The Master Key (1945 Serial/VCI)
Sound: C+ Extras: C- Chapters: C+
There has been much discussion about foreign powers buying
up U.S. ports recently, but it was a plot point over 60 years ago in Universal
Pictures Action Serial The Master Key (1945) from co-directors Ray
Taylor and Lewis D. Collins. It takes
place in 1938 when a “fourth column” kind of Nazi spy ring works on a plot to
buy out American power by buying its industries. The Nazis intend to do this as soon as they can, but the pulp
twist is that they need to steal a machine that turns lead into gold. Well, so much for realism.
For that matter, these cardboard cutout Nazis are also
aged and politically incorrect, with none of them doing a phony German
accent. With that said, a fed (Milburn
Stone) and detective (Dennis Moore) team up to stop them and a beautiful
reporter (Jan Wiley) might even be able to help too. Obviously, the plot and faux Nazis add age to the 13 chapters, but
it still has some good comic book dialogue, fights and cliffhangers in one of
the studio’s more ambitious productions.
It may be muddy at times, but is enjoyable enough.
The 1.33 X 1 image is a few generations down in prints
struck later, but plays back just fine for that, while the Dolby Digital 2.0
Mono is in better shape. This results
in solid-enough playback. Extras
include trailers for this and three other VCI Serial sets, plus text
biographies of the principles.
- Nicholas Sheffo