The Phantom Creeps (1939, Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind), Chapter 8: Trapped in the Flames

Trapped in the Flames is yet another exciting installment of The Phantom Creeps. Yet again, the Feds (led by Robert Kent) pursue the foreign agents (Anthony Averill’s the chief henchman, Edward Van Sloan’s the boss) trying to find Bela Lugosi’s missing box. No one but Lugosi (presumed dead by both parties) knows what’s in the box. He’s also after the box. He has an invisibility belt and a scheming sidekick, Jack C. Smith.

And, of course, Dorothy Arnold is around to be told to shut up and stay out of the way. It’s hard to have much sympathy for Arnold, although she’s treated terribly by Kent and his main sidekick, Regis Toomey, because her performance is so bad. Even when it’s a handful of lines, like in Flames, she’s so bad. Ditto Edwin Stanley as the good guy scientist. He’s real bad too, no matter how small his part.

There’s some car chases–not really chases, more like following with speed–and a fistfight and then a warehouse fire (hence the title). And Lugosi’s invisible form, outwitting both Fed and foreign agent. Meanwhile, Lugosi can’t figure out Jack C. Smith’s scheming against him, even though Smith’s performance–scientifically speaking–couldn’t have less nuance.

Most of the chapter is just indistinct male actors in fedoras talking to other indistinct male actors in fedoras about driving somewhere.

Though Averill’s far better than when he started. It might just be he’s not as awful as Kent, Arnold, Stanley, or Smith. Or Toomey. Though Toomey at least comes across like a violent misogynist, which means enthusiasm, something no one else musters.

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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