The Phantom Creeps (1949)
Article 5501 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind
Featuring Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold
What it is: Feature version of serial
The evil Dr. Zorka plans to take over the world with his giant robot, his invisibility belt, his meteorite with secret powers, and his crawling spiders that put people in suspended animation.
For some reason, I never got around to covering this feature version of the serial of the same name, but there’s a reason for that. Most feature versions of serials had different names from the serial themselves, so when you saw it listed, you could tell from the title alone whether it was the feature version or the serial. This one used the same title, and my sources rarely specified if it was the serial or the feature version, so I assumed the former.
Actually, as far as these things go, this is one of the better ones insofar as it feels more like a feature than a condensed serial, and there are reasons for that. For one, unlike the many Republic serial features of the mid-sixties, it wasn’t obsessed with capturing every single action sequence at the expense of the plot, so it doesn’t short-change the plot or inundate you with abrupt scene changes. However, this serial itself was much easier to adapt. All you had to do was concentrate on the plot development in the first two episodes and the climax from the last episode, and then have just enough of the middle episodes to capture the flavor of the three way struggle for the meteorite between the spies, the law and Zorka that makes up the rest of the serial. The ugly robot and Lugosi’s presence are the main attractions here. It’s no classic, but for what it is, it’s passable.