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The Phantom Creeps

USA 1939
produced by
Henry MacRae (associate) for Universal
directed by Ford L. Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind
starring Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley, Regis Toomey, Jack C.Smith, Edward Van Sloan, Dora Clement, Anthony Averill, Hugh Huntley, Monte Vandergrift, Frank Mayo, Jim Farley, Eddie Acuff, Reed Howes, Ed Wolff
screenplay by Mildred Barish, Basil Dickey, George H. Plympton, based on a story by Willis Cooper, music by Charles Previn

serial

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Doctor Zorka (Bela Lugosi) has experimented in suspended animation, with a line of inventions so dangerous even his wife (Dora Clement), his best friend Dr Mallory (Edwin Stanley) & the gouvernment want to intervene. But then, Doc Zorka dies, which should put an end to everything ... but did Zorka really die or did he just, with the help of his crooked assistant Monk (Jack C.Smith) fake his own death ? (The latter, in case you wondered.)

But Zorka's experiments did not only include suspended animation but also a (stupid looking) giant robot, a devisualizer (a belt that makes its wearer invisible - just imagine Bela saying devisualizer repeatedly), poisonous gasses & a line of explosives - enough to put an enemy spy ring (led by Edward Van Sloan) onto the map to try to steal Zorka's secrets as well as federal agents West (Robert Kent) & Daley (Regis Toomey), who try & steal them for the American go-... try to guard American interests I meant to say. & of course there's also a girl reporter, Jean (Dorothy Arnold), who does rather little though.

Eventually it is revealed that the secret of Zorka's inventions lies in some material of a meteor he has gathered from deepest Africa, & which is now keptin a box that changes possession like on a merry-go-round & leads to chases on land, water & air (often two of these elements combined), with Monk repeatedly trying to betray his boss, but to no avail.

Eventually, the federal agents can arrest the spy ring & Doc Mallory invents something for them that enders the devisualizer useless, so they have a fair chance to get after Zorka too (especially after they have blown up his robot). But Zorka has in the meantime gotten hold of the meteor material again, & he & Monk hijack a plane & fly across the country, bombing everything in sight (for which, among others, snippets of the Hindenburgh-desaster are used), until Zorka finds himself surrounded by what have to be the entire America Air Forces of its day. Now he wants to use the meteor to blow himself up, & all his pursuers with him, but Monk - the pilot of his plane - refuses, so Zorka just kills him ... bad idea, since Monk was the pilot, & without him, the plane goes into nosedive & finally crashes onto the ground ... which marks the end of Zorka, & the world is saved.

 



Bela Lugosi as a Mad Scientist ! A Stupid Looking Robot !! An Enemy Spy Ring !!! Suspended Animation !!!! A Devisualizer !!!!!

For every pulp fan, these elements just have to be mouth-whetting - however, this serial is rather a disappointment, as it shows little love for its key plot elements & just includes them in a straightforward action plot, without an interesting storyline (it's just characters chasing after characters, & one of them happens to be - temporarily - invisible). Also, besides Bela Lugosi of course, the serial fails to have any colourful characters or charismatic actors - actually, until the very end, I couldn#t figure out which federal agend is West & which Daley, the spy ring memberd don't even have names, & Dorothy Arnold as the girl reporter - a role that just calls out for a lively, sharp tongued performance - is a major disappointment.

Given the decent budgets the Universal-serials tended to have, it's amazing to see how much more smaller studios like Mascot or Republic could make of a fraction of that money.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

Amazon

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Vimeo

 

 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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