Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Phantom Creeps (1939)

Like several of the films in this set, The Phantom Creeps began life as a serial.  The need to cut roughly three hours of footage from the run time in order to render it film length explains - though it certainly does not excuse - the disjointed narrative, one-dimensional characters, and abrupt scene transmissions.

First things first, though: 'creeps' in the title is a verb; something I did not realise until about halfway through.  In other words, this is a movie about a phantom that creeps around, not a gaggle of creeps that are phantoms.  I would have preferred the latter, but then I would also have preferred that this was good.

Anyway, we have Bella Lugosi as Doctor Zorka, a brilliant researcher who has developed several deadly new inventions, including an eight foot tall robot and an invisibility belt (hence the 'phantom' thing).  Zorka's wife and colleague attempt to persuade them to hand his discoveries over to the US Government.  However, the not-so-good Doctor recognises the responsibilities of being born with a name like 'Zorka' and instead proposes to become a supervillain.

Well, okay, he doesn't phrase it like that, but his motives are 'wealth and power', he's going to go on a rampage of destruction for no clearly defined goal, and he has what amount to technology-based superpowers.  Give him a set of tights and he'd be right at home in Gotham City (appropriately, since this was made in the same year that Batman debuted in Detective Comics).

So there's lots of running around and gadgets and evil spies who can't hit a target from ten feet away and other such tomfoolery as Zorka attempts to do whatever it is he is attempting to do and a fairly inept group of government agents (plus, of course, An Intrepid Girl Reporter) attempt to stop him.

I wish this was as fun as its fairly goofy premise and execution would suggest.  Heck, maybe in its original form it was.  Lugosi certainly seems to be enjoying hamming it up.  In this form, however, it's just a bit of a humdrum mess, and I definitely can't recommend it.

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