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The Spy Ring (1938)

Passed | | Adventure, Crime, Drama | 8 January 1938 (USA)
Two American-army officers are working on a new type of machine-gun for anti-aircraft warfare, when one of them is murdered. The other vows to get the spies that are after the invention and avenge his friend's death.



(story "The Enemy's Goal") (as Frank Van Wyck Mason), (screenplay)




Complete credited cast:
Elaine Burdette
Jean Bruce (as Jane Carleton)
Col. Burdette
Frank Denton
Capt. Don Mayhew
Private Timothy O'Reilly
Egon Brecher ...
General A. R. Bowen
Charley (Spy-Ring Chauffeur)
Capt. Tex Randolph
Paul Douglas
Capt. Holden
Capt. Robert Scott


The absence of stagecoaches and covered wagons didn't keep director Joseph H. "Wagon Wheel" Lewis from employing his usual camera set-ups of shooting scenes from behind and through various props and fixtures, and the inclusion of a polo game enabled him to get his usual "hitching post" shot, in addition to shooting over and through automobile hood ornaments, champagne bottles, balloons and mirror reflections. The source that dubbed this one in the "musical" genre obviously never saw the film, as there are no songs and only a rinky-dink piece of music used at the Officer's Club dance. This one is about a gang of independent spies after a cigar-shaped device that guarantees accuracy on artillery and large weapons. The spies are headed by Paul Douglas, Jean Bruce and Frank Denton, while Captain Todd Hayden is the protector of the device, and in love with the Colonel's daughter, Elaine Burdette. Most of the action is placed at the Presido in Montery and most of it revolves around the ... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

polo | song | invention | game | colonel | See All (62) »




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

8 January 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

International Spy  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Part of the original Shock Theatre package of 52 Universal titles released to television in 1957, followed a year later with Son of Shock, which added 20 more features. See more »


In the final scene, as the camera slowly zooms in on the characters through the flames of the fireplace, you can clearly hear someone say "action" immediately before William Hall delivers his first line. See more »

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User Reviews

Non horror entry in Universal's SHOCK! television package
7 May 2011 | by (Youngstown,Ohio) – See all my reviews

1938's "The Spy Ring" was one of the handful of non genre titles included in Universal's SHOCK! package of classic horror films issued to television in the late 50's. It shouldn't come as a surprise that a little 'B' feature about a spy ring would garner little attention in such a distinguished format, but this one fails to entertain on even the most modest scale, clearly deserving its relative obscurity. Top billing went to little known William Hall, strictly a bit player who quickly returned to same afterwards, as the Army captain whose buddy has designed a new trigger mechanism that could help revolutionize anti-aircraft defense. The friend is quickly murdered in his Washington DC apartment by an attractive blonde (Esther Ralston) working for a spy ring based in California, so our hero travels out West to ferret out the villains by (get this!) playing polo! Hard to believe, but once the ponies come on, the spy stuff gets buried, and the viewer winds up feeling like a horse's a--. About the kindest thing one can say is it's better than 1941's "A Dangerous Game." Fetching teenager Jane Wyman gets second billing in the lesser female role of the ingenue, and other familiar faces include Robert Warwick, Leon Ames, Egon Brecher, and burly Glenn Strange, in a silent thug part. This was the only time in her career that former silent screen beauty Esther Ralston was billed under the name Jane Carleton (two years away from retirement), and there are musical cues from both "Dracula's Daughter" and "The Invisible Ray." Cult director Joseph H. Lewis did go on to do a pair of genre titles in 1941, Monogram's "Invisible Ghost" (Bela Lugosi) and Universal's "The Mad Doctor of Market Street" (Lionel Atwill).

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