Ask anyone who grew up in the Golden Age of Hollywood and they’ll tell you one of the things that they miss the most about the modern movie-going experience is the absence of movie serials. Way more desirable than the pre-show countdowns and promotions for lousy-looking TV programs that clutter up the wait for the main feature to begin, serials were exciting mini-stories that ended on a cliffhanger and enticed audiences back to the theater week after week. (We really wish the serial would make a comeback, and think it would catch on again despite the desire for instant gratification we live in, something that the slow burn of the Twin Peaks revival has illustrated perfectly).
One of the lesser-known serials is Republic’s 1950 effort The Invisible Monster. Filmed on a low budget (even for the time) of $153,070, the 12-chapter serial concerns a malevolent megalomaniac who calls himself the Phantom Ruler. This dastardly villain has devised a formula that renders clothing non-reflective, and he plans to terrorize the globe with an unseen army. Can crack insurance investigator Lane Carson (Richard Webb) cancel his scheme before the old world order disappears?
Sounds great right? It is, despite some wooden acting at times and the aforementioned budgetary restraints. While it doesn’t quite have the cachet as a say Ace Drummond or a Dick Tracy, there’s a lot to love here. Besides, movie serials are always a thrill to watch, regardless of what year it is or how tastes have changed! Bring back the serial. We are more than ready!