There have been airplane crashes in the Shiloh Mountain area. The planes have been mail planes carrying money or bonds. Federal Agent Tim Caverly (Tim McCoy) is sent to investigate the situation. While flying one of the mail planes the engine suddenly stalls. The plane crashes to the ground and Tim parachutes to safety. On the ground a group of men who work for an outlaw named Dawson (Walter Miller) pull any money and bonds out of the plane and then head off. When Tim gets to the plane he sees the valuables missing. He follows the gang that left on horseback.
Professor Brent (Lloyd Ingraham) is a scientist. He has invented a Radium tube device that can interrupt the electrical impulses of combustion engines causing them to stop running. Professor Brent has been missing. Brent’s daughter Natalie (Claudia Dell) sees an article in a Los Angeles paper about the plane crashes. Putting two and two together she believes that perhaps her father’s invention is being used for ill purposes. She heads to Shiloh in search of her father.
Tim is also on his way to Shiloh with his sidekick Henry (James P. Burtis). On the road they run into Natalie. Tim finds out about Brent’s invention and that Natalie is Brent’s daughter. Tim also puts two and two together. At Shiloh Tim is mistaken for an outlaw named Tim Toomey. Using that ruse Tim tries to infiltrate the gang and look for Brent. Natalie stumbles onto the gang’s hideout and finds her father is being forced to aid the bandits in their crimes. Tim’s real identity is revealed. Now the Professor, Natalie and Tim are all in danger. It seems that Dawson holds all the cards.
“Ghost Patrol” was released in 1936 and was directed by Sam Newfield”. At less than an hour long the film barely qualifies as a movie. This very low budget film is part of the weird west subgenre and is a combination of crime, western and science fiction genres.
The movie is a little on the silly side. I’m not familiar with Tim McCoy but that 50 gallon Stetson he sports makes him look like a weekend cowboy at a dude ranch. I’m also not sure where the title came from. There are no ghosts and no patrols. I hear from western experts that this is not McCoy’s best film nor is it a very good western. In addition it is not the best effort from writer Wyndham Gittens. On the science fiction side the only real science involved is the very large and very cool Radium Tube device whiz bang. I was somewhat amused by it and by the movie. I also got some stock footage of an airplane that supposedly lost engine power doing some nice rolls and loops and some back screening that would make Bert I Gordon proud.
Producer Sigmund Neufeld uses some of Kenneth Strickfaden's famous wiz bangs as the scientist’s evil invention. Strickfaden was an electrician; a film set designer and a special effects creator. His first film was “Just Imagine” 1930. Some of his inventions graced films such as “Frankenstein” 1931, “Bride of Frankenstein” 1935, “The Mask of Fu Manchu” 1932 and dozens of other movies that needed a Vacuum Electrolyzer , Lightning Bridge, Baritron Generator or even a Cosmic Ray Diffuser, although he only got credit for 18 films. Sound designer Ben Burtt recorded the sounds that Strickfaden’s “Frankenstein” machinery made. He used the sounds in the Star Wars film “The Empire Strikes Back” 1980. Strickfaden’s wiz bangs really didn’t do anything, but they sure looked cool doing it.