Our third repost of recaps of the 1939 serial The Phantom Creeps, previously published on the old She Blogged By Night and moved over here to get us all ready for the tremendous finale that awaits. This one is going up a little earlier than planned so I can move on to finishing my entry for The Best Hitchcock Film (Hitchcock Never Made) Blogathon.
The Phantom Creeps
Chapter 3: Crashing Towers
When we last left G-Man Bob, he was in the midst of careening his late-model Nash off a sharp curve and flying to his inevitable fiery death below.
These scenes were filmed without even the light from a cardboard match so screen shots are almost useless, but I was amused by this frame of Bob in a tangle of weeds falling ass over tit after jumping out of the car.
But wait a minute… he got out in time! Even though he was unconscious when the car was headed over the cliff! Movie serial, I am beginning to think you do not play fair.
G-Man Bob dusts himself off and, with the help of Plucky Girl Reporter, pursues one of the mad doctor’s ArachnoBlams that’s still lurking about, but it blows up when they get near. Still, these two fucking geniuses continue to look for the ArachnoBlam even after it detonates because they do not understand that explodiated means destroyed. Well, not destroyed destroyed but turned into a different shape of matter, probably tiny little dust particles and a couple of glue-on googly eyes scattered about their feet.
We leave our confused actors still searching for the ArachnoBlam that they clearly saw erupt into flame two feet in front of their faces and return to InvisiZorka, who steals a car from this fellow:
When I first posted this, I wasn’t sure if this was Bert Roach, but I’m convinced now. Dozens of Bert Roach scholars agree with me in email.
As Zorka speeds away from the scene, everyone who should have been with G-Man Bob in the first place arrives at his side, very late but glad to see he’s not dead. Sadly, none of these guys remembered to leave an officer behind at Zorka’s lab to watch Monk, the anxiety-ridden sidekick of Dr. Zorka, who is still laying face down on the ground after being shot and handcuffed. The spy ring gang drive up to Zorka’s place and decide to take Monk for themselves, but InvisiZorka saves him. Bob and all the other professional law enforcement officers remember that they left a wounded prisoner unattended some miles back, thus they return to Zorka’s pad. When they arrive they find the spies and give chase, catching up to them eventually but finding only one spy who had not yet escaped. G-Man Bob punches him in the head before trying to question him, which seems contraindicative to me, but I am not a professional law enforcement officer. Perhaps I simply do not understand.
Before Bob can pry any info from the spy, the escaped spies hiding in the brush shoot their comrade dead, to which Bob and his fellow officers react with mild irritation.
When they realize the other spies have run off, everyone else is rarin’ to go get ’em, but Bob once again says “never mind” and will not allow anyone to actually attempt to get the bad guys. Spell it out for everyone, Bob: Ya gots 12 of these chapters to fill and you need every delaying tactic available to man.
Back at Zorka’s lab, he’s fiddling around with Iron Man again. The remote for the robot is awfully swank, as you can see.
You can also see that they shot a single close-up of the remote on Zorka’s arm when he was in a lab coat and simply re-used it throughout the serial, even when he’s not in a lab coat at all.
Zorka is mad at Monk for almost ratting him out again, yet once again believes Monk’s weak, butt-covering lies. They’re a bickering old couple, too lazy to change or split up, content to keep making the same mistakes over and over again until one of them kicks off and leaves the other enough insurance money for a senior cruise and a chance at late-life happiness. Sigh. Anyway, Zorka trusts his no-good wife sidekick, despite copious evidence to suggest this is not a reasonable thing to do, and brings out his secret weapon, a meteorite that contains a special space element which allows him to make all his neat toys. He entrusts its safety to Monk.
A flashback tells us how Zorka got the meteorite: By stealing it from the set of The Invisible Ray (1936).
This is supposed to be Zorka years ago as he finds the meteor. Even if you don’t know this is footage from Invisible Ray, you will immediately recognize the eyes of Karloff peering out from behind the protective glass. The producers of The Phantom Creeps had balls of fucking steel to try to pull this stunt off. Someone should have told them that fearlessness is not synonymous with foolishness.
By the way, Regis Toomey is still unconscious.
PGR arrives at the scientist’s lab in a shiny, overdone outfit and Texas Guinan swagger and earns herself a “bitch, please” up-and-down from former silent movie star Hugh Huntley.
When the scientists develop the brilliant idea to boil one of the mad doctor’s disks right next to Regis’ bed to cure him, she hands over the one she stole from Zorka’s houseplant lo these many chapters ago. Regis Toomey is revived and immediately given a suit, fedora, and gun to get back on duty. Enough laying around, Toomey, time to try to act again.
Monk attempts to steal the meteorite from Zorka’s lab just as the G-Men arrive, but he fails. Everyone fails in this series, honestly, it’s just a matter of degrees. Monk’s failures are pretty spectacular though, and this is no exception as he is immediately taken into custody. As Regis drives Bob and the prisoner Monk to the pokey, Monk opens the meteorite box just enough to cause the antennae alongside the road to spark, shake, twist, then collapse…
…right on top of Regis Toomey.
In our next exciting episode, we find out just how dead Regis Toomey is again.
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