Panic on the Air (1936)

Article #1172 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-30-2004
Posting Date: 10-27-2004
Directed by D. Ross Lederman
Featuring Lew Ayres, Florence Rice, Benny Baker

While trying to figure out why a ball player failed to play in a recent game, a radio newscaster stumbles upon a curious story which involves the pencilling in of a moustache onto Lincoln’s face on a five dollar bill.

This is a moderately entertaining mystery with a curious starting point that unfolds in an interesting way, and for those who enjoy this sort of thing, this should fill the bill. However, as far as the fantastic aspects go, this is either a red herring or something of a puzzle. There are no touches of horror or fantasy to the story, and if their is any science fiction aspect tied to the radio or laboratory scenes, it is too subtle for me to spot. Actually, the most fantastic aspect of this movie is that the hero’s oriental manservent is named McNulty; I attribute this not to the fact that the movie takes place in some sort of alternate universe, but rather as someone’s idea of a joke.

Oddly enough, several sources I’ve run into describe the plot quite differently; they say it has something to do with a device that knocks radio programs off the air. This would put the movie into science fiction category if such a thing did appear in the movie, but it didn’t. However, I did find out that there is a movie called YOU MAY BE NEXT which had the working title PANIC ON THE AIR, and I wonder if perhaps the two movies were confused. At any rate, my source lists the cast for this movie rather than for that one. I suspect further research is necessary on this one…


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