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  • wetumka25 February 2003
    In my youth (1980 or thereabouts), I was a projectionist at an art-movie cinema (remember those?). Anyway, one summer we showed an episode of "The Whispering Shadow" before each week's feature, and all can say is that it was great cheesy fun. My favorite episode was the one that ended with our hero and heroine trapped in a room--AND THE WALLS START MOVING IN TO CRUSH THEM TO DEATH! And as the walls move in, they wibble and wobble, because they are obviously just two muslin-covered stage flats being pushed in by a couple of stagehands, and all the while the hero and heroine roll their eyes and cling to each other and scream and scream and scream! Too funny for words. All joshing aside, the final episode does have an interesting twist that made my twelve weeks in the projection booth worth the while.
  • Bela stars in his first serial. Bela's acting is great, and the serial itself is not bad, considering it was filmed in 18 days (6 days a week for 3 weeks). The exciting titles of the 12 chapters are: 1) The Master Magician 2) The Collapsing Room 3) The All-Seeing Eye 4) The Shadow Strikes 5) Wanted for Murder 6) The Man Who Was Czar 7) The Double Room 8) The Red Circle 9) The Fatal Secret 10) The Death Warrant 11) The Trap 12) King of the World. It is interesting to note that the name of Bela's character was Adam Strang, and the main ingredient of the story was a radio death ray. Perhaps this was fodder for the science fiction writer Gardner Fox when he wrote those "Mystery in Space" comics in the 1960s, with Adam Strange and the Zeta beam! A serial that fans of Bela will find entertaining.
  • As serials go The Whispering Shadow is acceptable. Produced on a minuscule budget by Mascot Studios, an evil genius known as the Whispering Shadow - for he talks in a low voice and is ubiquitous it seems - is trying to get his hands on the famous jewels of the Czar. he will stop at nothing and his identity is not foreclosed until the final chapter. we are given several men as possible shadows. One is Bela Lugosi in his first serial. Lugosi plays the creator of waxworks out to get the jewels with the aid of his daughter - played by the perky and lovely Viva Tattersall. The leading man is the biggest problem as he has little acting ability. Malcolm McGregor plays jack Foster who is trying to find the Whispering Shadow to avenge his little brother's death. Foster feels guilt as he sent him on an assignment with peril. McGregor has no acting savvy whatsoever and he lunges in fight scenes with all the unbelievable gusto of fake wrestler. That notwithstanding the other actors are mediocre with some exceptions: Lugois makes every role of his interesting. Henry B. Walthall, the silent screen star, adds some credibility. Robert Warwick gives a workmanlike performance as a detective and Roy D'arcy plays an over-the-top radio scientist with glee and relish. The Whispering Shadow isn't as good as other serials of the time. it is undeniably cheap. Cheap special effects. Just get a look in Chapter One at the helicopter crash. How about Chapter 6 which is almost all flashbacks of previous seen footage. I must confess though that I wanted to see who was the Shadow and watched through with little problem. Some of the cheap effects, the shoddy acting, and the cheesy plot twists wormed their way into my heart. Lugosi would go on to several other serials, but this one gives him a primary role with some room to act. Let's face it a serial with death by rays given from a radio or a television cannot be all that bad. Good old-fashioned fun.
  • 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.
  • I enjoyed this old serial, the older they are usually the better they are. Its always fun watching Bela do his thing. I felt like this afternoon epic had a bit more plot than most and the action is there like you expect. There are some annoying bits like the overuse of flashbacks in the later episodes. On the other hand the repeat footage does help the viewer to make sense out of all the craziness.

    There seemed to be an excess of rad old cars...that's always cool. The leading lady was very pretty also which was good because there were only two women in the entire thing! There are lots of gunfights but almost no one ever got hit except for those nasty "flesh wounds".

    I really enjoyed the look of Whispering Shadow, the old clothes, pencil thin mustaches, and the motorcycle scenes were all wonderful. There were lots of truly dangerous stunts too and a few effects (like a helicopter crashing into a radio tower).

    Overall this is a very vintage but rather cool old serial. I got a kick out of it and it managed to build some real suspense in the last three or four chapters despite all the money saving flashbacks. Fun stuff for serial or Lugosi fans. Bela looked great and his expressions were a riot like always.
  • Entertaining serial about a diabolical criminal mastermind known as the Shadow who uses his scientific genius to rob and kill while looking for stolen jewels. Notable for being Bela Lugosi's first serial. It's a fun, silly bunch of nonsense. Some cool action scenes, early sci-fi gadgetry, and Bela hamming it up are just some of the reasons to check this out. If you have a few hours to kill on the weekend, it's worth a look. Some chapters move along faster than others, but I was never really bored during any of them.
  • While "The Whispering Shadow" may not be a masterpiece nor Bela Lugosi's best film it's still quite fun to watch never-the-less. Who is The Whispering Shadow? Professor Strang is suspected by Jack Norton... but is he? How does he commit his crimes by TV and radio - and why? This is a fun little crime-mystery... it is worth a watch.

