Shadow of Chinatown (1936)

Article #840 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-1-2003
Posting Date: 11-28-2003
Directed by Robert F. Hill
Featuring Bela Lugosi, Herman Brix, Joan Barclay

When an ambitious entrepreneur hires a mad scientist to scare competitive business out of Chinatown, she ends up with more than she can handle when his madness gets the best of him.

Title check: I didn’t notice Chinatown casting any shadows in this serial, but I suppose they couldn’t call it SHADOW OF BELA.

Let’s face it; there are some movies and serials that you largely remember for one special moment. In this one, one of the cliffhangers has the hero lying unconscious on the ground outside of his home. The villain plans to kill him by suspending a fishbowl over the hero’s head (you know he’s serious about this method of doing the hero in because he takes the precaution of removing the fish from the bowl). I think this is supposed to kill him by having the sun’s rays be magnified by the glass in the fishbowl, thus frying our hero, and though there’s a possibility that I might be wrong, I still think this is the most preposterous cliffhanger I have yet to see in any of these movies. This is a fairly weak serial; the pace is lethargic, the villain seems to be a rather minor threat (despite being played by Lugosi), and it certainly doesn’t seem well thought out. There are some really bizarre sequences and plot elements here; there’s a policeman who believes the hero is the culprit because the murders and attempted murders match those of a book the hero has written; the fact that some of these attempted murders are tried on the hero himself doesn’t seem to have much weight in this matter. There’s a montage of destruction in the final episode that simply doesn’t make any sense at all, and at least one cliffhanger has just too many shots of people giving meaningful looks to each other (they weren’t supposed to make any noise). As far as Lugosi serials go, I’m afraid I’d have to opt for THE PHANTOM CREEPS over this one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s