As Doubleday had its Crime Club series, so too did publisher Simon & Schuster have the Inner Sanctum Mysteries. Begun in the 1930s, Inner Sanctum Mysteries was a popular brand name for Simon & Schuster under which the company could release its books of mystery and suspense. On January 7, 1941, an Inner Sanctum radio program premiered. The radio show became quite successful, lasting for over ten years and featuring such actors as Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Orson Welles and--Frank Sinatra! The original Inner Sanctum radio show finished its run on October 5, 1952. Of critical importance was the host element of the show. At first it was "Raymond" (Raymond Edward Johnson), who could make audiences both shiver and laugh nervously with his wicked and sometimes pun-filled introductions and bridging segments. Later, "Raymond" was replaced by "Your Host/Mr. Host," played by Paul McGrath. (Raymond Edward Johnson had asked for too much money to continue, so....)
The horror host show angle, which was also found in such horror radio programs as The Witch's Tale, was certainly laying the groundwork for the horror hosts during the SHOCK! THEATER television days. And much like traveling Spook Shows of the 1940s and 1950s, these horror radio shows became a thing of the past once television became popular and the public could watch horror movies instead of listening to dramatizations.
The Inner Sanctum brand name infiltrated very easily into the SHOCK! programming, as Universal had made six Inner Sanctum films in the 1940s, all starring one of the studio's top resident horror stars, Lon Chaney Jr., and all but one of these films was part of the SHOCK! package offered up by Screen Gems (which, of course, should be called Scream Gems for this post).
The six Universal films in the Inner Sanctum series were:
CALLING DR. DEATH (1943) WEIRD WOMAN (1944) DEAD MAN'S EYES (1944) THE FROZEN GHOST (1945) STRANGE CONFESSION (1945) PILLOW OF DEATH (1945)
STRANGE CONFESSION was the film that didn't make it into the SHOCK! package. It is these films that, after the popular classic monster films, are the most remembered by SHOCK! THEATER devotees.
Universal's Inner Sanctum films were made available on DVD two years ago in a very nicely presented set and are much recommended. Though the films are not masterpieces, they are good old-fashioned B-film entertainments that are fun to watch (Lon Chaney Jr. gets major kudos here) and even intriguing and atmospheric at their best.