The Invisible Killer (1939)

 “You reformers are all cut out of the same pattern.”

The Invisible Killer is a forgettable little crime drama that centres around a string of mysterious deaths and a gambling syndicate. Newspaperwoman Sue Walker (Grace Bradley) who’s also engaged to Police Lt. Jerry Brown (Roland Drew) is determined to get to the bottom of the deaths and the gangland war over gambling turf, and she’ll use whatever means necessary to crack the story. This involves eavesdropping on her fiance’s investigations and phone calls, and beating him to the scene of a crime. When a member of the gang agrees to tell everything he knows, it seems as though the case may blow wide open. But just as he’s about to start talking, he mysteriously dies in the home of the District Attorney….

The film, directed by Sam Newfield, tries to capitalize on Sue and Lt. Brown’s relationship–obviously trying to forge some on-screen chemistry, but it just doesn’t happen. Instead Lt. Brown frequently lectures his fiancee, and whines about the willfulness of women to his sidekick. Sue, for her part, tries to play the pert, intrepid newspaperwoman, saluting her fiance, etc., and the relationship seems rather silly. The unstoppable female reporter is a stock character for crime drama, and apart from the fact that Sue’s character is annoying, this film has nothing new to add to the role. The plot is overly complicated for this hour-long drama, and that leaves no room for character development. But the biggest problem here is that the film doesn’t seem to take itself seriously, and the heavy ladles of poor comic relief don’t help. Even the actors seem to just go through the motions to get to the end of it … finally. My Alpha DVD print is poor. The film skips in several spots and words are lost, and the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired.

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