Synopsis: The eccentric musician Svengali (John Barrymore) ekes out a living as a music tutor in Paris. He lives a decidedly bohemian lifestyle: he rarely bathes, his clothes are worn and unkempt, and he owes money to just about everyone he knows.
Svengali is acquainted with a group of English artists who live nearby, and it is through them that he first sees the lovely young model Trilby (Marian Marsh). Like most men he is thoroughly taken with her, drawn to her beauty, innocence and playfulness, but she is in love with an Englishman named Billee (Bramwell Fletcher).
Among Svengali’s talents is a knack for hypnotism, and he offers to help Trilby with her persistent headaches by putting her under his spell and eliminating the pain through the power of suggestion. Before long, the amoral mentalist decides that he can do more than this, and under his power Trilby sends a note to Billee rejecting him, and leading him to believe she has committed suicide. But in fact she has fled Paris with Svengali, starting a new life not only as his musical protege but as his bride.
Under Svengali’s tutelage, Trilby becomes a famous singer, performing across Europe as Mdme. Svengali. Svengali himself becomes wealthy and powerful, with the most important figures in the music world begging for a moment of his time. Yet Svengali is not happy. In spite of his control over Trilby, he knows that she doesn’t really love him.
Soon enough, Svengali makes a triumphant return to Paris. Billee is astonished to see that Trillby is not only alive, but is Svengali’s wife. When Trilby sees Billee, she is momentarily ecstatic to see him, and Svengali must struggle to bring her back under his control…
Synopsis: Fast-talking newspaper reporter Sue Walker (Grace Bradley) always seems to be just one step ahead of her boyfriend, homicide detective Jerry Brown (Roland Drew). Every time he shows up at a crime scene he finds that she’s there ahead of him. This time she beats him to the scene of a gangland killing, an illicit gambling den where a mobbed-up high roller named Jimmy Clark has been murdered, shot while on the telephone. But it is soon revealed that the gunshot wounds didn’t cause his death.
Meanwhile, Sue discovers that Gloria Cunningham, daughter of a prominent anti-gambling crusader, was there at Lefty Ross’ gambling club at the time of Clark’s murder. This is problematic not only because of who she’s related to but who she’s engaged to: no-nonsense D.A. Richard Sutton, who is just embarking on a new effort to crush the underground casino racket in the city. Sutton rounds up the men he knows are operating illicit casinos in the city and instructs them to stop paying protection to the mob and close up shop.
After the conclave Lefty phones Sutton to tell him that he’s ready to spill his guts in exchange for protection. When Sutton replies that he can’t offer immunity from prosecution, Lefty says he’ll take his chances with a jury — what he wants is to live long enough to testify.
Sutton agrees and arranges for Lefty to be brought to his house; Sue bribes the butler into letting her inside. A phone call comes for Lefty. As soon as Lefty begins talking on the phone he keels over and dies.
Brown disassembles the telephone and discovers that the phone has been tampered with: a capsule of poison gas is hidden in the mouthpiece and can be triggered remotely. But who is arranging the death of the mobsters?
Comments: As many people know (some of them not even geeks), Detective Comics #27 is one of the most famous and valuable comic books ever published — it is, after all, the issue that marked the first appearance of a certain overdressed vigilante called The Batman.
Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s action-packed (though decidedly creaky) story is the one everyone remembers, but there were four or five other tales in that particular issue, including a two-page text story called “Death On the Airwaves”.
“Death On the Airwaves” begins with an epidemic of radio personalities dropping dead right in front of their microphones, in the middle of nationally broadcast variety shows! It’s clear in short order that these deaths are the result of foul play, but no one can figure out how the victims are being killed. In the end it’s revealed that poison gas capsules have been fiendishly hidden inside the microphones, turning live radio broadcasts into — well, dead radio broadcasts.
I don’t remember the details of the story, since I read it so long ago (no, not in 1939, smart-ass; Detective Comics 27 was reprinted by D.C. in the 1970s) but the story’s premise is suspiciously similar to that of tonight’s second feature, The Invisible Killer.
I’m not suggesting the movie ripped off its premise from the comic book (though I suppose it is possible; Detective Comics #27 hit newsstands eight months before The Invisible Killer’s premiere — more than enough time for a PRC production to go from script to screen).
But I am suggesting that certain ideas seem to bubble up in the entertainment industry’s collective unconscious, and it’s never been unusual for oddly similar ideas to surface more or less at the same time.