Saturday, February 11, 2012

His Eyes Lived To Condemn His Killer

Prolific horror star Lon Chaney Jr., who saw seven of his films released in 1944, played an artist in DEAD MAN'S EYES, his third INNER SANCTUM mystery for Universal. Reginald LeBorg also returns for his third INNER SANCTUM, directing Chaney through more whispering narration and another sad-sack performance.

Writer Dwight Babcock’s (THE BRUTE MAN) great premise finds painter David Stuart (Chaney) accidentally pouring acid instead of eye wash into his peepers. Oops. While his fiancĂ© Heather (Jean Parker) and his model Tanya (Acquanetta) passive-aggressively fight over who gets to take care of the simpering David in the first few days of his blindness, Heather’s wealthy father (Edward Fielding) offers to donate his eyes for a transplant, but only after he dies. Guess who becomes Homicide cop Drury’s (Thomas Gomez) prime suspect when Fielding is murdered?

Running just over an hour, this 12-day wonder is decent entertainment, though not especially original. In fact, the climax and revelation of the killer’s identity plays out almost identically to the way LeBorg did it in CALLING DR. DEATH, the first INNER SANCTUM movie, just a few months earlier. The director doesn’t bring anything fresh to the material, however, and is unable to work through the film’s worst pickles, such as Acquanetta’s pitiful performance and the laughable idea that David’s painting of Tanya, which would look perfect hanging on someone’s particle-board basement wall, is brilliant enough to push him to the top of the artist world.

Because the INNER SANCTUM pictures were so inexpensive, they made enough money for Universal to continue the series. However, it had to do so without LeBorg, who was paid a mere $1500 for DEAD MAN’S EYES and was tired of churning out the company’s programmers.

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