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The Black Widow

USA 1947
produced by
M.J. Frankovich (associate) for Republic
directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet, Fred C. Brannon
starring Bruce Edwards, Virginia Lee, Carol Forman, Anthony Warde, Ramsay Ames, I. Stanford Jolley, Theodore Gottlieb (= Brother Theodore), Virginia Carroll, Gene Roth, Sam Flint, Tom Steele, Dale Van Sickel, LeRoy Mason, Forrest Taylor, Ernie Adams, Keith Richards (II), Robert Barron, George Chesebro, Duke Green, Frank Lackteen, Harold Landon, Carey Loftin, Ted Mapes, Jack O'Shea, Gil Perkins, John Phillips, Stanley Price, Larry Steers, Laura Stevens, Ken Terrell, Frank White, Robert J. Wilke
written by Franklin Adreon, Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Sol Shor, musical director: Mort Glickman, special effects by Howard Lydecker, Theodore Lydecker

serial

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Top scientists involved with the atomic rocket program suddenly die like flies, and all of them are killed by the poison of the black widow - thus the murders are soon dubbed "the Black Widow Murders". The police seem to be unable to pick up a single clue though, so newspaper The Daily Clarion hires mystery writer Steve Colt (Bruce Edwards) to investigate as a publicity stunt, and much to the dismay of Joye Winters (Virginia Lee), the girl reporter on the job. It soon becomes evident who's next on the "Black Widow"'s list, professor Weston (Sam Flint), the central figure of the rocket program - and indeed, his formula for rocket fuel is stolen by his own secretary, Ruth Dayton (Ramsay Ames) ... only it wasn't Ruth at all, but Sombra (Carol Forman) aka the Black Widow in perfect disguise including a lifelike facemask. Sombra is the daughter of Hitomu (Brother Theodore as Theodore Gottlieb), ruler of a foreign nation who has implemented her as the head of his spy ring. Hitomu appears to Sombra via a powerful matter transmitter it seems. Sombra in the meantime is a mystic, but that's of course only her legit front.

Of course Steve and Joyce don't know any of this at first, and while they are investigating - bickering all the time at the side but growing more and more fond of one another - they only slowly find clue after clue leading to her, and after many fights by gun and fist, chases by foot, car and airplane, and more "Black Widow"-crimes (some successful, others foiled), do they finally get hold of her and throw her in the slammer - which is when Sombra fakes her own death, and in no time at all have her associates Ward (Anthony Warde) and Dr Jaffa (I. Stanford Jolley) stolen her "dead body". But how she faked her death is the final piece in our heroes' puzzle to find a definite lead to her hideout - or so Steve thinks, as while he's trying to take down the gang, Ward kidnaps Joyce, and wearing a face mask, she manages to get her hands on the atomic rocket, and she and her father and gang almost manage to leave the country ... but via Sombra's radio, Steve manages to track her down and finally take out the whole gang on his own, with Sombra actually dying from her own device, a chair with a retractable spider-sting.

 

As serials from the latter part of the 1940s go, this one's pretty good actually, featuring quite a number of colourful ideas, many a pulp mainstay, characters who have at least a bit of a spark to them, and Republic has not yet started to recycle action scenes from earlier movies on a big scale. That said, The Black Widow is definitely a step down from what the studio had put out in the serial genre's heyday in the 1930s, and was probably budgeted much tighter than cliffhangers from ten years ago, but this is still a likeable and entertaining yarn that does a bit more than just follow the same formula to the t.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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