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"Ace Drummond" is a 13 Chapter serial based on the popular comic strip
of the day written by U.S. WW1 ace Eddie Rickenbacker.
The story takes place in Mongolia where International Airlines is attempting to establish a link to the orient. A criminal mastermind known as "The Dragon" is attempting to stop the airline. It seems that an archaeologist, Dr. Trainor (Montague Shaw) has discovered a mountain rich in jade and "The Dragon" feels that an international presence would foil his desire to gain control of the treasure.
"The Dragon" has developed a remote controlled "death ray" by which he brings down the International Airways planes. To the rescue comes Ace Drummond (John King) the "Flying G-Man of the Air", who it seems has a habit of bursting into song at every opportunity. A tip of the hat to the "singing cowboy" westerns, popular at the time.
Dr. Trainor is being held by "The Dragon's" men who are trying to force him to tell the location of the mountain of jade. Aiding Ace in his task of destroying the villains are Trainor's daughter Peggy (Jean Rogers), his pal Jerry (Noah Beery Jr.) and the requisite juvenile lead "Little Billy" (Jackie Morrow). Drummond also receives assistance from "The Holy One" (Guy Bates Post) and his monastery.
"The Dragon's" henchmen include such "orientals" as veterans Lon Chaney Jr., Edmund Cobb and Dick Wessel. The identity of "The Dragon" is of course, kept secret until the final chapter but suspicion falls upon members of International Airlines Board of Directors (Robert Warwick, Sam Ash, James Leong, Hooper Ashley, Selmer Jackson) and a couple of sinister archaeologist's Bauer (Fredrick Vogeding) and Wyckoff (Al Bridge) throughout the story.
Directors Ford Beebe and Cliff Smith keep the action moving and the chapter ending cliffhangers if unlikely, are at least believable. There is one instance though where Ace and Jerry are trapped in a cave-in with no way out only to have Ace turn up at the monastery in the next scene with his escape from the cave-in left unexplained.
There are some great flying sequences, whether taken from stock footage or not, that are quite well done. Love to see those vintage planes in action.
John King is probably best remembered as John "Dusty" King in the Range Buster western series from the early 40s. He also bears more than a passing resemblance to McLean Stevenson (of TV's M*A*S*H).
Jean Rogers is better known as "Dale Arden" in the first two "Flash Gordon" serials.
Noah Beery Jr. was only in his early 20s when this picture was made. He of course is the son of Noah Beery Sr. who was a popular villain of the 20s and 30s and the nephew of Wallace Beery. Beery Jr. enjoyed a long career in western character parts ending up on TV's "The Rockford Files" in the 70s.
Lon Chaney Jr. was still serving his apprenticeship in "B" movies and serials and was still five years away from his signature role as Universal's "The Wolfman (1941)".
You have to be "into" these old serials before you can really enjoy
them. It takes some work. You can't just watch it and be entertained by
the BOOM factor, like say, The Matrix. Nor will you be amazed by the
story or acting. It was an older time and a different mindset. Fans of
modern CGI will be especially displeased by the silly effects evident
here. Watching a little toy plane on a string "fall through the sky"
just doesn't make it today, but that's what they had then.
As far as these serials go, this was a pretty good one. The level two actors gave their best, and the writing was OK, but it's hard to get past those effects. If you're willing to totally suspend your disbelief, this will work for you. If you're a 21st century kid with zero tolerance, pass it up.
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