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Zarnoff was a freelance master spy and saboteur employed by "the Three Powers" in 1939. He was the primary villain of the third Republic serial Dick Tracy's G-Men. He was played by Irving Pichel.

Zarnoff was a well-spoken man with a Van Dyke beard and mustache, and wavy hair. He was typically well-dressed and had the habit of smoking cigars. Zarnoff had many allies, connections, and safe houses all over the country.

Dick Tracy's G-Men[]

After a raid on one of his hideouts, Zarnoff was captured by Dick Tracy and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. Zarnoff managed to escape death with the help of a special drug that suspended his breathing and simulated death. His body was later recovered and revived by his minions, and he resumed his espionage activities in the United States. Zarnoff now held a grudge against Tracy for forcing him to take such extreme escape measures.

Zarnoff's schemes were varied, and ranged from blowing up a dam to smuggling bomber blueprints on specially-treated furs. He was eventually recaptured by Tracy, who tried to extradite him via airplane. Zarnoff sabotaged the plane, forcing Tracy to land in the desert and march his prisoner toward the nearest city on foot.

Exhausted and dehydrated, the men came across a small spring, where Zarnoff subdued Tracy and handcuffed him to a tree. Zarnoff forced Tracy to watch as Zarnoff drank his fill. Zarnoff then left Tracy, not noticing a nearvby fallen sign in the bushes which warned that the spring was poisoned with arsenic and unfit for drinking. Tracy found Zarnoff's body later, after an FBI agent freed him.


  • According to Max Allan Collins' introduction on the Republic Serials DVD collection, Zarnoff was based loosely on Boris Arson. Zarnoff resembles Boris in many ways: his eloquent speech, his penchant for elaborate plans and death traps, and even his appearance. Like Boris Arson, his name is also a reference to Boris Karloff (see also Gruesome).
  • The actor Irving Pichel was one of the "Hollywood Nineteen", a group of actors blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the United States' second Red Scare.