A vicious killer called the Avenger is stalking the streets of London killing young women. Mr. Bunting (A.W. Baskcomb) relays his concern to his daughter Daisy (Elizabeth Allan) about her coming home from work in the dark and fog. Daisy is a telephone operator. While they are talking there is a knock on the door. Daisy thinks it is Joe Martin (Jack Hawkins) her boyfriend. Joe is a newspaper reporter. When she opens the door there is a stranger standing there. He asks about a room the Buntings have for rent. Mrs. Bunting (Barbara Everest) shows him the room. He pays for two weeks. He says his name is Michel Angeloff (Ivor Novello).
When Joe finally gets there he tells the Buntings about the latest murder. He says the woman was in a phone booth when she was brutally stabbed. He tells Daisy that the woman was in her phone district at the time. Daisy grows faint. Earlier she was talking to a woman who screamed and then the phone went silent. She realizes she had been talking to the woman as she was being murdered. When Joe hears that he calls his paper and reports the story. He grabs Daisy’s picture off the mantel and rushes it to the paper. The next day there is a story in the morning edition about Daisy with her picture. Daisy is furious. She is called to testify at an inquiry about what she heard on the phone.
Now that she isn’t seeing Joe anymore Daisy starts to spend more time with Michel. They begin to fall in love. Joe is not happy with the situation. He begins to believe that perhaps Michel is not who he says he is. When more women get murdered Joe believes that Michel is the Avenger. He reports his suspicions to the police. When the police attempt to arrest Michel, on no evidence, he escapes into the night. The police put out an all points bulletin. Michel is now being hunted by all of London.
“The Phantom Fiend” was released in 1932 and was directed by Maurice Elvey. It is a British crime thriller and was based on the 1913 novel “The Lodger” by Marie Belloc Lowndes. The film was remade many times. This re-make is the first sound version of the story. The previous 1927 silent film called “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Ivor Novello reprises his role of the lodger from the 1927 version.
The film was also remade in 1944 as “The Lodger” starring Laird Cregar, in 1953 as “Man in the Attic” starring Jack Palance and in 2009 as “The Lodger” starring Simon Baker. The 1932 version was originally titled “The Lodger” and was 85 minutes long in the British release. It was then cut down to 67 minutes and re-titled “The Phantom Fiend” for its U.S. rerelease in 1935.
This version of the story was not as interesting as either the 1927 version, that also starred Ivor, or the 1944 version with Laird. Although Ivor was good in the movie the plot seemed to spend more time on the relationship between Daisy and Michel. That could possibly be because the American release was trimmed down by 18 minutes. There is an interesting little twist at the end that is different from the silent version.
Ivor Novello was born in Cardiff, Wales. He was a writer, composer, and an actor. Ivor wrote over 250 songs. His most famous song was "Keep the Home Fires Burning". If you are British you've probably heard it. The song was very popular during WWI. The D-Day Darlings did a rendition of the song. See below*. He made the switch from silent films to talkies. He was also a singer and wrote several musicals. He was the life partner of actor Robert Andrews. They were together 35 years, until Ivor’s death in 1951.
D-Day Darlings "Keep the Home Fires Burning"