- The Shadow/Lamont Cranston
- John Matley: The son of a rich broker, with
a penchant for getting into trouble
- Gustav Matley: A broker, and John's father
- Gloria Kingsley: A nightclub singer, and Johnny's
- Max Merkle: A notorious gambler
- Arnold Fantus: Gustav Matley's Attorney
- Geally: An acquaintance of Max Merkle
- Margo Lane
- Commissioner Weston
Synopsis: (Warning! Contains spoilers!)
"That everlasting sleep that born from
which no traveler ever returns. That eternal rest called death. How often
men have attempted to close the mouth of the accuser, seal their lips
forever, and how often they have failed. For dead men, in spite of the
legend, do tell. Yes they speak and point with a bony, fleshless finger
at their murderers..."
John Matley, a rich broker's son, is asked by gambler
Max Merkle to sign on the dotted line of a contract. It seems John has
lost money at Merkle's gambling house and owes him $10,000. Unfortunately
for John, Merkle wants more: $50,000. It's "interest" that will
keep him happy until John's father dies and leaves everything to John.
John is reluctant to sign, but is threatened by Merkle and his henchman.
He finally does, which makes Merkle happy. Merkle warns John not to tell
his father, or Merkle will collect the money sooner than expected.
After John leaves, two people come out from an adjoining
room. They are Gloria Kingsley and Geally, two acquaintances of Merkle.
They know of John's visit. Approaching him, they find a certified cheque
for $10,000 from John on his desk. Merkle tells them of the contract and
the $50,000. Geally isn't happy; he wants his cut of the money now, and
doesn't want to wait for John's father to die. In response, Merkle kills
him to teach him and Gloria a lesson: Max Merkle does things his own way.
Back at the Matley house, Gustav Matley angrily scolds
his son for all the trouble he's caused. Last year, it was the incident
with nightclub singer Gloria Kingsley with whom he had an affair with,
now it is the $10,000 he lost to Merkle and the contract for $50,000 after
Gustav's death. Infuriated that his son would bet his own father's life,
he throws John out and tells him that he will call his attorney, Arnold
Fantus, to eliminate John from his will. John leaves, telling his father
that he won't change the will, in fact, there are other ways to solve
this problem. Gustav phones Fantus and asks him to come over. Fantus only
lives next door to the Matleys and can come over in five minutes. Fantus
asks if this can wait till morning, but Gustav insists that the will will
be changed tonight. Suddenly, there is a buzzing sound, and Gustav feels
a strong burning sensation in his head. Fantus asks what is wrong, but
it is too late; Gustav is dead.
At Commissioner Weston's office, Lamont and Margo learn
about the Matley death. They discuss Gustav's son, John, and his troubles.
John always got his father to buy him out of his scrapes, so the death
looks suspicious. Strangely enough, the autopsy of Gustav's body revealed
no marks, no poisoning, and no signs of foul play. John enters the office
to see Weston, and is not surprised that his father is dead, which in
turn surprises everyone. John quickly corrects himself by blaming his
father's hot temper for the death. The doctor had always warned him that
his angry outbursts would result in a heart attack some day. Lamont tells
John that the autopsy report didn't reveal much about the cause of death.
Puzzled, John asks what the real cause was. Suddenly, Fantus walks into
the office. Apparently he is here to defend John against a murder charge.
John is shocked. Lamont finds it strange that Fantus would suggest murder,
in fact, the police themselves aren't even sure!
Riding in Shrevvy's cab, Lamont and Margo discuss the
Matley case. Margo is certain that John is the murderer. John fought a
lot with his father and was about to be cut out of the will, and Weston
already has a policeman trailing John to see where he goes. Shrevvy also
jumps in with his own opinion about the case: if he were John's father,
he would "have taken him gently, but firmly, by the head and kick
him down the stairs"! The cab stops at the Matley house, and Lamont
goes in as The Shadow to investigate.
Inside the house, John confronts Gloria and Merkle, who
have come to hear the reading of the will. Merkle reminds him about the
contract he signed for $50,000. Gloria is no better. It turns out that
Gustav paid her $5,000 for the letters that John wrote her (which she
was going to use to blackmail him). Now she has become more greedy. Angrily,
John again tells them to leave and asks them what they have done for him.
When Merkle replies "more than you know", Gloria cautions a
guess that Merkle might have murdered Gustav. Merkle snaps at Gloria to
shut up, and she realizes that she has struck a nerve. Gleefully, she
decides to blackmail Merkle for more money for she now believes that he
is the murderer. When John tries to needle Merkle for more information
about his father's death, Merkle merely replies "who are you kidding?".
