Professor Houghland has made quite an astounding invention of the field
of television (then itself a relatively new invention), but when he
demonstrates it to the world (via television), he is killed during the
transmission, live on air.
But who did it ?
His assistant Perry (Bela Lugosi) or Richard Grayson (George Meeker),
who wants to get his hands on the invention, are the logical suspects, but
somehow, brain surgeon Dr Scofield proves them both innocent ... and then
Perry is even killed (now that excludes him from the circle of suspects),
when all of a sudden ... a second Perry (also Bela Lugosi) enters the
scene, who proves to be a cop and claims that the other Perry has taken
his place to steal Houghland's secrets.
And then he proves Doctor Scofield to be guilty, as the brainsurgeon
wanted to turn Houghland's invention into a death ray and sell it to
foreign governments. And he killed Doctor Scofield by just that, a death
ray triggered by his television signals.
Why Scofield was so eager though to prove Perry and Grayson innocent
we will never know or understand.
A terribly scripted, acted and directed murder mystery full of
plotholes and leaps of reason, littered with way too many red herrings to
make any sense at all. Not even Bela Lugosi, in one of his lesser
performances, can save the film. Only black actress Hattie McDaniel as
housemaid gives the film a little colour (excuse the pun). A scene where
she sings a jazz number though has not survived in all prints still in
existence, due to the obvious racism of censors from the South of the USA,
who would routinely edit out performances by black artists. With or
without that segment though, the film is barely watchable.