The Vanishing Shadow (1934)

Article #1716 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-25-2005
Posting Date: 4-24-2006
Directed by Lew Landers
Featuring Onslow Stevens, Ada Ince, James Durkin

An unscrupulous businessman attempts to get hold of shares in a newspaper firm that are in the possession of a young man who has no intention of giving them up to him. The young man has hooked up with an eccentric inventor to help him.

With all of the inventions on display in this movie, the fantastic content is assured. There’s a machine (known as the Vanishing Ray) that renders its wearer invisible, a gun that shoots a ray deadly to organic objects, a gun that shoots a ray that allows you to cut through anything, any number of bizarre booby-traps, and a robot. I’m almost surprised that the crooks aren’t primarily trying to get their hands on these, but it seems as if the newspaper stocks are the big prize in this one. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining early serial, with somewhat more complex character motivations than usual; the hero’s girlfriend is the villain’s daughter, and since neither of them want to lose her affection, they both have to exercise a greater amount of caution than usually shown. The villain has to deal with a henchman who dislikes at having his hands tied in dealing with these matters, and the hero has to deal with his inventor sidekick, who is something of a loose cannon. The latter character is one of those I love to see in a serial but rarely do; he’s almost gleefully paranoid, places booby-traps all over the place (which, more often than not, put our heroes in peril rather than preventing attacks by the villains), and loves toting his destructive weapons around with him. Some of the cliffhangers are just strange, but for the most part they’re fairly decent. All in all, a fun little serial.


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