Sunday, November 06, 2011


Potentially interesting thriller with sci-fi overtones from B-studio Monogram, tripped up by a slow pace and no background music. Noah Berry, captain of an ocean liner, is suffering from near-psychotic episodes, so he is relieved of his command and replaced by Boothe Howard, a rather slimy fellow who competes with his first officer (Cornelius Keefe) for the affections of on-ship nurse Astrid Allwyn. This particular ocean trip is important because a new device, named S-505, is secretly being tested. If it works, ships can be controlled from hundreds of miles away via radio remote control. But we soon learn that there are two spies on board determined to steal the radio tube and replace it with a device that will scramble the radio signal. When the inventor is strangled, an investigator (Edwin Maxwell) comes on board to help sort things out. Among the suspects: a dotty but lively old lady, her gayish grandson, and a suspicious Germanic fellow. Complicating things is a report that Berry, the crazy captain (whose illness may have been brought on by a voodoo poisoning) escaped from the asylum and might be on board. All this sounds more interesting in summary than it is in action. The movie starts well, and does work up an exciting final sequence, but bogs down in between with lots of scenes of people entering rooms, talking at each other, and exiting rooms, in the usual Monogram fashion. Keefe and Allywn make a passable pair of central characters (to call them "heroes" would overstate their importance to the film's outcome); top-billed Beery has only two short scenes which he essentially sleepwalks through; reliable supporting pros Maxwell, Zeffie Tilbury (as the old lady) and Gustav von Seyffertitz (as the German) provide most of the acting interest. Based on a story by the prolific pulp writer Edgar Wallace. The print shown on TCM was that rare artifact: a pristine copy of a Monogram film. [TCM]

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