Strange Confession is that type of movie that starts out a little uneven but then vastly improves as it moves on until you cannot stop watching. At first you want to stop as Lon Chaney’s character is so clichéd but then once you get past the beginning, it just gets better and better. Directed by John Hoffman from a script by Jean Bart and M. Coates Webster, it finds Chaney as a mild-mannered sort of fellow who cares more for his family than he does for money. Yet sometimes money is useful and his wife is tired of having to fight every day for every little thing and so he takes a job with his former boss so that he might provide those things that she and his son might need. What he maybe failed to realize or perhaps glossed over in his eagerness to please his wife was just how terrible a human being his boss really is and when tragedy strikes, something within him breaks.
Chaney is great in the role as the family man and researcher. He does ham it up at the beginning a little, playing that confused and desperate man that he did four years previous in The Wolf Man and he does it well, but here he overdid it just a little. What is most interesting about this role is that it was something totally different to see from Chaney. For the most part, the role was not as challenging as others but when it came to the end of the film Chaney would definitely surprise. Director John Hoffman made a solid movie as it goes from one extreme to the next and he certainly knows how to get the best out of his actors, Chaney being a prime example.
Other notables in the cast were Brenda Joyce as Mary, Jeff’s not necessarily long-suffering wife, but a woman who realizes that Jeff could be more and in doing so make the lives of not only her, but their son better as well. The villain of the picture is personified by J. Carrol Naish and he puts in a spectacular performance as Jeff’s devious and lecherous boss Roger. The man is as slick as they come and when Jeff is out of the country, Roger cannot help but make a move on the man’s’ work and his wife. If one were to look up unscrupulous in the dictionary, it would have this man’s face next to it.
This is the fifth Inner Sanctum Mystery put to film and it is not so much a mystery as a thriller, though a slow-burning one at that. There is no mystery to be found here, yet the picture holds tension and a measure of suspense to grab your attention and keep it throughout its running time. As far as movies about revenge go, the film does a great job and it was refreshing to see Chaney in something that might have been outside of his comfort zone, or at least a role that was not one normally associated with the man. Grief and revenge, a combination that is utterly dangerous and Strange Confession is a fine example of it.