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

Thursday, July 10, 2014


THE MYSTERIOUS MR. M. 13 chapter Universal serial/1946). Directed by Lewis D. Collins and Vernon Keays. 

Anthony Waldron (Edmund MacDonald of Great Guns), who is presumed dead by the police, is holed up in his wealthy grandmother's estate with an evil brother and sister team who are helping him with his plans. Calling himself "the mysterious Mr. M," Waldron uses a drug called hypnotreme to keep the old lady (Virginia Brissac of The Scarlet Clue) compliant and get many others to do his bidding even while he piles up corpses in the river from his experiments. He is particularly interested in getting the plans for a device that will enable submarines to be as large as ocean liners and do more than forty knots an hour. But Waldron and his cronies get a surprise when somebody else calling himself "Mr. M" sends them recordings giving them orders and threatening to tell the cops Waldron is alive if they don't comply with his wishes. As the gang wonders who this new "Mr. M" could be, agent Grant Farrell (Dennis Moore) is on the case, especially after his brother, Jim (William Brooks/Ching), is hypnotized and killed; Farrell is aided by Detective-Lt. Kirby Walsh (Richard Martin) and insurance investigator Shirley Clinton (Pamela Blake of Ghost of Zorro). 

The Mysterious Mr. M is an entertaining and suspenseful serial with Moore in good form as the hero, Waldron suitably gruff, and Jane Randolph [Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein] and Danny Morton [The Royal Mounted Rides Again] effective as the nasty brother and sister team. Byron Foulger [The Master Key] scores as Grandmother Waldron's lawyer, who nearly becomes a victim of Mr. M more than once. Memorable sequences include the fight between the Farrell brothers as electricity discharges all around them; a bit with a cigarette lighter that has a dart inside it; a cliffhanger concerning falling high-tension wires; and another in which Grant's car goes hurtling down a high shaft in a parking garage. The best cliffhanger -- one of the best ever, in fact -- has Waldron and Grant struggling on one parachute after they fall out of a plane even as a train races towards them on the ground below, with Grant eventually falling off the chute right into the path of the express!The serial also keeps you guessing as to the true identity of "Mr. M."

Verdict: Universal's very last serial is one of its best. ***.

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