Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


By most accounts, this is a turkey; or, so proclaimed because a number of viewers felt this should have been noir.  Or, if it was noir, it wasn't noir enough.  Or something.  But there are some interesting things about this flick.

     Inner Sanctum began as a book imprint of Simon & Schuster in 1930.  Although not restricted to mysteries and thrillers, it was in that field that imprint made its name.    In 1940 NBC licensed the name from S&S.  (S&S is currently using Inner Sanctum as the name of its blog.)   Inner Sanctum Mystery, complete with squeaking door intro, ran as a radio program for almost a dozen years from January 1941 to  October 1952 for a total of 526 episodes.  Created and produced by Himan Brown, the anthology series was first hosted by Raymond Johnson ("Your host, Raymond...Pleasant dreeeams, hmmm."); Paul McGrath took over as host in 1945.

     Universal Studios produced six Inner Sanctum movies featuring Lon Chaney, Jr., from 1943 to 1945.

     Inner Sanctum became a television sereis in 1954.  Again hosted by Paul McGrath, the show lasted for 40 episodes.  A quick check at IMDB shows that at least two of the episodes were written by mystery author John Roeburt, another two episodes were based on stories by DeMaupassant, and one additional episode was based on an Edgar Wallace story.

     Nestled between the six Universal movies and the television show was our movie, released in 1948 by M.R.S. Pictures.  Directed by Lew Landers (The Raven, The Return of the Vampire, Seven Keys to Baldpate) and written by radio scribe Jerome T. Gollard (Duffy's Tavern, The Shadow), The movie did without the creaking door and the host, relying rather on a [SPOILER!] framing story featuring Fritz Leiber, Sr.  (Leiber, of course, was the Shakespearean actor and father of writer Fritz Leiber.)

     After accidently killing his fiance, Harold Dunlap finds his way out of a strange town is prevented by a flood.  Dunlap finds shelter to boarding house where he discovers a boy who may have witnessed the killing lives.  And there's a blonde at the boarding house who wants to leave, and she doessn't care what type of man she leaves with.

     Charles Russell plays Dunlap.  Russell's acting career in films lasted less than a decade with seventeen films to his credit.  He may be best remembered as radio's original Johnny Dollar in Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

     Mary Beth Hughes (The Ox-Bow Incident, The Lady Confesses, The Great Flamarion) had an interesting career as the hard-boiled blonde in films, including this one -- even though she was a redhead.  Many MST3K fans probably remember her from I Accuse My Parents, which was justly trashed by Crow and Tom Servo.  Married five times, in the eary Fifties she became the first famous weather-girl for a Los Angeles television station.  She segued into a career as a nightclub singer.  As jobs dried up, she was a Sprint telemarketer and a receptionist for a plactic surgeon.

     Child actor Dale Belding played Mike Bennett, the boy who witnessed the murder.  I couldn't find much about him, although he went to play (uncredited) Danny Kettle in three Ma and Pa Kettle movies.

      In addition to Leiber, other supporting players included Billy House (no relation), a heavy-set performer whom the Disney studio used as a model for Doc in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and as a fat pirate in Peter Pan.  Also in the cast were veteran actor Roscoe Ates (perhaps best known as Soapy Jones in many Eddie Dean westerns), Lee Patrick (who played Henrietta Topper in television's Topper), Nana Bryant (another veteran actress, who interestingly -- to me, anyway -- was featured in the 1937 Nero Wolfe mystery The League of Frightened Men), Eddie Parks (whose career consisted of many, many uncredited parts, including one in an episode of My Little Margie -- but not the episode I featured last week as an Overlooked television show), and Eve Miller (in her second credited role; she went on to appear as a supporting actress in many television shows in the Fifties).

     So buckle your set belt and brace yourself as you board a low-budget train that will take you to the Inner Sanctum

And, if that's not enough, here's a link to eight of the radio episodes:


     For more of this week's Overlooked Films go to Sweet Freedom where Todd will have all the links.

1 comment:

  1. And, of course, among those "Inner Sanctum" movies from Universal was the first attempt at a film of Fritz Leiber, Jr.'s novel CONJURE WIFE, very loosely adapted and titled WEIRD WOMAN. Not nearly as good as the early '60s film of the novel, NIGHT OF THE EAGLE (in the US as BURN, WITCH, BURN!), much less the novel itself.

    I've been listening to GUNSMOKEs at while working and finishing the links tonight...