The Phantom Creeps
|The Phantom Creeps|
|Directed by||Ford Beebe
Saul A. Goodkind
|Produced by||Henry MacRae (associate producer)|
|Written by||Willis Cooper (original story)
Mildred Barish (screenplay)
|Music by||Charles Previn|
|Edited by||Irving Birnbaum
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||7 January 1939|
|Running time||12 chapters (265 min)|
The Phantom Creeps is a 1939 serial about a mad scientist who attempts to rule the world by creating various elaborate inventions. In a dramatic fashion, foreign agents and G-Men try to seize the inventions for themselves.
It was adapted in DC's Movie Comics #6, cover date September–October 1939, the final issue of that title.
The first three episodes of The Phantom Creeps were lampooned during the second season of the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Dr. Zorka, a rogue scientist, is the creator of various weapons of warfare, including a devisualizer belt which renders him invisible; an eight-foot tall slave robot (Ed Wolff), robot spiders that can destroy life or paralyse it and he also has a deadly meteorite fragment from which he extracts an element which can induce suspended animation in an entire army. Foreign spies, operating under the guise of a foreign language school, are trying to buy or mostly steal the meteorite element, whilst his former partner, Dr. Fred Mallory, miffed that Zorka will not turn his inventions over to the U.S. Government, blows the whistle on him to Captain Bob West of the Military Intelligence Department. Tired of answering the door and saying no to the spies and the government, Zorka moves his lab. When his beloved wife is killed, Zorka, puttering around for his own amusement up to this point, is crushed and swears eternal vengeance against anyone trying to use his creations to make himself world dictator. And would have if not for his assistant Monk, an escaped convict virtually enslaved by Zorka, who is cowardly, treacherous and totally incompetent, and whose accidental or deliberate interference with Zorka's efforts repeatedly frustrates his master's own plans...
- Béla Lugosi as Dr. Alex Zorka. Lugosi received top billing for this, his final serial appearance.
- Robert Kent as Capt. Bob West, G-Man
- Dorothy Arnold as Jean Drew, reporter
- Edwin Stanley as Dr. Fred Mallory, Dr. Zorka's former partner
- Regis Toomey as Lt. Jim Daley, G-Man
- Jack C. Smith as Monk, Dr. Zorka's assistant
- Edward Van Sloan as Jarvis, foreign spy chief
- Dora Clement as Ann Zorka
- Anthony Averill as Rankin, a foreign spy
- Hugh Huntley as Perkins, Dr. Mallory's lab assistant
- Ed Wolff as The Robot
The serial contains some similarities with the earlier serial The Vanishing Shadow, such as an invisibility belt and a remote-control robot. Stock footage was used from The Invisible Ray (look closely and you'll see Boris Karloff), including scenes of Dr Zorka finding the meteorite in Africa. As with several Universal serials, some of the stock music came from the Frankenstein films. The Phantom Creeps' car chase was itself used as stock footage in later serials. Newsreel shots of the Hindenburg disaster were used as part of Dr Zorka's final spree of destruction after his robot, which is supposed to destroy the human race, is stopped due to the sabotage by Monk after being unleashed.
Universal tried to improve serials by eliminating the written foreword at the start of each chapter. This led to The Phantom Creeps being the first serial in which the studio used vertically scrolling text as the foreword.
The innovation of the scrolling text version of the synopsis at the beginning of each chapter was used for the Star Wars films as the "Star Wars opening crawl".
The Rob Zombie song Meet the Creeper is based on this movie, and Zombie has used robots and props based on the design of The Robot in several music videos and live shows. The character Murray The Robot in Zombie's animated movie The Haunted World of El Superbeasto is also based on The Robot.
- The Menacing Power
- Death Stalks the Highways
- Crashing Towers
- Invisible Terror
- Thundering Rails
- The Iron Monster
- The Menacing Mist
- Trapped in the Flames
- Speeding Doom
- Phantom Footprints
- The Blast
- To Destroy the World
- Kohl, Leonard J (May–June 1996). "The Sinister Serials of Bela Lugosi". Filmfax magazine. p. 44.
- Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "14. The Villains "All Bad, All Mad"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 349–350. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
- Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "3. At This Theater Next Week". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5.
- Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "5. Shazam and Good-by". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5.
- Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 225. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
- The Phantom Creeps at the Internet Movie Database
- The Phantom Creeps at the Internet Movie Database (1949 TV film edited from serial)
- The Phantom Creeps is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more] (1949 TV film edited from serial)
- The Phantom Creeps at AllMovie
- Profile in Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics
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The Phantom Creeps (1939)
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