Madam Sombra (Carol Forman) attempts to garner government secrets from several people who are working on a top secret atomic rocket. When they refuse to be bought she kills them. So far four men associated with the project in some way have been killed. The press has dubbed them the Black Widow murders because the killer uses spider venom to kill. The marks on the victims look like venomous spider bites. Sombra is working for her father King Hitomu who teleports from time to time to check on how his daughter is getting along in the criminal master mind department. He wants the weapon as part of his plan for world domination.
John M. Walker (Gene Roth) is the editor of the Daily Clarion. Because the police are getting nowhere on the case, and wanting a scoop on the mysterious killers, he hires detective fiction author and amateur detective Steve Colt (Bruce Edwards) to find out who is responsible for the murders. Star reporter Joyce Winters (Virginia Lee) doesn’t want to be left out of the fun and tags along.
The only clue Steve has is that the most recent victim, Michael Burns, was last seen getting into a cab. Steve tracks down the cab driver and finds out where the victim was dropped off. Something the victim said to the cab driver makes Steve believe he visited Madam Sombra. Steve and Joyce ask Sombra if she recognizes Burns’ picture. She says it doesn’t ring a bell but she can’t be sure either way.
Outside Madam Sombra’s is a guy named Blinky (Ernie Adams) taking pictures and handing people cards to buy the pictures from the film developing company. Steve doesn’t know but Blinky works for Sombra. Steve asks Blinky for a card and tells Joyce they need to check all the pictures and see if Burns is in any of them. Blinky has a two way radio with him and Sombra hears everything said. Sombra is now aware that Steve is a formidable adversary but Sombra has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve. Sombra and her goons are now pitted against Steve and Joyce in a battle of good vs evil.
“The Black Widow” was released in 1947 and was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Fred C. Brannon. It is a 13 chapter serial produced by Republic.
There were a couple things in the serial that bothered me. First, Steve and Joyce spend a lot of time criticizing each other. That was OK for the first chapter but they went through a lot of cliffhangers together and should have developed more respect for each other instead of talking down to each other. They would get to a point where you thought they had gotten over the stupid cut downs but then one or the other would start in again. They weren’t going at each other all the time, just enough to be annoying. I realize the critical banter was supposed to be amusing but to me it wasn’t.
Another issue was the fact that several times Steve either ended up at Madam Sombra’s fortune telling place and never realized she had something to do with the murders or actually saw her at a crime scene and didn’t recognize her because she was wearing sunglasses. Other than that it was an enjoyable serial.
There are a few cool gadgets in the series like the color changing car and the death chair with the hidden spider prongs but the most intriguing is the machine that transports King Hitomu from across the world onto the throne in Sombra’s rooms. It’s never explained how that means of teleportation works. You’re just supposed to assume that it’s possible and that the machine works. OK, I’ll go along with that. With some fun cliffhangers and a never ending string of henchmen it was a little silly at times but very entertaining.
Chapter Titles: 1. Deadly Prophecy 2. The Stolen Formula 3. Hidden Death 4. Peril in the Sky 5. The Spider's Lair 6. Glass Guillotine 7. Wheels of Death 8. False Information 9. The Spider's Venom 10. The Stolen Corpse 11. Death Dials a Number 12. The Talking Mirror 13. A Life for a Life