Phantom Creeps, The

1794. THE PHANTOM CREEPS (1939-USA). 12 Episode Universal Serial with BELA LUGOSI, ROBERT KENT, DOROTHY ARNOLD, REGIS TOOMEY. Bela Lugosi, everybody’s favorite movie arch- villain, is at his evil best in this colorfully corny, mile-a-minute serial. He stars as Dr. Alex Zorka, a looney, shifty, egomaniacal scientist and the self-proclaimed “greatest genius the world has ever known.” “I created it,” Zorka brags, of one of his many mad inventions. “I can control it, or destroy it.” The doc’s latest (and, perhaps, deadliest) discovery is a special radioactive element he’s managed to extract from a meteorite; to his dismay, he’s forced to spend a good part of the serial in search of a missing box in which the meteorite has been placed. Among Zorka’s other inventions are a ray gun, which allows him to deal most effectively with those who attempt to foil his schemes; a devisualizer belt, which enables him to disappear at will and become the “phantom” of the title; and a mechanical spider, which sneaks up on its victims and causes them to be thrust into death-like states of suspended animation. Finally, there is a clumsy but imposing eight-foot high robot, with the ugliest of faces, which remains in a secret hiding place. It will be at Zorka’s beck and call when he’s ready to unleash it on humanity to “crush all opposition, and make me the most powerful man in the world.” At the same time, Zorka is threatening to sell his secrets to the foreign power that will pay him the most money, and it is of no concern if that power is a hostile one. Thus, the scenario is laden with an assortment of spies, counter-spies and federal agents, along with an intrepid female reporter whose actions are crucial to the various turns of events. Then there are the requisite number of fires, explosions, crashes, speeding cars and soaring airplanes. However, at the centerpiece remains Lugosi, who seems to be enjoying himself tremendously as he cackles madly and continues on a path that will enable him “To Destroy the World” (which is an apt title for the serial’s final chapter). See Cat. #1105 for a “featurized” version. 242 minutes. Serial