The Frozen Ghost

The Frozen Ghost ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

The Inner Sanctum Mysteries return to their favorite plot mechanism: Hypnotism. Chaney plays a stage hypnotist who, during a live performance, learns he can kill a man with a thought. As per the series standard, he spends the rest of the film feeling intensely guilty about this.

Despite the hypnotism plot set-up, most of the movie has an entirely different gimmick: A wax museum! Now that’s always a cool setting for a horror film. The museum is run by a discredited plastic surgeon who maybe has some mental problems he should work out. The truth which the movie reveals way too early: Chaney’s agent and the sculptor are working together to gaslight Chaney, of course, for reasons I don’t remember. (I watch this at two o’clock in the morning on three hours sleep. Excuse me.)

Also per the series standard, there are three women in love with Lon’s hypnotist: The wax museum’s female owner, her much younger niece, and his female stage assistant, played by Evelyn Ankers, of course. The murders that follow cleave Chaney’s romantic options pretty quickly.

“The Frozen Ghost” returns to some of the atmosphere of “Calling Dr. Death.” The cliched shot of the hypnotist’s staring eyes, swirling circles imprinted over his face, is employed a few times. My favorite involves a tracking shot of Chaney’s feet as he wanders around, his guilty conscious monologue going the whole time.

Chaney, playing his sobbing paranoid part fantastically as always, is actually a little underused. The movie mostly focuses on the wax museum. Martin Kosleck is the villainous mad sculptor, in a role very similar to his character in the later “House of Horrors.” There’s an extend, actually quite suspenseful sequence of him stalking “House of Frankestein’s” Elena Verdugo through the museum.

Another notable moment comes when he is hiding a dead body among the displays, the Shakespeare-obsessed detective snooping around. The giant blazing fiery cauldron in the basement makes a memorable, repeated image. It’s inevitable from the moment it’s introduced that someone is going to end up in that thing.

And that’s the only real problem with “The Frozen Ghost,” another entertaining if brisk and indistinct entry in the Inner Sanctum series. Not enough mopey Chaney and laying the cards anyone could have guessed down too soon.