The Kincaid mansion is an old dark house just ripe for haunting and some of the Kincaids believe it’s already full of them. The eldest Kincaid is Belle (Clara Blandick). Next is her brother Sam (George Cleveland). Amelia Kincaid (Rosalind Ivan) is a poor relation from England that lives with Belle and Sam doing some cooking and house work for them. The last Kincaid is Donna (Brenda Joyce). She is Belle and Sam’s niece. She works for Attorney Wayne Fletcher (Lon Chaney Jr.) even though Belle is against it. She doesn’t believe that the Kincaid women should work. At least the American Kincaids.
Wayne and Donna are in love but Wayne is married. After working late one night Wayne tells Donna that he is going to ask his wife Vivian for a divorce. When he gets home he finds Police Captain McCracken (Wilton Graff) at his house. Vivian is dead. Julian Julian (J. Edward Bromberg) is a psychic and a friend of Vivian’s. He had an appointment to see Vivian but when she didn’t show he got a psychic premonition. He went to the house but there was no answer. He called the police. Wayne, of course, is the prime suspect.
It turns out that the Kincaid women are also familiar with Julian. As is the next door neighbor Bruce Malone (Bernard Thomas), who is also in love with Donna and basically a stalker. At Belle’s request, Julian begins having séances to contact poor Vivian. Captain McCracken has his hands full when Wayne’s dead wife starts talking from the grave and other members of the Kincaid family start dying. There seems to be a lot more going on in the Kincaid house other than just spooks.
“Pillow of Death” was released in 1945 and was directed by Wallace Fox. It is a horror mystery and, supposedly, a film noir. This is the sixth and last of the Inner Sanctum movies. As with all the Inner Sanctum films it stars Lon Chaney Jr. It is the only one of the films in the franchise that does not have the opening featuring the bobble head of David Hoffman saying that everyone is capable of murder.
I do wish they had come up with better titles for these movies. “Pillow of Death” is stupid. Besides that the plot is a little strange. It fits a comedy with mystery undertones rather than a just plain mystery. It also has some horror elements and shades of Old Dark House fundamentals with séances and ghost sounds. The movie is a mash-up of different styles all tenuously put together. And they managed to jam all this into sixty-six minutes of film.
There are also some plot elements that are started and then dropped. What happened to the crazy lady? Is Vivian still rotting in the walls? How did McCracken figure out who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy? It’s kinda like someone took a bunch of plot elements, turned them upside down and randomly picked several of them. It reminds me a little bit of a Roger Corman cut and paste.
All that being said it’s still an interesting movie to watch. There is a final twist at the end that was not expected. Even though it’s not a lot of people’s idea of a good movie, I liked it.