Welcome Guest [Log In] [Register]
Welcome to In The Balcony. We hope you enjoy your visit.

You're currently viewing our forum as a guest. This means you are limited to certain areas of the board and there are some features you can't use. If you join our community, you'll be able to access member-only sections, and use many member-only features such as customizing your profile, sending personal messages, and voting in polls. Registration is simple, fast, and completely free. Plus, you'll be eligible for the monthly $1 million prize. (Not really.)

Join our community!

If you're already a member please log in to your account to access all of our features:

Username:   Password:
Add Reply
Review: The Whispering Shadow (1933)
Topic Started: Sep 13 2005, 06:48 AM (876 Views)
Laughing Gravy
Member Avatar
Look for In The Balcony on Facebook!
[ *  *  * ]
Bela Lugosi appeared in five serials in the 1930s, and they run the gamut from pretty good (S.O.S. Coast Guard) to pretty painful (Return of Chandu). The Whispering Shadow falls somewhere in the middle, unless you’re a Lugosi fanatic, in which case you should either skip it altogether or run out and buy it today, because it is the single worst performance I’ve ever seen from your Hungarian hero.

A gang led by a mysterious villain known as the Whispering Shadow is killing truckers from the Empire Moving & Storage Company. W.S. controls his gang by manipulating radio and television waves and can cause death electronically through the airwaves. He also can project a big shadow of himself on the wall, and whispers orders via electronic ventriloquism (hence his name, y'see).

It seems that somewhere in the bowels of the Empire warehouse is a crate containing the stolen Crown Jewels of the Czar. Everybody in the cast is seeking them, but which of them is the W.S.? The likeliest suspect seems to be Professor Strang (Lugosi), who operates a local wax museum populated by human beings who dress in odd costumes and try to stand very, very still, but who perpetually appear to be on the verge of falling over. Strang’s daughter (a willowy blonde who speaks perfect English) assists her father in trying to obtain the jewels, and also assists handsome hero Jack Foster (Malcolm McGregor, who played Zogg in Undersea Kingdom, which I only mention because I wanted to type the word “Zogg” and see what it felt like), who is trying to stop her father from getting the jewels. Women! Other suspects include a variety of storage company executives and a creepy radio operator. Actually, they’re all pretty creepy and they all act guilty, so it’s kind of hard to guess which one might be W.S., especially because they all seem to have a hidden closet with a radio/television device, so we’re never really sure which one is actually our whispering, shadowy perp.

Which brings us back to Mr. Lugosi; less than two years after his screen triumph as Dracula, he’s working over at Mascot on a chapterplay?!? Cripes, take some English lessons, Bela. He is so bad in this serial, it’s astonishing. Watch him raise his arms in fury and spit out his dialog like it was a bit of bad borscht. This was his first serial, and I don’t think he had a clue what was going on; the breakneck pace of filming serials, the length (this thing clocks in at nearly four hours) and the endless pages of dialog were simply beyond his ability. He isn’t very good in any of his handful of serials and by the 1940s, cliffhanger roles that might’ve gone to him were instead given to Eduardo Ciannelli, Lionel Atwill, or James Craven.

It should also be mentioned that rather than one “economy chapter” that utilizes footage from earlier in the chapterplay to make sure all the young serial fans were on the same page (and to save a few bucks), this serial sprinkles economy chapters throughout, beginning early on in chapter five and running right up to the final chapter. It’s the perfect serial for those of us with ADD.

The Whispering Shadow is available on DVD from Alpha, and it’s a typical product from that outfit, a mediocre print and transfer.

