Calling Dr. Death
©1943 Universal Pictures


Genre: Mystery

Rating: NR

This movie is part of the Hammer Films 'Inner Sanctum' series. Dr. Mark Steele (Lon Chaney Jr.) is a renowned hypnotherapist with a successful practice but an unhappy marriage. His unfaithful wife Maria (Ramsay Ames) flaunts her affairs and, when he confronts her, she simply laughs in his face. Pushed to the brink of madness, his mind turns to thoughts of murder. When he learns Maria has gone away for the weekend, he storms out of the house, waking in his office Monday morning with no memory of the last three days. His nurse Stella (Patricia Morison) is worried but Mark seems unconcerned, until he finds out his wife was disfigured and murdered at their lodge during the weekend. Finding one of his buttons at the murder scene, Mark becomes starts to think that he killed Maria and that his subconscious is blocking out the memory. Police Inspector Gregg (J. Carrol Naish) arrests the man Maria was having an affair with, Robert Duval (David Bruce), but neither Inspector Gregg nor Mark think that Duval killed Maria. Inspector Gregg openly admits that he thinks Mark killed Maria but Duval is convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Desperate to know the truth, Mark decides to try self-hypnosis to unlock his memories. After Mark puts himself into a trance, Stella asks him what he did the weekend Maria was murdered and records his answer. When Mark plays the recording, he hears himself explain how he went to the lodge and confronted Maria but left immediately, seeing Duval enter the lodge as he left. However, Inspector Gregg is still unconvinced. Duval admits to Mark that he was simply using Maria to get money but Mark feels that Duval is still hiding something. While Mark and Stella are gone for the weekend, there's a fire at the office, destroying all of Mark's personal files, including Maria’s financial records. Again, Inspector Gregg thinks Mark did it but Stella is also a suspect. On the eve of Duval's execution, Mark and Stella go out to dinner but, unable to relax, they decide to go back to the office and wait until the execution is over. At the office, Mark hypnotizes Stella with a watch and, under hypnosis, she reveals that she killed Maria. She was Duval's partner in getting money from Maria and she gave Mark false details of the crime while he was hypnotized. Inspector Gregg hears all this and arrests Stella, revealing that he never really suspected Mark but was using him to get to Stella.

Type of mind control: Hypnosis

Mind control scenes:
Although this entire movie is about the mind, specifically the subconscious, there are only three mind control scenes. This first is at the very beginning when Mark hypnotizes a patient to find out why she hasn't said a word since an accident. The second mind control scene is when Mark uses self-hypnosis to try and unlock his memories of Maria's murder. The final mind control scene is when Mark hypnotizes Stella and she confesses to killing Maria.

Subjective Rating: 4 out of 5
The first two mind control scenes seem reasonably realistic with mark using a light reflected off a metronome as a focus. The third mind control scene is your typical swinging watch induction but it's done with enough subtlety to appear plausible and not comical. The reason this movie didn't receive a higher rating is because you only see the results of the hypnosis in the first scene when Mark questions his patient. In the second hypnosis scene, the movie cuts from Mark's induction to Stella waking him up. Only the recording Stella made reveals what happened while Mark was hypnotized. In the third hypnosis scene, the movie goes directly to flashbacks of Stella's actions as soon as she's put under. I would have preferred to see Mark and Stella responding to questions while they were hypnotized.

Back to Other