Now this is something I haven’t seen for a while. A serial that is condensed into a movie. Serials were definitely the way to get people into movie theaters back in the day. I mean, you show a small portion of a movie and then the next week, you show the next part, and repeat for several weeks. Of course, the fact that serials were usually about 3-4 hours long all-together also helped with that decision. Anyways, today’s movie serial stars Bela Lugosi so I am hoping that this means this will be an enjoyable movie. Only way to tell is to get right into today’s movie, The Phantom Creeps.
The plot: Dr. Alex Zorka is working in his lab and decides to test his control for the giant robot he built but Monk, his assistant, worries that it might get loose again. Zorka chastises Monk, then use his control device to guide the robot across the room before sending it back to it’s storage chamber. When Monk sees a car pull up on their scanner, Zorka says that it is probably his wife to try and convince him to leave his lab. Outside the lab, Ann Zorka is talking with Dr. Fred Mallory, Zorka’s former partner, before she goes to see Zorka. Zorka happily greets Ann and shows her one of his latest inventions; a robot spider which can either kill or paralyze people. When Mallory reveals himself, Zorka is angered at his spying on him but Mallory says that he should turn his research over to the government as it is too dangerous to let it fall into the wrong hands. When Zarko refuses and heads back to his lab, Mallory tells Ann that he will contact some friends at the Defense Department to try and convince Zorka. In his lab, Zorka rants about Mallory and continues testing his inventions, chastising Monk when the invisibility belt malfunctions and almost injures him before fixing it himself and testing it. Some time later, Mallory returns to Zorka’s house and tells Ann he is waiting for Capt. Bob West to join them. When Bob flies in, he is greeted outside the house by Jean Drew, a reporter for the times, but he has his assistant escort her away. Entering the lab, they find the majority of the equipment is gone. Meanwhile, in his secret lab, Zorka shaves his beard and heads to his secret garage with Monk. As they are driving, they pick up a hitchhiker, as Zorka says he might be useful. When a speeding car causes them to veer off the road and crash, the hitchhiker is killed and Zorka decides to use the body to fake his death. Heading back to the house, Zorka uses his invisibility device to sneak inside and places a targeting disk for his spiders inside Ann’s purse, as he plans to paralyze her so she can’t identify the body in the morgue. As Bob and Ann make plans to fly out and examine the body, Jean was listening in at the window and sneaks onto the plane, as does Zorka, using his invisibility belt, in order to place the spider inside. As the plane is flying, Ann finds the disk in her bag and shows it to Bob, who ends up handing it to his assistant/pilot when he asks to see it. Unnoticed by all of them, the spider begins crawling towards the pilot and paralyzes him, causing the plane to begin falling from the sky. Bob goes to get Ann a parachute and finds Jean already wearing one and tells her to jump. Bob hands Ann another chute but Ann collapses from the spinning of the plane. The plane ends up crashing to the ground and Bob manages to survive and pulls Ann and his assistant from the wreckage. Meanwhile, Zorka and Monk are heading towards the site of the car crash when they see Jean parachuting down and getting stuck in a tree. The help free her and she tells them about the plane crash and they take her to it. Once there, Zorka passes himself off as a doctor in order to examine the bodies but realizes that his wife is dead. As the news reports broadcasts about the deaths of the Zorka’s make the headlines, Zorka blames Mallory and the government for Ann’s death and swears to get revenge. Meanwhile, a foreign government wants to find Mallory’s secrets and plan to use agents disguised as a foreign language school, to find them. In his secret lab, Zorka tells Monk where he found the meteorite, then leaves with his invisibility belt, as he plans to kill Mallory. Zorka sneaks into Mallory’s lab, as he is working with some chemicals, and causes an accident but Mallory manages to survive. Meanwhile, Monk had received word from the foreign government that they will give him $1 million for the meteor and Monk grabs the meteor and goes to leave but he is caught by Bob and his assistant, who were searching for signs of the meteor in the lab. As they drive towards town, Bob opens one of the panels in the box and causes the nearby power lines to fall and they end up crashing. Monk tries to get away with the box but Bob manages to shoot him in the arm, causing him to drop it. Zorka returns to the lab to find Monk and the meteor gone and he plans to use his robot for his revenge. When Monk returns, Zorka says he betrayed him and starts to have the robot attack him but Monk says that there were people searching the lab and he tried to hide the meteor, showing Zorka his injured arm as proof. Zorka believes him and heals Monk, then heads to Mallory’s lab, believing that is where they will take the meteor. Inside the lab, Zorka dons his invisibility belt and manages to steal back the meteor. Returning to the secret lab, Zorka shows Monk another invention, which he dubs the Z-ray, but they are surprised when Bob shows up and begins searching the house. Zorka uses the robot to attack Bob and knock him out but before he can kill him, some more men and Jean arrive. Zorka plans to use his Z-ray on them but Monk attempts to kill him with a spider and when that fails, grabs the invisibility belt and runs off. Zorka chases after him and uses the Z-ray on Monk when he becomes visible, then chastises him for being a traitor. After being checked out by the doctor, Bob is talking with Mallory and Jean and says he feels Zorka is still alive as someone sicced that robot on him. Meanwhile, Zorka has Monk acquire an office in the same building as Mallory’s office and the Foreign Language School, so that Zorka can keep tabs on everyone. As they are getting set up, two spies see Monk and knock him and Zorka out, then steal the meteor. The spies make plans to escape via submarine but Bob and Jean see them with the meteor and give chase. The spies believe they have managed to shake Bob and Jean due to a road crew doing some demolition work but when they see them still approaching, they go to get back in their car only to see it driving away by itself, and realize that an invisible Zorka is driving it. The spies disguise themselves and try to steal Bob’s car but Bob and Jean are able to capture the spies, and one of the spies tells them about Zorka. Bob organizes a squad to head to Zorka’s house and capture him and Zorka makes plans to deal with the attackers using his Z-ray and robot. When the soldiers storm the house, Zorka sends his robot to deal with them but they manage to destroy it. Zorka uses the invisibility belt to try and sneak back to his lab but Bob uses a device that Mallory created to make him visible, only for Zorka to destroy the device. Zorka and Monk leave through the secret tunnels and as Bob and the soldiers try to follow, Zorka drops some chemicals to cause a chemical fog to cover their escape. Zorka and Monk head to the airport, where they steal a bi-plane and begin terrorizing the countryside, dropping bombs and destroying a dirigible in the process. Bob orders a squadron of planes to chase after them and Zorka wants to continue fighting to the death but Monk would rather surrender. As Zorka kills Monk, their plane goes out of control and crashes to the ground, causing a massive explosion due to the meteor being with them. As the news spreads about Zorka’s death, Bob, Jean, and Mallory are taken to see the President, who thanks them for saving the country.
This was an interesting movie to watch but I will admit that since it was a serial condensed into a movie, it was a bit confusing. The acting was good, with Bela Lugosi (Zorka) and Jack C. Smith (Monk) doing a good job but I thought Robert Kent (Bob) was a little bland. The basic plot sounded good but due to this being condensed from 265 minutes to 78 minutes, it felt like a lot of scenes were left out that could have helped explain some parts of the movie better. The special effects did look on the cheap side, with a lot of stock footage being used for some scenes. A part of me kind of wants to see the entire serial, but not enough to make it a priority.
Rating: 2 out of 5