supernatural element, there's a medium, the improbably named Julian Julian (J. Edward Bromberg), who has a predeliction for seances in the shadowy mansion.

During this seance, at which the Kincaid family and Wayne attend, the voice of Vivian is heard, but Wayne is having none of this and cries fake, especially as nosey neighbour Bruce (Bernard Thomas) has been using the secret passages to spy on those present, and could be Julian's accomplice. An awful lot of the film involves the characters hearing strange noises and going to investigate in darkness - in the first half a laughing, chain-clanking ghost turns out to be a racoon in the attic, but there's more to come. As usual with this sort of thing, the script, by George Bricker from Dwight V. Babcock's story, revels in the paranormal while still wanting a reasonable explanation by the end, but the literalists don't get it all their own way. This is actually good fun most of the time, and resolves itself differently to how you might expect if you've seen the others in this series.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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