The Master Key (1945)

Article #1301 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-6-2004
Posting Date: 3-5-2005
Directed by Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor
Featuring Milburn Stone, Jan Wiley, Dennis Moore

Federal Agent Tom Brant must contend with a Nazi conspiracy to gain the secret of a machine that will extract gold from seawater.

Each episode of this serial opens with a curious disclaimer, to the effect that the events in this serial never happened and could never happen, but that doesn’t make the serial any less fun, and that we should imagine ourselves in the year 1938. I found this disclaimer curious to say the least, and I didn’t really figure out why until after I finished watching it, and then noticed that the serial was released in 1945. In fact, it was released on April 25th, 1945 (according to IMDB), just a few days before Hitler took his own life. I’m willing to bet that the serial was originally planned to take place in the present, and the disclaimer was only added after Hitler’s suicide took away the timeliness of the story.

This one is by Universal, and the credits sequence makes it look like it’s going to be another GANGBUSTERS. Such is not the case; it’s not bad, but it doesn’t capture the atmosphere of the credits and remains fairly tame. It’s also a lot talkier (and with less action) than either the Republic or the Columbia serials, so this may be for the more patient serial fans out there. The most interesting touch is that the reporter uses a gang of kids that hang out in an abandoned theater to help find the Nazis, though I hear much of this footage is from Dead End Kids/Little Tough Guys movies. The fantastic aspect is the gold-sifting machine called the Orotran. Milburn Stone would later go on to play Doc on “Gunsmoke”.


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