“You’re too bad even for me.”
Inner Sanctum is a surprisingly entertaining film noir title that begins as a story told by one passenger to another on a train journey. A saucy, bored brunette strikes up a conversation with an elderly man who decides to entertain his fellow passenger by passing the time with a cautionary tale. He tells the story of another train journey, and a passenger–Harold Dunlap–and this story is the heart of the film.
Harold Dunlap (Charles Russell) and his faithless wife squabble as he exits the train to disembark at the small sleep town of Clayburgh. The wife ends up dead, and the husband loads her body back onto the back of the train. As he turns to walk away from the station and the departing train, a local boy, Mike Bennett (Dale Belding) stops him. The boy asks a lot of guileless questions, and Dunlap grasps the notion that while Mike didn’t see the murder, as a witness, he can place him at the scene of the crime.
Dunlap intends to leave town, but he’s trapped by a flood that destroys the bridges out of town. The town’s newspaperman McPhee (Billy House) gives Dunlap a lift and directs him to a boarding house for lodging. Coincidentally, the boarding house is the home of Mike and his over protective mother, and Dunlap realizes it’s just a matter of time before Mike hears the news about the dead woman on the train, and connects the events….
At 62 minutes, Inner Sanctum, directed by Lew Landers is a short film, but it doesn’t waste a scene. The film works, mainly due to the characterizations. Dunlap finds himself stuck in the boarding house and while he’s the vicious killer, he’s also in a sense subject to Mike’s actions. Mike–a heavily freckled youth with a gap-toothed grin–is infantilized by his neurotic mother who anticipates ‘bad’ things happening to the boy at any moment (for example, if he looks out of the window, she tells him not to in case he falls out). Ironically, while Mrs. Bennett agonizes about Mike’s well being every moment of his existence, Harold stalks Mike with murderous intent. Another thread of humour is found in Dunlap’s enforced stay at the boarding house. The lodgers are all male, but females own and run the house. The widow Bennett thinks her boy needs a father, and Dunlap begins to look like a likely candidate, but that doesn’t sit well with Jean Maxwell (Mary Beth Hughes). She’s got her eye on Dunlap too, and she throws herself at Dunlap every chance she gets. Full of spicy one-liners, while not exactly tense, the film manages to maintain a degree of entertainment throughout.
This Alpha print is decent–with just a few white round blotches appearing at the top left of the screen.