#19 – Skull and Jones and the Scarlet Ghost

(1940, US, 70 min, b/w) Dir Albert S. Rogell. Cast Preston Foster, Claire Trevor, Ogdon Marshall.

The fourth film in the S&B series and the first to star their longest serving Jones, Preston Foster. Filming began about five minutes after cut was called on The Laughing Darkness and this is belied by a crossover in the cast, including a tiny role for Lugosi, uncredited, as an Oriental stereotype. Not a supernatural caper, this one – Skull and Jones here find themselves on the trail of a Nazi saboteur called (as the title would suggest) the Scarlet Ghost, who is at large in LA agitating  in some manner or another.  A twist in the tale reveals it to be none other than his socialite pal from the previous feature, the lovely Claire Tracey in a mask seemingly without eye holes and a sparkling ball gown, both of which seem odd attire for a Nazi saboteur. She tumbles from some docks into thick sea fog and is presumed dead in the final act but returns as Skull and Jones’ first recurring villain in later features. A slapdash affair, not a great start to Foster’s tenure (though he equips himself well enough) nor a great introduction such a strong a character in the series history as the Scarlet Ghost. Things pick up subsequently, leaving this one for the history books and completists only.

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