Weird Woman (1944)
“A witch wife.”
This in reference to Lon’s young Anne Gwynne who he has returned to his job as a college professor with. While in the darkest jungles Lon met Anne as he set about researching voodoo and superstition resulting in his best seller Superstition vs. Reason and Fact.
It seems that Lon has a jilted lover in Evelyn Ankers who goes about tormenting Anne and all her charms and chants that she holds so dear. Lon wants nothing better than to get Anne to leave her jungle ways behind yet when he smashes her make shift altar his luck is about to take a terrible turn towards evil and death.
Handsome Chaney finds himself with two women who feel spurned leading to insinuations and an accidental shooting resulting in his being put up on a possible murder charge. He has Evelyn feeling rejected, a young student with a puppy love crush on him played by Lois Collier and finally Elizabeth Russell accusing him as the man who forced her husband to take his own life.
Lon’s got a lot on his plate.
This is one of the six films Lon made under the Universal “Inner Sanctum” series during the mid forties. They have never been held in high esteem yet when caught at the right time they can be quite entertaining. This one perhaps for the wrong reasons. Simply put it’s high camp and funny.
I say this due to the corny lines within. Many of them making out Lon to be somewhat of a Clark Gable type.
From the young ingenue whose fascinated by her professor, “He’s so brilliant. Sweet and considerate. There’s something so dynamic about him.” When she makes her feelings known to Lon he brushes her arm aside with the classic, “romantic twaddle!” Then promptly throws her out of his office.
Evelyn calls him a “Mental giant.” Lon quickly points out to her, “Well those things happen” when cornered about his marrying Gwynne as opposed to the soon to be vindictive Evelyn.
During the opening flashback scenes of Lon meeting Anne in a jungle village one almost expects Dorothy Lamour to pop out with a song and sarong. I also had to pause and listen closely to the native chants. They sounded a bit like the miniature ladies chanting Mothra in the Toho classic from the sixties.
There’s really very little witchcraft going on here in this adaptation of the novel by Fritz Leiber Jr. which was actually remade in the sixties as Burn, Witch, Burn. It’s the high camp here that kept me interested in revisiting this film from Lon’s heyday though we do have a voodoo doll that factors into unveiling the film’s true villain.
Elizabeth Russell brings a creepy look to the film that adds some much needed flavor. No surprise as she did the same for some of Val Lewton’s RKO classics.
Reginald Le Borg was the assigned director for this outing from Lon’s home studio at the time. Universal also put Reginald behind the camera for Lon’s The Mummy’s Ghost and two of his other Inner Sanctum titles, Calling Dr. Death and my favorite of the six pack Dead Man’s Eyes.