Harold Young, 1945
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers
I’m sure no one will be surprised to learn that the fourth film in the Inner Sanctum mysteries series has absolutely nothing to do with ghosts, frozen or otherwise. Gregor the Great, a stage performer actually named Alex, accidentally kills an audience member one night after the man heckles him and accuses him of being fake. The man dies while Alex has him in a hypnotic trance and though it is ruled a heart attack, Alex is wracked with guilt and it begins to ruin his life. He confesses to murder and breaks up with his fiancée. He takes a job at a wax museum run by Madame Monet, but because it is a wax museum, there are a number of questionable, potentially spooky things going on there. The demented sculptor, Rudi, who used to be a plastic surgeon, becomes immediately jealous of the attention Monet and the other women at the museum pay Alex. The women soon feed into the hysteria and Madame Monet disappears after fighting with Alex. Predictably, he becomes the main suspect and must reunite with his fiancée to clear his name.
This is a pretty standard murder-in-a-wax-museum plot where the insane sculptor is using (or trying to use) human bodies in with his sculptures, though here Rudi just stores the bodies near his incomplete wax sculptures. It also contains basically the same plot outline of every Inner Sanctum film. Chaney plays a down on his luck guy that every woman on the planet is obsessed with. Someone dies in questionable circumstances and he is suspected for murder, usually by an inept police inspector. The culprit is never actually Chaney, but either a jealous woman or someone after his money. The third time around it was a bit predictable, but by the fourth time, it’s just tedious.
Though Reginald Le Borg directed the first three films in the series, Harold Young (The Mummy’s Tomb) took over the reins here, not that it made much of a difference. Lon Chaney, Jr. returned again to star and I can’t help but wonder why Universal insistently put him at the helm of each of these boring, or at best mediocre films. The series probably would have been more interesting with some lesser known actors, but alas. At least Evelyn Ankers returns to co-star, though, as always, she is unable to make a dull script interesting.
This is certainly superior to the boring third film, Dead Man’s Eyes, but fails to produce any convincing red herrings or twists, as in the second film, Weird Woman. Frozen Ghost oddly introduces us to the killer, Rudi, and attempts to use his overt guilt and obvious mental instability as a red herring, along the lines of “he is so obviously guilty, you will never believe he is really the killer.” It’s a tired and lazy concept, but this still could have been far more interesting than it wound up being, which is a shame.
I can’t recommend Frozen Ghost, but if you really want to watch the most subpar wax museum film made before 1960, you can find this in the two-disc Inner Sanctum Mysteries Collection along with the five other films.