Sunday, December 10, 2006


With the recent release of the Universal INNER SANCTUM films on DVD I’ve been revisiting that sextet. Always a fun hour & change they are a great view for any fan of Lon Chaney Jr. as he is center stage in every one. These were made in the 40s just as his alcohol abuse was starting to be in evidence and you can see the beginnings of the eye bags that would come to be so prominent just a few years later. But Chaney is clearly giving these quickie programmers his all even when the scripts are less than great.

Much has been written about how sub-par this series is but I’ve never felt that way. I love these mysteries much as I do the other genre productions from Universal from the 1940s. They’re not perfect but they are very entertaining with occasional flashes of amazing filmmaking skill. I suspect that the directors of the IS films sometimes took the opportunity to try new things here that might get stopped on larger, more prestigious movies. And really, the only awful one of the series still has its charms, not the least of which is the series’ reoccurring unintentionally humorous sight of multiple ladies vying for Chaney’s affections. (No- I won’t defend THE FROZEN GHOST as it is quite poorly written and sloppily plotted but I will say I have enjoyed it several times and probably will several more.)

But on this pass through the films I’ve noticed another similarity they share that has new resonance for me as I get older. In each film Chaney’s character is often asking to please be left alone. Not in a hostile way usually but simply to have some breathing room to think about his predicament. Caught up in an elaborate murder scheme or fingered for a crime he didn’t commit Chaney is constantly harried on all sides by friends, women of dubious character, police detectives, lawyers, doctors and reporters. The poor man can hardly get enough alone time to visit the bathroom it seems! So in each of these movies I see him sometimes actually begging to just be left alone so he can simply think about the mess his life has become. Maybe if he can quietly consider the situation he can understand what he must do!

Boy do I identify with this. As I get older I find my time is not my own so often that I struggle to carve out spaces each week just to sit down and think. So many projects I want to work on and so little time to devote to them. I’ve found myself looking in the mirror and wondering if I’m starting to take on the hangdog look Chaney sports in most of these movies. Of course, I’d be thrilled to have the beautiful ladies falling all over themselves to gain my attention that seems to come with his sad state but….I think a few hours alone with my thoughts would be better for me.

Who knew I’d find so much of myself in Lon Jr. –outside the WOLF MAN of course. But then, all men identify with that lusty beast! Is this just a part of getting older?

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