Columbia's 12th serial of 57 total (following 1940's "Deadwood Dick" and ahead of 1941's "White Eagle") is another of director's James Horne's "classics" where he evidently figured that the... See full summary »
Columbia's 12th serial of 57 total (following 1940's "Deadwood Dick" and ahead of 1941's "White Eagle") is another of director's James Horne's "classics" where he evidently figured that the same reactions that served him well in Laurel and Hardy films would work well in action serials where he has all hands, heroes and villains alike, doing some kind of over-the top "take", no matter the situation. This loose adaptation of an Edgar Wallace story finds Michael Bellamy (Kenne Duncan in his Kenneth Duncan period) inheriting Garr Castle, but his brother, Abel Bellamy (James Craven, as usual making Oil-Can Harry look smooth), has him imprisoned unjustly and moves into the castle himself. When Michael's wife, Elaine Bellamy (Dorothy Fay), fails to return after visiting Abel, her sister Valerie Howett (Iris Meredith), accompanied by their father, Parker Howett (Forrest Taylor) and private detective Spike Holland (Victor Jory, who even when playing the lead hero gets a villain's name), rent ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
This is a pretty unusual serial. It took me two tries to get into it, but then I was hooked. The plot is no more than perfunctory and seems like it was stitched together out of random clichés as the writers went along, but a few episodes in things take a truly delightful turn into the bizarre. It feels as if the writer, director, and/or cast began to feel bored by the tripe they were enacting and decided to have some fun with it. The supposedly diabolical mastermind suddenly seems like the headmaster at a school for painfully inept crooks, constantly bemused but tolerant of his incompetent charges, and the cliffhangers and action sequences begin to feel like big jokes. My favorite shot: the hero is trapped in one of those rooms that slowly fill with water and the villain, after setting the trap in motion, turns to his cohort with a shrug and a wry grin that seems to say "The old flooded room trick again --- well, what're ya gonna do?" Unfortunately the serial runs out of steam towards the end and falls back on the usual tired hi-jinks, but for a while it's a delight.
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