Forgotten Nightmares: Phantom Killer (1942) (USA)

Fast talking fun and needlessly complicated criminal hijinks are the name of the game in this charming Monogram “thriller”.

Charm away, sweetheart

Ed Clark, ayoung prosecutor, is convinced that beloved philanthropist John G. Harrison is behind a series of murders/robberies plaguing the community. There are a few problems with his theory: John G. Harrison is a deaf-mute and the witnesses say the man talked to them before leaving the scene of the crime and more troublesome is that many people (including our prosecutors strong willed reporter girlfriend) saw John G. Harrison across town at a benefit during the time of the current crime. But a hunch is a hunch and a good man knows that when he feels something in his bones it’s probably not just the steady diet of cigarettes and booze.

This hunch is all the evidence I need!

Ed is at first turned down by his chief when he wishes to indict Mr. Harrison but when the chief discovers that Ed is up for promotion next year he sees the oncoming complete embarrassment as a way to guarantee his job. The trial goes bad for Ed and his comic relief witness (Mantan Moreland doing the usual bug eyed dimwit role afforded African American actors of the time) proves less than reliable. But like I said, a hunch is a hunch and Ed will not be giving up just because he should.

I’m uncomfortable

After the trial Harrison strikes up a relationship with Ed’s gal, Barbara (the cute as all hell Joan Woodbury), and asks her (through his assistant) to write his biography. Babsie jumps at the chance and is easily convinced of Harrison’s innocence as she continues to get to know him. This leads to a hilarious interview montage of smiling faces and handwritten notes. Eventually Ed convinces his fellow detectives that something rotten is going on but it takes a surprising homicide to finally nab the increasingly cocky criminal.

Busted!

Sign language and lip reading are used for evil and a secret twin is the final puzzle piece. There’s some lovably dull humor and a piano key triggered secret passage way to help the film go down like warm soup on a cold day. So if you like your dames full of piss and vinegar and your schemes dependent on twin magic, you should fall in love with this creaky little gem. I sure as hell did. 7/10


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