A mysterious criminal known as The Whispering Shadow commits crimes by means of a gang he controls by television and radio rays. Jack Norton, whose brother was murdered by The Whispering ... See full summary »
Here is another wonderful movie serial from the factory that perfected the genre at the dawn of sound... MASCOT PICTURES. There is such a superb story yet to be told in the life of both this studio and its young founder Nat Levine. It only existed from 1927 until 1935 but was the template for REPUBLIC PICTURES, both as a studio and as a serial factory. It was closed by ruthless Republic Founder Herbert J Yates when he foreclosed on them via his film lab Consolidated Film Laboratories to which MASCOT owed big film processing debts..... along with other small studios like MONOGRAM and LIBERTY. However in those early 30s, MASCOT created a genre .. the talkie action serial with sci fi effects and incredible miniatures by Howard and Theodore Lydecker. Yates lusted after it all to become a mini-Mayer type mogul and won the day by financial default to lump all his debtees together to make his studio in 1935. As a result REPUBLIC PICTURES was created and lasted until 1960 but clever little MASCOT was steamrolled, its talent poached and its style and film library stolen. Nat Levine was discarded in 1937 and bankrupt in 1939. Nobody from these other studios could work under Yates and even Monogram management escaped to GRAND NATIONAL and UNIVERSAL before re-forming in 1937. Levine was not yet 40 years old. He then went to manage cinemas... showing Monogram and Republic Pictures. How awful for him... and what a great biopic there is in this man's exciting young life. (Spielberg? Scorscese? HBO, hello?).....THE WHISPERING SHADOW is one of many spooky and elaborate labyrinth serials now turning up on Alpha Video DVD, a poverty row specialist that is releasing dvds made from old TV prints filmed directly off TV monitors and onto a DVD master. It seems to work well enough but I do believe there is a market for genuinely releasing these great 30s films properly from existing negs. Sometimes the movie version is available and this one is seen as MURDER BY TELEVISION. In the mean time, we can savor what is possible this way. As with HURRICANE EXPRESS or THE THREE MUSKETEERS especially the underworld sci fi cowboy movie serial epic (!) .....THE PHANTOM EMPIRE......... remade in 1936 as Republic's first serial UNDERSEA KINGDOM.
THE WHISPERING SHADOW is a convoluted chase with eerie visuals and wonderful atmosphere. It also interestingly uses Television as a title and as a device which shows us in 2008 how advanced and aware the movie-going public was of TV itself, because to include it in a film so prominently in 1933 as realistic and exciting possibility is a surprise to most viewers today. From the same period is THE RETURN OF CHANDU and in 1937 THE SECRET OF TREASURE ISLAND (Columbia)... but the most absurd obscene and fully wacky is THE LOST CITY (1935). Enjoy! These ancient sci fi serials make great TV wallpaper at your next party.