The Phantom Creeps (1939, Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind), Chapter 10: Phantom Footprints

The title, Phantom Footprints, could almost refer to when a spy–seeing invisible Bela Lugosi’s shadow–thinks there might be something there. But then another spy just tells the first spy to shut up about it. It happens twice, first with Anthony Averill saying it’s stupid, then (after Averill starts talking about it) with Edward Van Sloan saying it’s stupid (and inconsequential).

Of course, given the spies are once again back at Lugosi’s house, where he hopes to trap them and get back his meteorite, everything in Phantom Creeps is inconsequential. People keep doing the same things, over and over, as the serial churns through chapters.

Footprints opens after the previous chapter’s cliffhanger. The good guys survive, but are stranded at sea. Amid floating debris, they tread water instead of hanging off anything buoyant. They tread water for a long time too, because hero Robert Kent–seeing them in the water from his plane–goes and lands, then drives out to the harbor, finds a boat, takes it out to rescue them.

Presumably he could’ve called it in at some point, but then Kent wouldn’t be the hero. He also doesn’t call in the spy schooner in the harbor–something Van Sloan worries about–because, frankly, Phantom Creeps has a lousy script.

The chapter churns along, giving Jack C. Smith (Lugosi’s sidekick) and Edwin Stanley (the good scientist) busywork until it can get to the action-packed finale. Lugosi in a fistfight with a railroad switch operator and Kent with one of the spies. Not good fights. But at least the Kent one doesn’t have any obviously not Lugosi stuntman in too many of the shots.

Phantom Creeps is almost over. It’s yet to do anything interesting. It’s even made the giant killer robot (but not really killer as it turns out) boring.

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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