Weird Woman (1944)

“I’m a scientist, but I’m not immune — you can’t be surrounded by fear and not be infected.”

Synopsis:
A highly rational professor (Lon Chaney, Jr.) marries a superstitious woman (Anne Gwynne) he meets while travelling in the South Seas. When they return to his college campus, his former flame (Evelyn Ankers) immediately becomes jealous of his new wife, and plots to make Chaney’s life miserable.

Genres:

Review:
In the 1940s, Universal Studios produced six low-budget horror films based on the popular “Inner Sanctum” radio series (all starring Lon Chaney, Jr.); Peary lists two of these titles in his GFTFF: Calling Dr. Death (1943) and Weird Woman, an early adaptation of Fritz Leiber’s 1942 novel Conjure Wife (filmed again by Sidney Hayers in 1962 as Burn, Witch, Burn!). It strains credibility (to put it mildly) to imagine Chaney, Jr. as a man so brilliant and so appealing to women that elaborate plots of vengeance and backstabbing are concocted on his behalf — but once you accept this questionable bit of casting, it’s relatively easy to get caught up in this hour-long psychological horror flick, which features committed performances by both Ankers (deliciously vengeful) and Gwynne (perpetually fearful). Fans of Burn, Witch, Burn! will be especially interested to watch for parallels and differences between the two adaptations; while BWB remains a highly atmospheric cult classic (and is clearly the much better film), WW does a fine job within its limited budget and visionary scope.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Game performances by the B-level cast

Must See?
No, though diehard fans of Burn, Witch, Burn! will certainly be curious to check it out.

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One Response to “Weird Woman (1944)”

  1. Not a must – though it’s easily better than ‘Calling Dr. Death’.

    It’s been noted (by Richard Matheson, who co-wrote it) that ‘Burn, Witch, Burn’ is a rather faithful adaptation of Leiber’s novel – but that the novel contains even more elements which the 1962 film did not have time to include. (I still haven’t read the book, though I do have a copy and will get to it.)

    ‘Weird Woman’, though certainly effective in the earlier half of its 60+-minute running time, labors under even more unfortunate constraint. As a result, Leiber’s story becomes compromised to the extent that it stops making sense on its own terms. It suddenly becomes a story about pseudo-witchcraft while the real witchcraft angle is simply tossed aside.

    What we’re left with is mildly intriguing but ultimately confusing and unsatisfying.

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