Posted Image
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
The Photoplayer
Member Avatar
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
Tell us what you REALLY think, Gravy! :lol:

Seriously though... the most crucial element to the serial-- the identity of the Whispering Shadow will make you groan, and if you're like me, fling the tape out the window in disgust.
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Pa Stark
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
When I first saw this serial almost 40 years ago, I didn't know in advance who the Shadow was. There were more and better red herrings here than any other mystery man serial. They really bounced the ball of suspicion around here. Like Gravy said, it seems all the suspects has some kind of mysterious electronic device hidden away that they would use the same time the Shadow made an appearance. In one chapter Bela receives some information about the jewels and promptlly runs into the room and turns on the device, then there is a cut to the hideout and the Shadow appears and tells the gang the very information that Bela jus found out.
I was going nuts trying to figure out who the WS was. It seemed so obvious Lugosi was the guilty one, I knew it couldn't be him, and the other two suspects didn't seem right either. With other mystery men, you had several suspects, and it really didn't matter who it turned out to be. Here it was just a different experience, so when chapter 12 came around, the unmasking was a real surprise. At first I couldn't believe it, then I stopped and realized what fun I had trying to guess, and what a number they did on me.
Outside of that there really isn't much worth seeing about this serial. One vendor who was selling this called it on of the cheesiest serials of all time.
Pa says only to check it out for the mystery angle.
Honest and Lovable Pa Stark
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
The Batman
Member Avatar
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
Funny review, LG, you will have Lugosi fans screaming bloody murder. This serial seems like a slightly better version of THE CLUTCHING HAND, another stinker.

Both have a villain with what seems like a creepy name, but when you think about it, are actually pretty lame. What is a Clutching Hand going to do to you anyways? Pinch your neck? Give you an Indian Rug Burn? Grab your knee real hard, until you are twitching all over the floor?

From what Photoplayer says, the lameness of THE WHISPERING SHADOW's identity rivals that of THE CLUTCHING HAND, which was a major disappoint in that serial. Actually, to be honest, just one in a long series of letdowns in that particular chapter play.

Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman...then always be Batman!
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Pa Stark
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
I don't think the unmasking of the WS is lame. when I first saw the serial, I couldn't believe it. That is more then I can say about most unmaskings.
Honest and Lovable Pa Stark
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
The Photoplayer
Member Avatar
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
That's just the problem for me-- I COULDN'T believe it. It was as if the writers had no clue who the WS was going to be and just threw a dart at names on a board and wherever it landed was who it was going to be.

THE CLUTCHING HAND, however, has the WORST unmasking of a villain, because when you find out who it is, you feel like you just wasted five hours of your life that you'll never be able to get back. Even good old Jack Mulhall couldn't save that one.
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Laughing Gravy
Member Avatar
Look for In The Balcony on Facebook!
[ *  *  * ]
Grapevine Video has just announced this on Blu-ray and a copy it speeding its way t'wards me even as we speak. Hope it don't hit me in the eye.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Pa Stark
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
Laughing Gravy
Feb 10 2018, 10:23 AM
Grapevine Video has just announced this on Blu-ray and a copy it speeding its way t'wards me even as we speak. Hope it don't hit me in the eye.
Are you kidding us? OMG
Honest and Lovable Pa Stark
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Pa Stark
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
I had to check out Grapevine's site, and to quote Lily Von Shtupp, "Oh, it's twoo, it's twoo, it's twoo."
Honest and Lovable Pa Stark
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
AndyFish
Member Avatar
Movie Watcha Foist Class
[ *  *  * ]
I'm interested if it's a better print, so I look forward to your opinion LG!
I'm avoiding poor prints which make serials, which are already tough to get through, unwatchable.
www.andytfish.com
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
The Batman
Member Avatar
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]

I don't have this one, and like Andy, am refraining from wasting funds on inferior prints. We anxiously await your analysis, LG.


Always be yourself! Unless you can be Batman...then always be Batman!
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Pa Stark
Charter Member
[ *  *  * ]
Gravy, we are all waiting to hear what you have to say about the set. In another site, someone gave it a great write up.
Honest and Lovable Pa Stark
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
Laughing Gravy
Member Avatar
Look for In The Balcony on Facebook!
[ *  *  * ]
Maybe you guys should go look at http://inthebalcony.com/ once in awhile. My review's been up there for a week.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
« Previous Topic · Continued Next Week · Next Topic »
Add Reply