The year before Chamber of Horrors was released to theatres after failing as a TV pilot, Universal Studios had released their own horror film that was also a failed TV pilot. 1965’s Dark Intruder.
Dark Intruder was going to be a TV show called The Black Cloak. Set in San Fransisco in 1890 the movie stars Leslie Nielsen as criminologist and occultist Brett Kingsford. The film starts with a murder. A woman is chased through the streets by a cloaked, growling man with claws for hands who corners her and kills her leaving a stone idol by her corpse. With her death, there have been four murders so far and the police need help.
Nielsen is a rich playboy who secretly works with the cops when they need his help, Nielsen doesn’t want anyone to know he works with the police so he always wears a disguise when he visits them, although his first disguise to the police commissioner is merely a British accent. The commissioner shows Nielsen the four statues left at the murders. Nielsen takes one of them and shows it a Chinese friend of his who tells him that the idol is one of the old evil gods, gods from before Babylon, the old ones, banished from the mortal plane. And this demon is trying to get back to the mortal world by possessing someone and committing seven murders.
Meanwhile Nielsen’s friend Robert (Peter Mark Richman) is getting married to Evelyn (Judi Meredith) but he seems to be acting weird, having black outs, sleepwalking and such. It’s starting to look like Robert might be possessed by the demon. Soon six people, all known to Robert have been murdered and Robert is sure that he’s the killer. The police don’t though, there was a murder committed before all the killings started happening in San Fransisco and it happened out of the country but with the same pattern and Robert was not in that country. There’s only one murder left and time is running out for Nielson and the police to set a trap and catch the killer.
The movie has that made for TV feel to it, although it does manage to have some creepy atmosphere. Nielsen’s Kingsford tries to do the whole double identity thing, playboy by day, occultist by night with secret hidden bookcases and a dwarf manservant that assists him in his work, while his friends like Robert don’t realize that Nielsen is investigating the murders. The final reveal of who the bad guy really is is clever and the show drops several H.P. Lovecraft hints throughout. Nielsen mentions Dagon and Azathoth as a couple of banished old gods and the name of Nyogtha is invoked along with some other demons near the end of the movie. At less than an hour run time the show moves quickly without a lot of character development but it is entertaining.