The Vanishing Shadow
Original serial lobby card
Directed byLew Landers
Written byBasil Dickey
George Morgan
Ella O'Neill
Het Mannheim
Produced byHenry MacRae
CinematographyRichard Fryer
Edited bySaul A. Goodkind (supervisor)
Alvin Todd
Edward Todd
Music byEdward Ward
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 13, 1934 (1934-04-13)
Running time
12 chapters (242 min)
CountryUnited States
The Vanishing Shadow, Chapter 1

The Vanishing Shadow is a 1934 Universal science fiction film serial directed by Lew Landers.[2] It features what is believed to be the first appearance of a hand-held ray gun in film.[3] (apart from The Death Ray). Many science fiction gadgets, including a robot and The Destroying Ray, are also featured in the serial.


Stanley Stanfield is the inventor of the Vanishing Ray, a wearable device which, when active, leaves only the user's shadow still visible. After meeting with fellow scientist, Carl Van Dorn, a prototype Ray is built. Stanley intends to sell bonds to finance his invention. He inherited them from his late father, the publisher and editor of the local Tribune newspaper, but the stockbroker he meets is corruptly involved with Wade Barnett, the businessman who hounded Stanley's father to his death. Barnett wants the bonds and will go to any length to acquire them. A conflict ensues between Stanley and Barnett during the 12 chapter serial. However, Stanley's new girlfriend, Gloria Grant, is really Gloria Barnett, his enemy's estranged daughter. Neither hero nor villain wants to see Gloria hurt and must work around this motive in their on-going struggle.

Dorgan, Barnett's "spear-point heavy", is unhappy with having to hold back to protect Gloria. Eventually, he captures both Stanley and Gloria, but blackmails his boss to ensure her safety. Barnett turns up with both the ransom money and the police, but he is shot in the ensuing fight. Before dying, he makes his peace with his daughter. Gloria and Stanley finally marry and take over operation of the Tribune.


Chapter titles

  1. Accused of Murder
  2. The Destroying Ray
  3. The Avalanche
  4. Trapped
  5. Hurled from the Sky
  6. Chain Lightning
  7. The Tragic Crash
  8. The Shadow of Death
  9. Blazing Bulkheads
  10. The Iron Death
  11. The Juggernaut
  12. Retribution



In his 1998 book on science fiction film serials, Roy Kinnard noted that the serial was difficult to assess as no print of it appeared to have survived.[5] A 35mm nitrate preview trailer containing three minutes of the serial was held by the George Eastman House archive in Rochester, New York. It was unavailable in 1998 for screening, due to it never having been transferred to safety film stock.[5] In 2010 all 12 Chapters of the serial were made available for viewing on YouTube. In August 2019, it was released on DVD by VCI 2019.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Port Chester—STAGE—Westchester—SCREEN—Metropolis". The Port Chester Daily Item. April 14, 1934. p. 9.
  2. ^ Kinnard, Roy (1998). Science Fiction Serials: A Critical Filmography of the 31 Hard SF Cliffhangers. McFarland & Co. p. 11. ISBN 978-0786437450.
  3. ^ "San Francisco Museums".
  4. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 210. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  5. ^ a b Kinnard 1998, p. 13.
  6. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "(1934) The Vanishing Shadow Chap 01 Part 1 of 2". YouTube.
Preceded byPirate Treasure (1934) Universal Serial The Vanishing Shadow (1934) Succeeded byThe Red Rider (1934)