Cyclotrode X – 1966
"...in my hands, the cyclotrode will become the most powerful offensive weapon in the world."
The original 1946 The Crimson Ghost was a 12 chapter serial comprising 2 hours and 47 minutes of story, averaging 14 minutes per episode. Cyclotrode X is the 1966 film version, edited to compact the serial into a one hour and forty minute feature film.
The striking visual of a death-head masked crime boss dominates this film, the actor wearing the elaborate costume using expressive eyes to overcome the problem of a rigid face mask not changing no matter how strongly the voice behind it rants and threatens. This death-head image has a fame far exceeding the movie serial or its other versions (this film and a 6-episode TV version), primarily because the punk rock band The Misfits adopted the Crimson Ghost as a central image of their music iconography where it spread to T-shirts and jacket emblems.
The configuration of the bad guys in Cyclotrode X is rather interesting, with an in disguise (as The Crimson Ghost) member of university academia bent upon stealing and then using the "Cyclotrode" invention because it is able to "repel atomic bombs" and thus a very useful and lucrative tool to blackmail governments, and presumably, prevent, or allow, nuclear war. The device can also interrupt electrical devices, wreaking havoc on power grids and communications.
In desperation to keep the machine from falling into the hands of the criminal gang led by "The Crimson Ghost," the inventor of the machine Dr. Chambers (Kenne Duncan) destroys it, but a duplicate still exists and the criminals are determined to locate it, and the remainder of the story is a mad dash to stop the Crimson Ghost getting the duplicate, and then building a much larger version of his own.
The inventiveness of the technology in the story is fascinating, with the Crimson Ghost employing a lethal electrical collar around the neck of people he is forcing to do his will, such that they can hear his voice but no one else can, though surrounded by other people, an unintentional image of a future digital age more reminiscent of the 21st century than the 20th.
Cyclotrode X suffers from being an assembly of parts from a longer series of drawn-out episodic story-telling, and even with the reduced amount of time to get the story told, there's a lot of repetition reflecting the "cliffhanger" structure of the original version of this tale, with fist fights breaking out like clockwork. The stunt work is first rate and the running around and leaping in and out of windows is very athletic. Cars racing at high speed and the running feet of the actors matches the speed of the plot hurtling toward the ending.
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Original Page December 1, 2021 | Updated March 9, 2022