While in the South Seas Professor Norman Reed (Lon Chaney Jr.) finds the daughter of a former colleague Paula (Anne Gwynne). Since the death of her father, Paula has been raised by a native high priestess. He falls in love with her and marries her. He returns to America with his young bride.
Norman’s ex-girlfriend Ilona Carr (Evelyn Ankers) is not thrilled about being replaced, especially by someone who is not exactly worldly. Reed is a professor at Monroe College and most of his friends and co-workers are either snobs or academics. Ilona does everything she can to make Paula as uncomfortable as possible. Her catty ways and acid tongue turn people at the college away from the young bride.
Paula’s upbringing instills in her various superstitions. She fills her house with good luck charms and does various voodoo chants and rituals to bring luck to her husband Norman. When Norman finds out about what Paula is doing he tries to get her to stop. Norman spent his career debunking superstition and even wrote a book about it. To have his wife partake in things that he has tried to show as false makes him look silly. He forces Paula to burn all her charms.
As soon as all of Paula’s charms are burned bad things begin to happen to Norman. Professor Millard Sawtelle (Ralph Morgan), who is in competition with Norman over a job, commits suicide and Millard’s wife blames Norman. A young female student who is infatuated with Norman is spurned. Her ex-boyfriend believes Norman took advantage of her. He tries to shoot Norman but ends up shot himself. Now his life is in the balance and Norman could be charged with murder if he dies. With all her charms gone Paula is helpless to save her husband.
“Weird Woman” was released in 1944 and was directed by Reginald Le Borg. It is a horror movie and a film noir. It is the second of six low budget movies done by Universal that was based on the Inner Sanctum radio program and the Simon & Schuster Inner Sanctum mystery novels.
For five of the six movies in the series the opening is a sequence where David Hoffman’s distorted and disembodied head bobbles inside a crystal ball. He opens the films warning the audience that each one of them is capable of murder. The only film in the series without this unusual brief opening is “Pillow of Death” 1945.
“The Night of the Eagle” AKA “Burn Witch Burn” 1962 is a retelling of “Weird Woman”. Even the names of some of the characters are similar. “The Night of the Eagle” was a British made movie based on the story “Conjure Wife” by Fritz Leiber. The story was again redone as the American made “Witch’s Brew” in 1979.
The movie is less of an occult horror film than the 1962 version of the story. It incorporates more psychological thriller vibes into it. The Inner Sanctum films were done to give Chaney a chance to stretch as an actor in between doing his standard horror films. This offering in the Inner Sanctum series is also pretty decent. Many of Universal’s seasoned actors were on tap for the film. Again it’s short and fast moving so you stay engaged with it.