A delightful artifact, both from the serial era and the career of Bela Lugosi.
This twelve-installment series starred Lugosi as Dr. Alex Zorka, a brilliant scientist who goes rogue after the death of his wife. A government agent (Robert Kent) and intrepid reporter (Dorothy Arnold) are in search of his secret lair, but that’s a difficult task considering Zorka has the power to turn invisible and also has a remote-controlled robot (with the head of a troll, for some reason) at his disposal.
Of course Lugosi did better work; there’s nothing haunting at all to his performance here. And if I had seen this in 1939, it might not have registered at all. (Recall The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington opened that year.) But now, something like The Phantom Creeps qualifies as immensely enjoyable camp, a pastiche of shoddy effects, stock footage and cardboard characters that somehow adds up to the simplest thing we expect from the movies: amusement.