Detective Lt.Bill Bannister has the assignment to run down an unknown gang of terrorists spreading a net of crime over the city. Aiding him is Detective Tim Nolan, news photographer Vicki ...
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Detective Lt.Bill Bannister has the assignment to run down an unknown gang of terrorists spreading a net of crime over the city. Aiding him is Detective Tim Nolan, news photographer Vicki Logan and reporter Happy Haskins. Bill finds that the gang's leader is a mysterious Professor Mortis and the gang is made up of known criminals officially listed in the police records as dead. Each has become of member of Mortis' "League of Murdered Men" after seemingly committing suicide by hanging while on death row. Bill eventually, after surviving a plane crash, being dynamited, dropped down a well and other nuisances, tracks the gang to two hideouts; a subterranean cell beneath the city's subways and a suburban mystery house. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Based on a real radio show in which unsolved crimes were reenacted in the hope of catching the criminals. However, the only thing this serial took from the "Gang Busters" radio show was the call signal and the title; the story was both an original one and completely fictional. See more »
When I give this a 10, I mean 10 for a serial. I don't imagine that it's CITIZEN KANE, but it is easily one of the best serials, and the only one with significant horror elements. Universal's product is usually better-scripted and less formulaic than Republic's, and this is the best-scripted of them all, with the possible exception of the second version of SECRET AGENT X-9.
One element that lifts GANGBUSTERS above average is the presence of a henchman who complains about being sent on dangerous assignments. I've always wondered what kind of fool would take up something as dangerous and unrewarding as hench-work, and here at last a scriptwriter addresses the problem. There are other dashes of humor as well, but the story itself stands out for its morbidity, unusual in a film intended for children. It's easy to imagine the mothers of 1942 having to cope with the vivid nightmares of young viewers.
Ralph Morgan, the Wizard of Oz's real-life brother, is remarkably intense as the wicked Professor Mortis, who assembles his gang from executed criminals -- you heard me -- and conducts his nefarious business from a hideout under the subway (Who built it? Didn't anybody notice?). His goal isn't to rule the world or to do anything at all lucrative, just to have revenge on those who treated him unjustly. In other words, this time the Count of Monte Cristo is a bad guy.
The cliffhangers are exciting, and are resolved without TOO much cheating. The hero is bland, as serial heroes often are, but in this story something happens to the hero that is most unexpected. In fact the plot takes several quite remarkable turns, and the climax is unique. Great fun!
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