    I have to admit the fight scene on the roof of a skyscraper with the helicopter coming in was one of my favorite scenes... pretty scary stuff. I also like the idea of hiding behind a wax museum.. all to lifelike are the wax figures.

    I got this in my Bela Lugosi Scared To Death collection... one of several rare Lugosi films. I'm not disappointed the the collection nor this film. 7/10
  • The Whispering Shadow (1933)

    ** (out of 4)

    A mysterious figure known as The Whispering Shadow uses his gang to try and track down some famous and priceless jewels. The Shadow's power comes from being able to communicate through rays created by radio and television. Soon a number of suspects are believed to be The Whispering Shadow.

    This 1933 film was the first serial that Bela Lugosi ever appeared in but my review is for the feature version. Back in the day a lot of serials were turned into feature movies and some like Lugosi's THE RETURN OF CHANDU had two feature versions. Obviously, by watching this version you're going to be missing out on a lot of the fun including all of the cliffhangers. Whereas the original version ran 225 minutes this one here clocks in at just 60.

    As far as the feature goes, it's simply okay. Again, you can't judge the serial because I personally don't know what is missing from it but this feature really lacks much action. It seems that the majority of the running time here is just introducing the various red herrings and this leaves very little time for the action. There's a nice action sequence at the very start but that's about it. The ending, which I won't spoil here, is somewhat of a letdown.

    Lugosi is in fine form here as he was able to pick up the biggest paycheck of his career. I thought he was believable whenever the spotlight was on him as the guilty party and he also manages to bring some fun to the part. The supporting cast also includes D.W. Griffith regular Henry B. Walthall in a supporting part.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    All fingers point to Bela Lugosi as the mastermind behind a series of truck robberies where the perpetrator is only known through their voice, nicknamed the whispering shadow for the way they identify themselves to the people only intend to rob. Obviously, the voice sounds nothing like Lugosi but that has not stopped him before or after this. In most of those cases, the films were much better than this one which other than the slapstick fight scenes is painfully dull.

    Lugosi overacts, showing that at times, he deserved the wretched reviews that he got. However, he really is the only thing of interest in this which can be seen in several variations. I don't recommend the entire 12-part serial, as it comes out to be over 4 hours in length. The much edited feature version that I saw was just painful to get through, so I can't imagine the full length serial being any easier with all of its repetition.
  • 1933's "The Whispering Shadow" was Bela Lugosi's serial debut, and also the first that I actually purchased, because this was the only one of his 5 serials that had no feature version. The scenes in his elaborate waxworks prove to be the most memorable, although his character is one of numerous red herrings believed to be the title mastermind, whose identity revealed in the final chapter seems to be a real cheat. This Mascot serial lacks a musical score, which makes it stand out from the others Lugosi did, and doesn't really utilize him as the star. The next, 1934's 12 chapter "The Return of Chandu" allows him to be a genuine, two fisted serial hero (at age 51). He was the star villain in 1936's "Shadow of Chinatown," at 15 chapters the longest, but perhaps most enjoyable, since he works with beautiful Luana Walters, against former Olympic athlete Bruce Bennett (Herman Brix), with a supporting cast of familiar faces like Richard Loo and Victor Wong. 1937's Republic "SOS Coast Guard" was the only one where he was billed second, after hero Ralph Byrd, a well made 12 chapter slugfest, with less footage of Lugosi than the others, assisted by Richard Alexander (Prince Barin in Universal's "Flash Gordon") as the hulking, mute manservant. 1939's 12 chapter "The Phantom Creeps" was done at the familiar Universal studios, with a suitable supporting cast, including hero Robert Kent, Edward Van Sloan, and Lee J. Cobb, but among so many gadgets, the well remembered robot was played by Bud Wolff. Bela's batting average in serials was far better than Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney, although it must be stated that Boris did his last chapterplay before 1931's "Frankenstein," and that Chaney starred only in his first (1932's "The Last Frontier") and last, the 12 chapter Western "Overland Mail," for Universal in 1942 (reduced in stature as an evil henchman in all the others).