This American movie serial from January 1919 starred Harry Houdini in his first major screen role. He played Quentin Locke, who worked for a patent company while secretly investigating it for the government. The company bought up inventions and refused to market them. Brent, the president of the company, has started to repent, but Balcom, the vice-president, vies for control of the company.
After a mysterious threat, Brent is poisoned by gas that induces madness, and the company is menaced by an automaton with a human brain inside, created by the mysterious "Q". Much of it is an excuse for the hero to get captured and escape a lot, showcasing Houdini's talents.
The existing parts of the serial were released on DVD in 2008 by Kino Video, along with all of Houdini's other existing films.
This serial has examples of:
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Balcom
- HeelFace Turn: Zita
- James Bondage
- Killer Robot (that turns out to be Powered Armor)
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Q, of both Zita and Locke.
- Mad Scientist: Q, though he became a scientist before he was driven mad by the loss of his family. Also subverted in that his Automaton doesn't actually work.
- Meaningful Name: Houdini's character is named Locke.
- Missing Episode: Several serial chapters no longer exist.
- Mysterious Benefactor
- Mysterious Parent
- Non-Actor Vehicle
- Not Using the Zed Word: Sort of — the Automaton was called that because this serial appeared before the invention of the word "robot" in 1921.
- Novelization: So old it's in the public domain, so you can get it at Project Gutenberg.
- Public-Domain Character: All of 'em.
- Secret Identity: Balcom in the automaton.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Houdini was constantly put into situations which required escape artist skills to survive.
- Yellow Peril: Long Fang