Steffi Duna, Walter Pidgeon, and Florence Rice in Phantom Raiders (1940)


(director: Jacques Tourneur; screenwriters: Walter Lipman/story by Jonathan Latimer; cinematographer: Clyde DeVinna; editor: Conrad Nervig; music: David Snell; cast: Walter Pidgeon (Nick Carter), Donald Meek (Bartholomew), Joseph Schildkraut (Al Taurez), Florence Rice (Cora Barnes), John Carroll (John Ramsell, Jr.), Matthew Boulton (Ramsell, Sr.,), Nat Pendleton (Gunboat), John Burton (Steve Donnigan), Cecil Kellaway (Franklin Morris), Steffi Duna (Dolores), Thomas Ross (Dr. Grisson), Alec Craig (Andy MacMillan), Dwight Frye (Eddie Anders); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frederick Stephani; MGM; 1940)
The second of MGM’s three super-sleuth Nick Carter crime dramas is the best one in the series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The second of MGM’s three super-sleuth Nick Carter crime dramas is the best one in the series. It’s a taut and fast-paced enjoyable programmer, that’s effectively directed by Jacques Tourneur (“Cat People”/”I Walked With A Zombie”/”Berlin Express”). It’s based on a story by Jonathan Latimer and is written by Walter Lipman.

After a Scotland Yard agent (John Burton) is killed investigating sabotage of merchant ships in Panama, the international insurance firm, Llewelyn’s of London, hires skirt chaser American private detective Nick Carter (Walter Pidgeon), vacationing in Panama, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of British merchant ships passing through the Panama Canal. Nick’s assistant is the zany bee fancier Bartholomew (Donald Meek).

When Nick spots American racketeer Al Taurez (Joseph Schildkraut) operating a crooked seaman’s union in Panama, he figures he’s the one behind the sabotage. Upon further investigation Nick learns that once a ship is declared missing, Taurez collects the insurance money on the falsified cargo. So far three ships are missing. After a bungled assassination attempt on his life, in his hotel room, by Taurez henchman Eddie (Dwight Frye), the PI knows for certain that the knife-throwing Taurez is behind the scheme. Also involved are Franklin Morris (Cecil Kellaway), owner of the Morris Shipping Company; Dr. Grisson (Thomas Ross), a mad scientist inventor of a device that can be set in Taurez’s office and blow-up a ship at sea if it has on board a radio receiver; the corrupt official Ramsell, Sr. (Matthew Boulton), who signs off on the insurance claims; and the gangster’s flunkies such as Taurez’s dim-witted ex-fighter bodyguard Gunboat (Nat Pendleton), who is unaware the boss is killing merchant sailors and destroying ships.

Also along for the ride are the dispatcher for Morris’s shipping company, Cora Barnes (Florence Rice), and her honest boyfriend, the corrupt official’s son, a first mate ambitious to become a captain, John Ramsell, Jr. (John Carroll). Tension mounts when he gets a command, thanks to Taurez, and the explosive device is on board.

Meek steals the delightful pic as the comical bee keeper who always pops up when his boss is in danger.