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"The Phantom Creeps" was Universal's 44th sound-era serial (between "The Oregon Trail" and "The Green Hornet") and was re-issued to theaters in 1949 by Commonwealth Pictures Corporation, a distribution set-up handling primarily Universal re-issues. Commonwealth had no hand at all in the production of this serial (as incorrectly shown on site) as they were a distribution company only. Some sources mistakenly identify them as the serial producer because all of the 1949 re-issue prints (and the 16mm prints sold to television circa 1952) show "Commonwealth Pictures Corp. Presents" above the title.There is a whole lot of difference between "presenting" and "producing", a fact that some sources appear to not know or don't care. The serial is of interest to some collectors as it re-unites Bela Lugosi and Edwin Stanley from 1931's "Dracula", and the crater-discovery of the meteorite fragment by Zorka in the serial is stock footage from Universal's 1936 "The Invisible Ray." The stock footage ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Phantom Creeps" was Bela Lugosi's last serial. It was produced by Universal where he achieved some of his greatest successes. As such and with the resources of the studio, I expected a better product. Instead what we get is a routine "mad scientist" serial filled with stock footage and obvious gaffs. As an example when Lugosi is supposed to be bombing the Federal Building, what we clearly see is a burning dirigible.
Anyway, the story has mad scientist Dr. Zorka (Lugosi) in possession of a piece of a meteorite which contains powers which enable him to create an 8 foot all powerful robot, an invisibility belt with which he can become invisible and move about unseen, the ability to induce suspended animation in his enemies by loosing tacky looking mechanical spiders upon them and God knows what else. Assisting him is his treacherous assistant Monk (Jack C. Smith) who is held under Zorka's control.
Opposing him are G-Men Bob West (Robert Kent) and Jim Daly (Regis Toomey), reporter Jean Drew (Dorothy Arnold) and Zorka's former partner Dr. Mallory (Edwin Stanley) who try to get hold of Zorka's box containing the meteorite fragment.
Also in the hunt are "spies" Jarvis (Edward Van Sloan) and Rankin (Anthony Averill). Zorka had originally intended on selling his invention to the highest bidder but when his wife is killed he goes mad and decides to take over the world himself.
Needless to say the "box" changes hands among the three adversaries over the course of the serial's 12 chapters until things are all tied up in Chapter 12.
Lugosi is way over the top as Zorka and with firmer direction might have saved this serial. Edward Van Sloan had appeared as Van Helsing with Lugosi in 1931's "Dracula". Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Also appearing in small roles are Eddie Acuff, Roy Barcroft, Lane Chandler, Edmund Cobb, Charles King, Forrest Taylor, stinting Tom Steele and Dave Sharpe and as a road foreman in Chapter 11 Lee J. Cobb.
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