The Red Circle (1915)

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Even as the last chapters of the Pathe serial Neal of the Navy were making the rounds in the neighborhood houses, the studio's newest chapter play The Red Circle was premiering in New York. Ruth Roland -- whose popularity as a serial queen was second only to that of Pearl White and Helen Holmes -- starred in this thickly plotted melodrama. To rid his family of the curse of the dreaded "Red Circle" (the significance of which is not fully revealed in the opening episode), a recently released criminal kills both himself and his son. Little did the criminal know that he had a daughter, played by Roland, who is likewise oblivious of the fact that she is next in line for elimination. A natural born thief, Roland's various acts of mischief arouse the attention of detective Frank Mayo, who vows to reform the girl. In so doing, he starts the ball rolling for several weeks' worth of mysterious murders, narrow escapes and sinister, heavily disguised super-criminals -- everything that made life worth living for hardcore serial fans.