|Index||4 reviews in total|
An electrical engineer, Stanley Stanfield (Onslow Stevens), brings his
newest invention to the famous electrical wizard, Carl Van Dorn (James
Durkins)--- a vest-like apparatus that enables the wearer to vanish,
leaving only a shadow. Hey, back off...it's a good start.
Anyway, Van Dorn is vastly impressed and, with the aid of the machine, the pair set out to bring about the downfall of power-crazed Wade Barnett (Walter Miller) and his crony Dorgan (Dick Cramer), whose political-group activities, through a vicious smear campaign, had hounded Stanfield's father to death. Stanfield's efforts are complicated by the fact that his girlfriend, known to him as Gloria Grant (Ada Ince), is really Barnett's daughter, who has rejected her father and goes by an alias.
Wizard Van Dorn also stays busy inventing new gadgets to fight the gang with but, someway or another, he or Stanfield or Gloria always end up as the victim rather then Barnett, Dorgan or their henchies. Going back to the drawing board in chapter 10 (The Iron Death), Van Dorn comes up with a short-wave radio controlled robot and, in chapter 11 (The Juggernaut), he remotes it into a room to kill Barnett, but by mistake, the robot attacks Stanfield, who is tied helpless in a chair. Barnett was long gone.
They would have been better served by spending all their time and energy in trying to get rid of the shadow caused by the invisibility vest.
Toss in Ada Ince in the highest-budgeted film she ever made, and Edmund Cobb as a derby-hat wearing henchie (looking a lot like "Doiby" Dickles, the Green Lantern's cab-driving pal) and add Kenneth Strickfaden's art-deco lab and amazing electrical gadgets...and this becomes a Keeper.
In the middle 1970's, the Dade County (Miami, FL) school system, in an
attempt to get kids to read, gave 7th grade students (which I was one),
script to the Vanishing Shadow. One of the TV stations broadcast all 12
episodes, which we were required to watch and read along with the
The show was a real blast for a 12 year old kid. I still remember the vanishing belt and the cornball dialog (which we had to act out in class the following day). I remember Ada Ince, who played Stanley's love interest, was a real babe and I remember the Stanley was my hero.
I would recommend this serial to anybody who enjoys the low-tech attempts to create high-tech effects in the 1930's. A must!
This is a little known and under rated serial. It is a fun semi-mystery with all the proper cliche's included. Most anyone will find some fun,in the traditional chases and period genre. I enjoyed this very early bit of SF with invisibility belts and a robot of unique design. Remember this came first. Theres plenty of period auto and trains to keep the action going. Some of the acting (perhaps its the script) is limited, but as a Universal serial it is far superior to most Universal efforts at that time. I recommend this to anyone who can find a copy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE VANISHING SHADOW is a 1934 Universal serial which I strongly
recommend to anyone interested in vintage science fiction. Its
scientist hero, with dubious help from a mad scientist associate,
battles an evil business tycoon. The serial has weaknesses. Onslow
Stevens makes a strong hero, but heroine Ada Ince, villain Walter
Miller, and mad scientist James Durkin give performances which range
from so-so to not quite mediocre. The flat acting and some trite
writing weakens the unexpectedly dramatic climax. There are also
several tedious "who's got the McGuffin and let's get the McGuffin"
chapters which slow the pace. The cliffhangers are varied but one near
the end in which Stevens, Ince, and Durkin survive without damage a
dreadful off the cliff and down the embankment car crash strains
credibility past the breaking point.
These flaws, though, are easy to forgive. The serial bristles with science fiction gizmos supplied by the mad scientist. There is a remote control device for opening a gate or garage door from the inside of your car, and a closed-circuit television hookup allowing you to see who is entering your property. There is also a death ray, a Frankenstein lab pulsating with Kenneth Strickfadden electrical gadgets, a whole series of scientific booby traps, and a belt which makes the wearer invisible, with the hitch that his shadow can still be seen. The invisibility gimmick is well handled, the best bit a scene in which a car is driving down the road without a driver. Topping it all off is a giant, tin-can, kick-ass robot which puts in an appearance in chapter eleven. The robot is worth waiting for, marching through streams of bullets, brushing aside cowering henchmen, crashing right through doors and even a stone wall.
An interesting subplot has the heroine the daughter of the villain, who abandoned her mother and her years earlier. While I didn't think this subplot was particularly well-handled, it gave dimension to the characters and a depth to the serial beyond the action and then more action approach of the Republic serials of later years.
All in all, a real treat for science fiction fans.
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