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A 12-episode serial. The government of Marovania hires the wicked Boroff to manufacture a powerful gas that causes mass disintegration. Boroff is en route to Marovania with a boatload of arnatite to make the gas when his steamer runs aground off the California coast. Boroff soon commits a murder. The Coast Guard, led by Lt. Terry Kent, must hunt Boroff, figure out his plan and where the arnatite is, capture and dispose of any gas Boroff manages to make, and protect the safety of civilians, including Terry's special friend, ubiquitous reporter Jean Norman, and her chatty photographer, Snapper McGee. Aiding Boroff is his slave Thorg, a formidable giant. Kent must often use his fists. Written by
Bela Lugosi's illness prevented him from finishing the 1936 Republic feature "House of a Thousand Candles," so he completed his one-picture Republic contract with this 12 chapter serial, his only screen role during the full two year horror ban. See more »
"S.O.S. Coast Guard" benefits from the casting of Bela Lugosi as the chief villain. He adds a certain menace that only he can provide, what with that thick Hungarian accent and his patented menacing stare.
Coast Guard Lt. Terry Kent (Ralph Byrd) discovers that the evil Boroff (Lugosi) has developed a deadly disintegrating gas which he hopes to sell to a foreign power (in this case, "Morovania"). The key component of the gas, an element known as "arnatite" is being smuggled aboard the freighter "Carfax" to Boroff's hideout. En route the ship runs into a storm and runs aground.
News reporter Jean Norman (Maxine Doyle) and her photographer Snapper McGee (Lee Ford) recognize the fleeing Boroff. While escaping, Boroff is pursued by Terry's brother Jim (Thomas Carr) who is murdered by Boroff. Terry vows to avenge his brother.
Meanwhile, in order to hide the evidence of the arnadite, Boroff sends his hulking mute henchman, Thorg (Richard Alexander) to cut the cables securing the distressed vessel. The ship then sinks. Boroff enlists scientist Rickerby (John Picorri) to manufacture the deadly gas.
Boroff has Thorg dive to the sunken ship to recover the arnadite. This leads to several death defying encounters between Terry and Thorg. Eventually Boroff is able to manufacture his gas and moves to ship it. Again and again Terry thwarts his efforts. Finally Terry and the Coast Guard bring the villains to justice in the final chapter, as we knew he would.
I believe that this was the first time Republic Pictures used that "melting/disintegration" special effect. You can see variations of this effect in several of their subsequent serials.
Others in the cast include Herbert Rawlinson as Terry's commanding officer, George Chesboro, Carleton Young and in an early serial villain role, Roy Barcroft as Boroff's henchmen.
It's interesting to note that the name "Boroff" is a contraction of the name BORis KarlOFF. The name of the ship, "Carfax" is the same as the name of the abbey Lugosi as Dracula rented (i.e. "Carfax Abbey")in "Dracula" (1931). Coincidence? Who knows?
Ralph Byrd would go on to portray comic strip detective "Dick Tracy" in three Republic serials, a role with which he would be identified for the rest of his career.
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