Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Ada Ince with affectionate robot
THE VANISHING SHADOW (12 chapter Universal serial/1934). Director: Louis Friedlander [Lew Landers].

Stanley Stanfield (Onslow Stevens), the son of a man ruined by the wicked Ward Barnett (Walter Miller) finds himself an unexpected ally in the person of Barnett's daughter, Gloria (Ada Ince), who strongly disapproves of her father's activities and hopes to reform him. Fat chance. In the meantime Stanfield -- whom Barnett has framed for murder -- has another ally in weird Professor Van Dorn (James Durkin) who has invented a machine that can make a man vanish, leaving behind only his shadow [hence, the "vanishing shadow"]. Virtually the entire cast disappears using this device at one point or another. Van Dorn has also invented a death ray that can zap plants, buildings and people, and a big robot that runs wild and is almost as much of a threat as the bad guys. There are some lively fist fights in this, and exciting cliffhangers as well: a car is smashed by a train; the death ray runs amok; Gloria walks into an electro-field; and so on. The Vanishing Shadow is not badly acted [look for Lee J. Cobb in a small role] and is a fun if very silly serial.

Verdict: Enjoyable hokum. ***.

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