I hate when they put movies into a collection that honestly have no business being in there. Case in point, today’s movie. I know that television was still a relatively new invention in 1936, as in seriously brand new, but I don’t see how a movie about someone inventing a new television belongs in a collection called Sci-Fi Invasion. The only way it would make sense is if the television somehow allowed an alien army to invade the Earth (which actually was kind of the plot of a B-movie about 50 years after this one came out). Well, only thing to do is watch today’s movie, Trapped By Television, and see what exactly I have on my hands.
The plot: At the Acme Collection agency, J.W. Gregg chastises one of his employees, Rocky O’Neil, for reading science magazines and sends him to see Fred Dennis and either collect the money he owes or the equipment he bought with it. Rocky arrives at Fred’s apartment and speaks with the landlord, who says that Fred owes her 3 months rent. When Rocky enters Fred’s apartment, Fred tries to say that he will pay them back in a few months when he finishes his invention but Rocky says he has already put off paying for 8 months. As Fred begins removing some of his own parts from the equipment, Rocky asks what he is working on and Fred explains that it is a new type of television receiver but he doesn’t have the parts to finish it or the camera. Rocky asks if the TV studios would want to buy it and Fred says probably if he can get it working so Rocky says he will forget the debt and help him get the money to finish his inventions. Rocky takes Fred to the collection agency and manages to get him a job, not letting Gregg know who Fred really is. Fred goes out on his first assignment to collect some money from Barbara “Bobby” Blake, a business manager that sponsors inventors, only none of them have panned out. When Fred tries to get the money from her, the end up talking about his invention and she asks to see it so Fred takes Bobby and her secretary Mae Collins, back to his apartment. While they are looking at the television, they are joined by Rocky, and Bobby says she can help promote Fred’s invention and wants to start right away. Meanwhile, a newspaper story is written about an inventor, Paul Turner, and his aide, Griffin, having gone missing, leaving the radio station they were employed by baffled. In truth, Griffin, is part of the mob and has kidnapped the inventor in order to cash in on a deal with the station. At the station, Mr. Standish is talking with station owner John Curtis about Turner’s disappearance and tells him that the only way the station can avoid bankruptcy is to go into television and Curtis reluctantly agrees. After leaving Paragon Broadcasting, Standish returns to the apartment where Griffin is keeping Turner hostage, warning him to keep Griffin quiet. He then tells them that Curtis is ready to sell and Griffin tells him to make sure their bid is at the top, then kills Turner, who is continuing to pound on the door and demand to be let go. The next day, Curtis holds a board meeting and discusses the offer a company has bid on upgrading their radio stations to television stations and Standish says that the company’s offer was the lowest out there. The board is hesitant to agree to the deal, as the station could be absorbed by the company if things didn’t pan out. After the board leaves, Curtis reluctantly takes a meeting with Bobby, who pitches Fred’s invention to him and he agrees to giver her $200 to the rights. Afterwards, Curtis tells Standish to file the paperwork on the money as a charity, thinking that it will never succeed. Bobby returns to the office with the money, then goes to see Fred, who tells her that he can finish the invention for $200, which Bobby reluctantly hands him. Fred finally finishes the machine and as he tests it with Rocky, he reveals that it works perfectly, Excited by his success, he calls Bobby in the middle of the night to tell her the good news and they start making plans on what to do next. Bobby arranges a demonstration for Paragon, which Curtis is happy to have as it could solve their financial problems. When Standish tells Griffin the news, Griffin decides to figure out a way to ruin the demonstration so that his plan con continue unabated. Rocky swipes a truck and they load the equipment into it, then Fred and Bobby drop off Rocky and Mae at a football game with the camera while they head to Paragon with the view screen. When they arrive their, they load the screen into the freight elevator but the operator tells them they can’t ride up in it and must take the passenger elevator. After Fred and Bobby walk away, Standish enters the room, congratulating his partner on deceiving them, then works to sabotage the device as they head up. In the board room, Curtis introduces Fred and Bobby and when Standish brings in the viewer, Fred turns it on and tries to show the game that Rocky is filming but nothing comes on the screen. Fred tries to examine the machine as it burst into smoke and the board walks away, with Curtis yelling at Bobby and Fred. Later, Fred works on trying to figure out what went wrong and discovers that someone deliberately sabotaged the device, causing the cathode ray tube to blow. He tries to tell Bobby about it but she is upset over the money that the lost and Fred, who has feelings for her, tells her he didn’t realize money was her only concern and vows to get the machine working so she can get her money back before he storms off. Some time later, Fred receives a delivery of a cathode ray tube and thinks Rocky had sent it but when Rocky says he knows nothing of it, Fred realizes that Bobby must have sent it. Fred and Rocky go to see Bobby and Mae, and Fred embraces Bobby and kisses her, as it is revealed that Bobby had sold her fur coat to buy the tube. With the machine fixed, Fred and Bobby try to see Curtis again but he refuses to see them. They ask Standish for help and he takes them into his office and says he will talk to Curtis, but while there he simply pushes the deal with Griffin, saying he shaved some money off the cost. Standish returns to his office and tells them Curtis won’t see them but asks for Fred’s address in case things change. Returning to Bobby’s office, Bobby has Mae and Rocky help them contact all of the board members, whose names she took from Standish’s office, and they tell them that there is a emergency board meeting that night at 9. When Curtis and the board members show up, they are confused as to what is going on until Rocky and Mae show up with the view screen. When he gets it set up, Rocky has Mae call Fred so they can start broadcasting. Meanwhile, Griffin, Standish, and their accomplice head over to Fred’s apartment and Griffin and his accomplice go upstairs to grab Fred. When they move to destroy the camera, Fred starts fighting with them, telling Bobby to turn on the camera. Back in the board room, the picture comes in and Curtis and the board members all marvel at the clear image but Rocky realizes that something is wrong and rushes off to help his friend. Griffin and his accomplice eventually get the upper hand on Fred and they take him and Bobby to the car but Rocky, who had grabbed a cab and sped back to the apartment, sees them and forces them off the road, then knocks them out just as the police arrive to arrest them. Some time later, Curtis and the board are watching a image of Fred and Bobby getting ready to go out and celebrating the new success of Paragon while elsewhere, Rocky and Mae watch the couple on their own television and embrace each other.
Since I went into this not really having any knowledge of the movie, I can honestly say that it isn’t that bad of a movie but is a little boring. The acting was good, with Lyle Talbot (Fred), Nat Pendleton (Rocky), and Mary Astor (Bobby) doing good jobs in their roles. I also liked Marc Lawrence, who did a good job playing the villainous Griffin. The story was fairly straightforward but didn’t really have a whole lot of actual drama until the end. In fact, the majority of the movie seemed rather bland, with the only real drama being the scenes where Griffin and his associates were involved. It’s a good way to kill an hour but that is about the only thing to stand out about it.
Rating: 2 out of 5