John tells Merkle that he can't prove the contract he signed and tells
them once again to leave. Merkle refuses, and John leaves in a huff. Merkle
turns to Gloria and tells her that he thinks her words to him were an
act, but Gloria firmly believes Merkle killed Gustav and greedily wants
her cut of the money since she knows too much. Merkle doesn't like to
take on partners. "It's unhealthy for the partner" he says,
but Gloria stubbornly insists, and besides, she can always blackmail him
for the murder of Geally.
The Shadow confronts the two criminals about the murder
of Gustav. Merkle denies it, and Gloria tries to implicate him. The Shadow
warns her about the law and blackmail. Both tell him he's got nothing
on them. Suddenly, the phone rings. Gloria asks Merkle to answer it but
he refuses. Then John returns to the room and asks Merkle to answer the
phone; it's probably the press, and he doesn't want to talk to them. Finally,
Gloria decides to answer the phone. John, perhaps afraid she might tell
the reporters something he doesn't want to hear, orders her not to answer
the phone. Picking up the receiver, Gloria finds no one on the line. There
is a buzzing sound, and she feels a strong burning sensation in her head.
The Shadow tells her to drop the receiver, and a puzzled Merkle asks what
is wrong. She falls to the ground dead.
Eyeing her lifeless body, Merkle remarks with cold indifference
that he warned her about his dislike of partners.
Back in Weston's office, Lamont and Margo are told that
an investigation of the phone turned up nothing. Lamont asks Weston about
the thoroughness of Gustav's autopsy, and Weston shows him the report.
Lamont discovers that there was no examination of the brain and asks if
Gustav's body can be exhumed for that purpose. Weston believes it can
be done. Fantus arrives and tells the three about the District Attorney
securing an indictment against John for the murder of his father. Fantus
has decided, to Lamont's surprise, to defend John. Fantus admits that
he has little affection and no respect for John, but he is still the son
of his best friend. When asked to sign an exhumation order for Gustav,
Fantus tells him that it is impossible: Gustav has been cremated. In fact,
Fantus ordered the cremation, and it was Gustav's last wish.
That night, Shrevvy drops off Lamont and Margo at an
undertaking parlour at 746 3rd Street. They are here to see Gloria's body.
According to Lamont, she has something she can tell the police. Going
in, they see a light in the back room and two men. Sensing their arrival,
the men quickly turn off the light and leave. Margo finally finds the
light switch to the room. Within, they find a single coffin belonging
to Gloria. Upon opening it they find it empty. They suddenly hear the
sound of a car speeding off, and Lamont realizes that the body is in that
car. They rush back to the cab and give chase. As they gain on them, one
of the passengers opens fire on the cab, breaking the windshield. Then
Shrevvy notices that the car is slowing down and sees something being
thrown from it. Lamont tells him to stop the cab. Both Lamont and a reluctant
Shrevvy get out and examine the thrown object. It is a bundle of some
kind wrapped in sheets. Tearing off the wrapping, they find Gloria's decapitated
The next day, Lamont visits Margo, who has been trying
to reach him. She tells him that Fantus had called; he has a full confession
from Merkle about the murders and wants them to come over to his house
to hear it. Lamont is suspicious; something doesn't add up. He advises
Margo to go without him, and that he will arrive later. Lamont now figures
that Gustav's will is the key to solving the crime, since it has not been
At Fantus's house, Fantus shows Margo into a room and
tells her about his knowledge of the kidnap and decapitation of Gloria's
body. He wants her to see "the evidence" before hearing the
confession and asks her to look into a box. When she does, she sees Gloria's
head. The head can convict a murderer, he says, and goes on to reveal
himself as the murderer! Margo is shocked. Fantus believed that she and
Lamont were after him last night at the undertakers (but they weren't).
He stole Gloria's body and was helped by Merkle, but Merkle's dislike
of partners led to his own death by Fantus's hands.
Within Gloria's head, is the key to the murder: her brain
had been reduced to ashes! Fantus's method was simple: he used a death
ray machine trained on the desk chair of Gustav's home. The ray can penetrate
steel and brick, and can kill (by literally burning the brain) within
a distance of 300 feet. Whoever answered the phone would be sitting in
that chair and in the ray's path. Now Margo knows too much, and Fantus
will kill her with the ray. Horrified, Margo tries to escape but the door
is locked. The Shadow comes to her rescue and confronts Fantus about the
murders. Fantus had killed Gustav because he didn't want him to know that
he had falsified Gustav's will, leaving everything to him instead of John.
Also, Fantus could not defend John in court because he had been disbarred
Fantus isn't afraid of The Shadow. He slowly sprays the
room with the death ray, knowing that The Shadow is trapped and will succumb
to the ray's effects. When he points the ray in Margo's direction, she
faints. In doing so, she saved herself from certain death, as Fantus decides
to ignore her for now and focus on The Shadow. When he fails to hear The
Shadow's voice, he believes that he has succeeded.
But his triumph does not last for long. The Shadow quickly
smashes the death ray machine, ending Fantus's crime spree.