SPECIAL AGENT K-7. C.C.Burr Productions / Puritan Pictures, 1936. Walter McGrail, Queenie Smith, Irving Pichel, Donald Reed, Willy Castello, Duncan Renaldo, Joy Hodges. Based on the radio series character created (or played) by George Zimmer. Director: Bernard B. Ray (as Raymond K. Johnson).

   The espionage adventure radio series referred to appeared on the NBC network between 1932 and 1934, as I understand it. This is a long time ago, and information is hard to come by when it comes to radio this old. No copies of any of the episodes are known to exist. This movie was made in 1936 or 1937, and another radio series came along in 1939, one called Secret Agent K-7 Returns.

   This second series was carried by CBS and starred Jay Jostyn, an actor best known by OTR fans for his long-running lead role in the program Mr. District Attorney. The second series of K-& adventures lasted for 78 episodes, many of which are generally available and in circulation. See The Digital Deli website for more details.

   Any resemblance between the movie and the second radio series is next to none. In the movie, agent K-7, by name “Lanny” Landers and played by Walter McGrail, is not a spy of any kind, but an undercover agent for the FBI. Home from abroad, he’s asked to help crack down on organized crime in a city filled with hoodlums, gamblers and gangsters of all sorts.

   Most of the activity in the film takes place in and around a nightclub owned by Eddie Geller, who has just been the beneficiary of a hung jury. When he is killed in his office, it is the fiancĂ© of reporter Olive O’Day (Queenie Smith) who is the primary suspect. She, of course, asks Landers for help.

   The detective story that follows is a complicated one, with lots of suspects and false trails, as many as can be squeezed into a cramped 70 minutes worth of running time, which also includes a song by one Joy Hodges, later known for helping Ronald Reagan launch his acting career. The killer is obvious, though, from the very first moment he appears on the screen, taking the sheen off most of what follows. There are glimpses of what otherwise could have been, but “could have been” never counts for very much.