The Lie Detectors

Scene from Officer 444

This film clip provides the first moving picture of the modern lie detector “in action.” It comes from Officer 444, shot in 1926 on location in Berkeley, California, and written and directed by Francis Ford, the brother of John Ford. This ten-part silent movie serial starred popular screen idols Ben Wilson and Neva Gerber. In it, Vollmer played himself—“one of the world’s leading criminologists”—calmly marshaling his scientific police against a master-mind criminal who seeks to exploit science for his evil purposes. In this scene near the finale, the police extract the truth from the captured master-mind by using the “‘lieing machine’—a modern marvel of criminology, which records a crook’s guilt even while he is denying it.”