The Vanishing Shadow

The Vanishing Shadow (1934) is a Universal science-fiction film serial directed by Lew Landers. The serial features what is believed to be the first appearance of a hand held ray gun in film[1].

The Vanishing Shadow
Directed byLew Landers
Produced byHenry MacRae
Written byBasil Dickey
George Morgan
Ella O'Neill
Het Mannheim
Music byEdward Ward
CinematographyRichard Fryer
Edited bySaul A. Goodkind (supervisor)
Alvin Todd
Edward Todd
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 23, 1934 (1934-04-23)
Running time
12 chapters (242 min)
CountryUnited States


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 a fellow scientist, Carl Van Dorn, a prototype is built. Stanley intends to sell bonds to finance his invention. He inherited them from his late father, an editor for the 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. However, Stanley's new girlfriend, Gloria Grant, is really Gloria Barnett, his enemy's estranged daughter. Neither hero nor villain wants to hurt Gloria and must work around this in their struggle. Many science fiction gadgets, including a robot and The Destroying Ray, also feature.

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 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 book on science fiction film serials, Roy Kinnard noted that the film is difficult to assess as no print of the film appears to have survived.[3] A 35mm nitrate preview trailer containing three minutes is held by George Eastman House archive in Rochester, New York but is unavailable for screening as of 1998 due it not having been recopied to safety film stock.[3] In 2010 all 12 Chapters were made available for viewing on YouTube. In August 2019, it was released on DVD by VCI 2019[4]

See also



  2. Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 210. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  3. Kinnard 1998, p. 13.


  • Kinnard, Roy (1998). Science Fiction Serials: A Critical Filmography of the 31 Hard SF Cliffhangers; With an Appendix of the 37 Serials with Slight SF Content. McFarland. ISBN 1476604134.
Preceded by
Pirate Treasure (1934)
Universal Serial
The Vanishing Shadow (1934)
Succeeded by
The Red Rider (1934)
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