Mill Creek Musings: Inner Sanctum (1948)

Inner Sanctum opens with a very mysterious man who calls himself a doctor — but the honorary kind, not medical. While traveling by train, he’s asked by another passenger what time it is. He’s able to tell time without a watch, and the young woman sitting next to him is impressed. She begins talking to him, mentioning that she’s traveling with her fiance and that she finds trains monotonous.

This whiny lady wonders how the mysterious doctor could have known a curve was coming up on the track if he'd never been on this train route before. Spooky! (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
This whiny lady wonders how the mysterious doctor could have known a curve was coming up on the track if he’d never been on this train route before. Spooky! (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

This mystery elder takes it upon himself to give some advice to the woman, and so he launches into the story of another woman who was taking a trip by train and didn’t listen to warnings. He says that the woman had been warned of danger, and when she didn’t listen, she died that very same night.

Flashing back to that fateful night, the film tells the story of the man who accidentally caused the woman’s death, and the trouble that he gets himself into when he stays at a boarding house inhabited by the only witness to his crime.

Lew Landers directs 1948’s Inner Sanctum. Charles Russell and Mary Beth Hughes star. The original screenplay of this film was written by Jerome T. Gollard — his only major Hollywood writing credit aside from one episode of The Fugitive and a story credit on 1948’s Jinx Money. Aside from his work for the screen, Gollard found a creative outlet writing mystery novels, though he was not involved with the series of radio programs and books were released under the umbrella of “Inner Sanctum Mysteries”.

Inner Sanctum appears in Mill Creek Entertainment’s 50 Dark Crimes set. The print is quite obviously a VHS transfer, but aside from an obnoxious line at the bottom and a few flickers here and there, the quality isn’t too bad. For those of you who don’t own Mill Creek’s set, this film is also available on the Internet Archive.

Harold the literal lady-killer (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Harold the literal lady-killer (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

This is a good little noir. Good, but not great. Nice cinematography. A decent story that has Charles Russell’s character facing off with a mischievous, airplane-hat-wearing tween, and meanwhile also falling in love with a sassy blonde who is staying in the same boarding house.

Charles Russell’s performance is great. In the majority of his scenes he brings a very sinister mood, which adds atmosphere to the picture where it otherwise wouldn’t have much. At the same time, his brief “innocent man” act is at times nearly as convincing as his darkness — or would be, if we hadn’t watched him commit his crime early on in the film.

I do wish the script was a bit higher on mystery. There are a few too many scenes that don’t have much to do with the crime at hand — an overbearing mother’s outbursts at her son, for example, and a too-long scene setting up the man of the house as a drunk.

Inner Sanctum is a decent watch — not quite as suspenseful as I expected it to be based on its synopsis, but an enjoyable watch. I’ll give it a score of 3.5/5 — a 0.5 bonus for the cool ending.

Will this dish-drying lady of the boarding house be Harold's next victim? (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Will this dish-drying lady of the boarding house be Harold’s next victim? (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

2 thoughts on “Mill Creek Musings: Inner Sanctum (1948)

  1. As soon as a I saw that ‘.05 bonus for…’, my immediate thought was, ‘dog in the movie!’ But no…you also award half-points for cool wrap-ups! And also cool that Mary Beth Hughes was in this…I’ve liked her ever since I saw her in the Michael Shayne detective movies.

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    1. No cute puppy bonus this time around, unfortunately! Perhaps I’m a bit generous for awarding puppies the same amount of bonus points as clever endings, since puppies are naturally cute and clever endings actually require screenwriting talent, but I just can’t help myself.

      Like

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