The Invisible Killer (November 14, 1939)
Released on November 14, 1939: Someone is killing their enemies with only a phone call, and reprter Sue Walker helps her boyfriend Lieutenant Jerry Brown solve this sci-fi gangster murder mystery.
Directed by Sam Newfield
Written by Maxwell Shane and Joseph O'Donnell.
The Actors: Grace Bradley (Sue Walker, reporter), Roland Drew (Lieutenant Jerry Brown), William Newell (Detective Sergeant Pat Dugan), Alex Callam (Arthur Enslee), Frank Coletti (Vani Martin), Sidney Grayler (Lefty Ross), Crane Whitley (District Attorney Richard Sutton), Boyd Irwin (Mr. Cunningham), Jean Brooks (Gloria Cunningham), David Oliver (Llewellyn Worchester, Sutton's valet), Harry Worth (Tyler, Sutton's secretary), Ernie Adams (Squint, croupier), Kernan Cripps (plainclothesman), John Elliott (gambler), Al Ferguson (detective guarding Tyler), Larry Steers (Sue's boss).
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What do you get when you combine a couple of women who control their universe, a city full of gangsters that run illegal gambling joints, and an insidious killer that can kill people when they answer a telephone? You get an inovative twist on the crime noir story from the golden age of motion pictures that will keep you involved right down to the last handful of white kernel popcorn in your butter drizzled bowl. Can these new-fangled inventions that bring far away voices right up to your ear actually kill you? Beware your Phone!
As our movie opens we meet a cop on the way to a murder scene who must race a cocky brunette through the city streets in a great 1939 car chase with gorgeous 1939 autos. The gal is the fiance of the cop, and on top of that, she is a hot-shot reporter for a local newspaper that always manages to get into the middle of the action. It seems that there are several gambling joints in the city, and someone is starting a gambler's war, and is killing off the competition. We also meet another young gal who is sweet on the District Attorney. She is the daughter of the big-wheel businessman in town, Mr. Cunningham, and she not only has her hooks into the D.A., but she swings with the gamblers in their illegal casinos. Cunningham discovers that a lot of the real estate he owns is being leased to the gamblers, and he teams up with the reporter gal to start busting them. Cunningham and the reporter dame are present when the cops shut down one of the joints, and after the dust settles, Cunningham asks for a phone, and while making a call, chokes a couple of times and drops dead. Somehow the phone was responsible for the death. How could this be? Telephones in 1939 were still a 'new' and wondrous technology, and somehow just talking on the phone can cause death. I'm betting that lots of folks left the theaters after watching this movie determined to never talk on a phone again, much like people avoided swimming in the ocean after watching the 1975 movie "Jaws."
So what is this mysterious scientific phenomenon that can murder someone just by picking up a telephone? It will take you just about 60 minutes and an entertaining tale of two gals and their men, and the devious scientist that is killing by telepone. And even then, the mysterious power that can kill merely by picking up a telephone is never fully explained, so I am confident that many, many movie goers in 1939 became convinced that there were dangerous things in this cutting edge technology, and many of them would not answer a telephone after seeing this flick.