Calling Dr. Death (1943)

62-63 mins | Drama | 17 December 1943

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HISTORY

This was the first film in the "Inner Sanctum Mystery" series. According to HR , Universal purchased the screen rights to the "Inner Sanctum" name in Jun 1943 from Simon and Schuster, Inc., publishers of the popular mystery novels and radio shows. Simon and Schuster used Inner Sanctum as a generic title for a series of mystery novels it published starting in the 1930s. Beginning in Jan 1941, the NBC Blue Network broadcast a weekly, half-hour radio show entitled Inner Sanctum Mysteries . That anthology radio program was then broadcast on CBS from Sep 1943 to 1950, on ABC from 1950 to 1951, and on CBS in the summer of 1952. In 1954, NBC Films syndicated 39 episodes of a television series titled Inner Sanctum .
       Under its agreement with Simon and Schuster, Universal received no story rights to the novels or radio series. Universal produced six films for the series, all featuring actor Lon Chaney, Jr. In most of the pictures, actor David Hoffman, playing the role "Inner Sanctum," appears in a prologue as a bodiless head, floating in a crystal ball. The final Universal entry was the 1945 film Pillow of Death (See Entry). In 1948, M.R.S. Pictures made the final entry in the series, Inner Sanctum , an independent production starring Charles Russell and Mary Beth Hughes, directed by Lew Landers (See Entry). For additional information on the series, consult the Series Index.
       While actress Isabel Jewell is listed by the CBCS in the role of "Peggy Morton," she does not appear in the released film. Gale Sondergaard was originally cast in ... More Less

This was the first film in the "Inner Sanctum Mystery" series. According to HR , Universal purchased the screen rights to the "Inner Sanctum" name in Jun 1943 from Simon and Schuster, Inc., publishers of the popular mystery novels and radio shows. Simon and Schuster used Inner Sanctum as a generic title for a series of mystery novels it published starting in the 1930s. Beginning in Jan 1941, the NBC Blue Network broadcast a weekly, half-hour radio show entitled Inner Sanctum Mysteries . That anthology radio program was then broadcast on CBS from Sep 1943 to 1950, on ABC from 1950 to 1951, and on CBS in the summer of 1952. In 1954, NBC Films syndicated 39 episodes of a television series titled Inner Sanctum .
       Under its agreement with Simon and Schuster, Universal received no story rights to the novels or radio series. Universal produced six films for the series, all featuring actor Lon Chaney, Jr. In most of the pictures, actor David Hoffman, playing the role "Inner Sanctum," appears in a prologue as a bodiless head, floating in a crystal ball. The final Universal entry was the 1945 film Pillow of Death (See Entry). In 1948, M.R.S. Pictures made the final entry in the series, Inner Sanctum , an independent production starring Charles Russell and Mary Beth Hughes, directed by Lew Landers (See Entry). For additional information on the series, consult the Series Index.
       While actress Isabel Jewell is listed by the CBCS in the role of "Peggy Morton," she does not appear in the released film. Gale Sondergaard was originally cast in the role of "Stella Madden," but was later replaced by Patricia Morison, according to HR . HR news items also state that actor George Dolenz was initially cast as "Robert Duval," but was forced to leave the film because he was still working on Universal's Moonlight in Vermont (See Entry). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Dec 1943.
---
Daily Variety
10 Dec 43
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Dec 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 43
p. 4, 11
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 43
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Nov 43
p. 1635.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Dec 43
p. 1673.
New York Times
12 Feb 44
p. 11.
Variety
15 Dec 43
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITER
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Dir of sd
[Sd] tech
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 December 1943
Production Date:
25 October--mid November 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
10 December 1943
Copyright Number:
LP12419
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
62-63
Length(in feet):
5,663
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9813
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Neurologist Dr. Mark Steele has great success using hypnosis to treat his patients, but little luck in treating his own inner turmoil, which is caused by an unhappy marriage. When his unfaithful wife Maria returns home at three o'clock in the morning, the distraught Mark asks for a divorce, but Maria, who enjoys the privileges of being a doctor's wife, laughingly refuses. That night, Mark dreams of strangling Maria to death. Learning that his wife has gone away for the weekend, Mark gets into his car and drives off, only to wake up in his office Monday morning, suffering from a mental blackout. The police then arrive and inform the physician that his wife has been murdered. After finding a button from his jacket near Maria's dead body, Mark comes to believe that he is the murderer, but Stella Madden, his nurse, convinces him not to say anything to the police. Later, Mark is informed that architect Robert Duval, Maria's lover, has been arrested for the crime. Despite this, Inspector Gregg, the lead detective on the case, tells Mark that he thinks the physician is the real killer. Back at his office, Mark is visited by Duval's wheelchair-bound wife, who begs for the doctor's help in proving her husband's innocence. Duval, however, is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Racked with guilt, Mark hypnotizes himself in an attempt to determine if he is the real murderer. Though the treatment is interrupted by Gregg, Stella makes a recording of the session, in which the unconscious Mark talks about meeting his wife at a hunting lodge, arguing with her, leaving as Duval ... +


Neurologist Dr. Mark Steele has great success using hypnosis to treat his patients, but little luck in treating his own inner turmoil, which is caused by an unhappy marriage. When his unfaithful wife Maria returns home at three o'clock in the morning, the distraught Mark asks for a divorce, but Maria, who enjoys the privileges of being a doctor's wife, laughingly refuses. That night, Mark dreams of strangling Maria to death. Learning that his wife has gone away for the weekend, Mark gets into his car and drives off, only to wake up in his office Monday morning, suffering from a mental blackout. The police then arrive and inform the physician that his wife has been murdered. After finding a button from his jacket near Maria's dead body, Mark comes to believe that he is the murderer, but Stella Madden, his nurse, convinces him not to say anything to the police. Later, Mark is informed that architect Robert Duval, Maria's lover, has been arrested for the crime. Despite this, Inspector Gregg, the lead detective on the case, tells Mark that he thinks the physician is the real killer. Back at his office, Mark is visited by Duval's wheelchair-bound wife, who begs for the doctor's help in proving her husband's innocence. Duval, however, is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Racked with guilt, Mark hypnotizes himself in an attempt to determine if he is the real murderer. Though the treatment is interrupted by Gregg, Stella makes a recording of the session, in which the unconscious Mark talks about meeting his wife at a hunting lodge, arguing with her, leaving as Duval arrived, then returning to his office and taking a sedative. Despite this, Gregg remains convinced of Mark's guilt. Later, the physician visits Duval in his prison cell, where the architect states that he borrowed $10,000 from Maria to pay off his gambling debts, though Mark suspects that he gave the money to his disabled wife. Learning that the governor has denied Duval's request for leniency, Stella collapses, so Mark, thinking that she is overworked, offers to hire a new secretary to handle the bills, then drives her to her family's home in Malcom Falls for the weekend. When he returns to his office on Monday, Mark is confronted by Gregg, who has discovered that the acid used in the arson fire of the physician's office is similar to that used to disfigure the murdered Maria's face. On the eve of Duval's execution, Mark hypnotizes Stella, who confesses to scheming with Duval to acquire the $10,000, killing Maria when the love-struck architect attempted to return the money, implicating Duval by placing a post-hypnotic suggestion in Mark's mind, then burning the physician's office in order to destroy his personal files, which would have uncovered her acts of embezzlement. Gregg overhears the confession and places Stella under arrest. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.