Inventors Jerry Sheehan (Ralph Bird) and Hope Mason (Joan Barclay) have invented a death ray that will make all other weapons of war obsolete. Sir James Blake (Herbert Rawlinson), Hope’s uncle, has financed and collaborated on the invention. Blake is a retired inspector from Scotland Yard. Blake has called together a group of men from the League of Nations to demonstrate the power of the ray. When they are all assembled the ray is aimed at a retired battleship that was donated by the military. The ship is destroyed, the demonstration is successful. Blake intends on giving the weapon to the League. This way no country will have an exclusive right to it. All nations can pursue other interests and will feal safe knowing that they could be blown to smithereens at any time.
Spying on the demonstration is an agent for international munitions magnate Count Basil Segaloff (William Farrell). Segaloff knows that the ray will put him out of business. He hires a master criminal named the Scorpion and his motley crew of minions to destroy the device. After the Scorpion heads off to Mallow Hall, the Blake estate, Segaloff sends another teletype instructing the Scorpion to steal the invention instead of destroy it. The scorpion’s henchmen hurry to Mallow Hall to stop the Scorpion. The henchmen manage to steal the device and kidnap Jerry. In the process they lock Blake, Hope and Hope’s little brother Bobby Mason (Dickie Jones) in the safe where they are inadvertently rescued when the Scorpion tries to blow up the safe.
Sir James managed to disable the device by removing a key component. The Scorpion and his henchmen take the weapon to France. When they realize the weapon is useless the gang must match wits with Sir Blake, Jerry, and Inspector Henderson (Sam Flint) of Scotland Yard. The battle between good and evil takes the fight from the secret passages of Mallow Hall to London, Paris and back in a game of cat and mouse where no one really knows who is on the side of good and who is a spy in disguise.
“Blake of Scotland Yard” was released in 1937 and was directed by Robert F. Hill. It is a fifteen chapter serial produced by Sam Katzman and distributed by Victory Pictures American. The serial was also edited down into a feature film version. It is a rather creaky old serial made early in the talkie era and a little fuzzy at times.
Considering there was basically no budget for the serial it ended up being a little better than I expected. There are a few red herrings and the death ray itself is unimpressive but I still enjoyed it. The death ray is an interesting little whiz bang but otherwise it’s more of a macguffin. It did destroy a battleship but other than that it’s very rarely used and when it was it only blew up a wall and disabling a couple cars. It spends most of its time being shuffled around as a big suitcase.
Child actor Dickie Jones plays Hope’s younger brother Bobby. Most of the time kids in serials are annoying. They are either in the way or they get caught and are used as pawns by the bad guys. Although Bobby does get kidnapped from time to time he is smart and out thinks, not only the henchmen but, the Scorpion more than not. He is brave, feisty and innovative thereby outwitting those that write him off as just a kid. He also manages to discover clues not known by the cops. He is actually one of the fun parts of the serial.
Actually all the main characters are quite intelligent and resourceful. It’s a good thing since their aptitude at fisticuffs leaves much to be desired. Most of them look like windmills in a storm. Lots of air being generated but very few punches actually landing.
CHAPTER TITLES: 1. The Mystery of the Blooming Gardenias; 2. Death in the Laboratory; 3. Cleared Mysteries; 4. Mystery of the Black Fox; 5. Death in the River; 6. The Criminal Shadow; 7. Face To Face; 8. The Fatal Trap; 9. Parisian House Tops; 10. Battle Royal; 11. The Burning Fuse; 12. The Roofs of Limehouse; 13. The Sting of the Scorpion; 14. The Scorpion Unmasked; 15. The Trap is Sprung.