The Phantom Creeps (1939, Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind), Chapter 3: Crashing Towers

If Crashing Towers is any indication, the only thing keep The Phantom Creeps creeping along is top-billed Bela Lugosi. He’s not in the chapter much–more often than not he’s invisible–and, wow, are things rough without him.

In addition to the predictable bad acting from Robert Kent and Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley–who’s not new to the serial–is fairly awful. Some of the fault is Beebe and Goodkind’s direction but especially the editing. The expository scenes in Towers, whether it’s Kent and Stanley or Lugosi and Jack C. Smith, the cutting is jarringly bad.

But in addition to the G-Men (Kent and his crew), this chapter introduces more of the enemy agents. Edward Van Sloan is their boss and he’s boring, not bad (and Edward Van Sloan should never be boring). There’s also Anthony Averill as the active foreign agent (Van Sloan sits at a desk). Averill’s real bad.

And Smith’s terrible here. He was mediocre (ish) before but he’s terrible here.

Crashing Towers is poorly executed, poorly acted, poorly written. There’s a fun car miniature but it’s just in a shot or two. Creeps is far more successful with the invisibility effects than anything else.

Whatever advances the serial made, quality-wise, in the previous chapter, are totally lost here. Nothing about it is memorable. Except maybe the footage from The Invisible Ray, which is only three years old but Lugosi looks like a teenager compared to his appearance in Creeps.

CREDITS

Directed by Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind; screenplay by George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Mildred Barish, based on a story by Wyllis Cooper; directors of photography, Jerome Ash and William A. Sickner; edited by Irving Birnbaum, Joseph Gluck, and Alvin Todd; music by Charles Previn; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Bela Lugosi (Dr. Alex Zorka), Robert Kent (Capt. Bob West), Dorothy Arnold (Jean Drew), Jack C. Smith (Monk), Regis Toomey (Jim Daly), Edwin Stanley (Dr. Fred Mallory), Anthony Averill (Rankin), Dora Clement (Ann Zorka), Hugh Huntley (Perkins), and Edward Van Sloan (Jarvis).


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