Monthly Archives: March 2012

Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Calling Dr. Death

Title: Calling Dr. Death

Year: 1943

Got It For: $5 (set of six movies).

I happen to be quite the fan of old radio dramas, especially ones of the thriller/horror varieties. Radio plays are quite the lost art these days, though you can still find them being made by a few broadcasters like the CBC and BBC. To my knowledge however, none of these are in the genre of suspense or horror, which in my opinion are the best for this type of audio drama. With breathless speeches from the characters, spooky sounds and eerie ambience the listener’s mind can create a vast canvas of the most horrifying things it can imagine. One of the best horror dramas ever on the radio was Inner Sanctum, which ran almost all the way through the 1940’s and into the ‘50’s. The series was so popular in fact that a series of six movies were made for Universal Pictures under the “Inner Sanctum” banner, a fact I was unaware of until I ran into a DVD of all six of these films on a $5 rack. All of the movies star Lon Chaney Jr. of Universal’s popular Wolf Man franchise. This brings us to our current feature, Calling Dr. Death.

Chaney plays Dr. Mark Steele, a successful neurologist with a talent for hypnotism. While Dr. Stelle is adept at unlocking the secrets of all his patients, his own life and mental health are a mess. He’s trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman only interested in his money, has a thing for his cute nurse, and is beginning to hear his own voice in his head suggesting that maybe life would be better with his wife out of the picture, *nudge nudge, wink wink.* One Monday morning, Steele wakes up to find his wife has been murdered and he can’t quite remember where he’s been all weekend. Hey, don’t act like it’s never happened to you! So is Steele really the killer? Is an innocent man going to the chair? Or is someone else behind the whole thing?

This film is actually quite good. Chaney and the rest of the cast deliver good performances, especially for what was a low budget picture, and the film is shot quite nicely with a decent DVD transfer. If you’re a fan of old fashioned mystery and suspense tales, it will do quite well for you. The film isn’t perfect however. Some of the superimposed “state of mind images” are a bit cheesy, and the famous Inner Sanctum host that bookended the radio program is nowhere to be found. We are, however, introduced to a man whom I refer to as “Mr. Crystal Ballhead.”

It clocks in at just over an hour, which was pretty standard for some low budget movies of the time, but it may come across as a bit of a ripoff at regular full price by itself. If the other five movies are as good as this one was though, it’s a steal as a set for five bucks.

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Double Feature: Fantasy Mission Force/Fire Dragon

Titles: Fantasy Mission Force, Fire Dragon

Years: 1982, 1986 respectively

Got Them For: $1.25 each, $5 set of four movies

There are a couple of friends I have who only get together every couple of months, as the one common friend that links us – the one whose house we use a vast majority of the time – attends school in another part of the province. For a few meetings, one of these friends told me the tale of the “Jackie Chan Action Pack,” which he had picked up for five dollars God knows where. None of the movies had Jackie Chan in any soert of leading role, and my friend had managed to sit through one movie, Fantasy Mission Force. Naturally I was intrigued. For months I demanded to see this set of DVDs. Finally, my persistance was rewarded and he gave me the set free of charge.

Oh boy. This set is a cheap bargain title and it shows from the minimal menu (stating the titles of the two movies on the disc and playing a twenty second clip of music that sounds suspiciously like “25 or 6 to 4 over and over again) to the hilariously poorly written synopsis of each movie on the back, two of which give away the endings of the movie.

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We’re just going to cover two of the movies here; though honestly they’re almost the exact same thing. No literally. Fantasy Mission Force is probably the most bizarre comedy I’ve ever seen in my life. It apparently takes place in World War II, where a group of rag-tag fighters with over-the-top personalities are recruited to find a case of money stolen by “the Japs.” Their words, not mine. Along the way they encounter a haunted house, a village of warrior amazon women led by Tuxedo Mask, and Nazis driving Mad Max style muscle cars. The movie is completely insane and completely entertaining (if you can take some light hearted racism and violence against women). Jackie Chan plays a theif who ends up helping our main heroes a few times along the way, and even defeats the big baddie at the end.
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Our second movie on the docket is Fire Dragon. I had no idea what was going on throughout quick cutting and murderous midgets hiding in cakes, so I’ll just let the back of the box explain it.

“During a war, the intelligence group of the country several members of the commitee to form a team to steal the seret file from the enemy’s army base. Among the members of the team are prisoner, famous theives and great fighters. Their destination is the Island of the Women Warriors. Unfortunately they are trapped on an island. Will they be able to succeed with their mission? Or will they discover something so unbelieveable about their own intelligence group?”

Sound familiar? It should, 80% of Fire Dragon is stock footage of Fantasy Mission Force, making it almost impossible to review this movie on its own merits. The filmmakers spliced in shots of two other actors and some body doubles and very poorly tried to disguise the fact that some of the actors in were not the same as those in other parts of the movie made from the butchered FMF (including a shot from behind “Jackie Chan”). It’s so horrible that in one scene the FMF characters meet up with the two being shot for Fire Dragon and even through the silhouette disguising their faces it is obvious the Jeep the FMF chracters are riding in changed colour.  Ugh, I’m getting confused again…it’s hard to believe a movie that’s made almost entirely of a movie I’ve already seen is so hard to understand.Image

Fire Dragon is absolutely painful, and the only redeeming qualities are the hilariously awesome dub done for the hero (the one actually shot for Fire Dragon) and hearing the Psycho shower music during a flashback scene.

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