The Master Key (1914)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller  |  
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An Oriental vase contains secret directions to a rich lode of ore in the third serial from Universal, released in 15 chapters beginning November 14, 1914. After stumbling over a rich vein of gold, greedy Tom Gallon (Wilbur Higby) shoots his partner, Harry Wilkerson (Harry Carter), and flees by boat from San Francisco fully expecting to be charged with murder. Years later, Gallon, who has lost the key to a chest containing the vase in a shipwreck, is struggling along with the nagging suspicion that Wilkerson may still be alive. And, sure enough, the supposed murder victim turns up as a mine superintendent with blackmail on his mind and with a tempestuous lady friend in the person of Jean Darnell (Jean Hathaway). Enter handsome John Dore (played by director Robert Z. Leonard), a mining engineer who comes to the rescue of the inevitable damsel-in-distress, Ruth (Ella Hall), a daughter of the now-very-late Tom Gallon. The ensuing battle with the nefarious Wilkerson took John and Ruth from New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles and proved one of the early silent era's most popular pieces of serial escapism. Future leading man Jack Holt, he of the square jaw and manly physique, had one of his first opportunities as the villain's henchman.