THE PHANTOM SPEAKS (1945)
Article 2004 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-9-2006
Posting Date: 2-6-2006
Directed by John English
Featuring Richard Arlen, Stanley Ridges, Lynne Roberts
A spiritualist visits a murderer sentenced to die in the chair under the belief that the murderer’s will is strong enough to come back from the dead and visit him, thus proving his theories about the human soul. However, the murderer has his own ideas; he not only visits the spirtualist, but takes control of him and uses him to exact revenge on those who convicted him.
The most common praise I usually hear in regards to THE BLACK FRIDAY is for Stanley Ridge’s performance as a kindly doctor who becomes possessed by a ruthless criminal. He must have liked the challenge; here he is again in virtually the same kind of role. The modus operandi is different, (substituting spiritual possession rather than brain surgery), but the effect is pretty much the same; the main difference is that the spiritualist bears a bit of the responsibility for his own situation this time. This is one of Republic’s forays into horror, and their output in the genre is uneven, though some of it is quite interesting. This isn’t one of their best, largely because the story is a bit obvious, and I’ve seen several variations of the “back from the dead for revenge” plot line. My favorite moments have more to do with the acting – not so much from Ridges (who has been here before), but from Tom Powers, whose performance as the murderer Harvey Bogardus is very memorable; the scene where he walks a man and his daughter away from a murder site is one of the tensest moments in the movie. Powers had an interesting career; he worked in some early silents, and then went to Broadway and established a successful stage career, then returned to movies in the early forties. There are some interesting credits here; he appeared in the early Winsor McCay animated feature GERTIE THE DINOSAUR and in DONOVAN’S BRAIN, another movie which prominently features possession of another man by an evildoer to gain revenge.