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The third of Universal's three serials headlining the Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys (preceded by "Junior G-Men" and "Sea Raiders") is the 55th of Universal's sound-era serials (followed "Gang Busters" and ahead of "Overland Mail") and is the last 12-chapter serial (despite some source that lists it as 13 chapters) released by Universal; "Overland Mail" had 15 episodes while the remaining 13 serials released by Universal Pictures (none of which were ever distributed to theaters by MCA/Universal which didn't exist in the years that Universal produced serials) were all 13 episodes. This one finds the gang, Billy "Ace" Holden, "Bolts" Larson, "Stick" Munsey and "Greaseball" Plunkett working in an airplane/auto junk yard owned by Ace's father. Their truck is stolen by members of a fifth column organization, the Order of the Black Dragonfly, but when government agent Don Ames returns the recovered truck, Ace, who distrusts law men, refuses to give Ames a description of the men who ... Written by
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Chapter Titles: (1) Wings Aflame; (2) The Plunge of Peril; (3) Hidden Danger; (4) The Tunnel of Terror; (5) The Black Dragon Strikes; (6) Flaming Havoc; (7) The Death Mist; (8) Satan Fires the Fuse; (9) Satanic Sabotage; (10) Trapped in Blazing 'Chute; (11) Undeclared War; (12) Civilian Courage Conquers. See more »
When Huntz Hall, Bernard Punsly and Gabriel Dell try to hide Noel Cravat in the closet, the closet moves. See more »
The Dead End Kids vs Japanese spies, nice concept and it could have been a terrific serial. Universal did deliver some good cliffhangers like BUCK ROGERS and the FLASH GORDON franchise but generally their serials are remembered to-day as mediocre and miles behind Republic. This effort from 1942 only supports that belief.
Billy Halop is pilot-to-be "Ace" Holden and Huntz Hall is his mechanic buddy "Bolts" Larsen. By chance they discover a plot by "alien saboteurs" (as they are called by the narrator) to destroy American oil fields and airports to pave the way for an invasion. The bad guys are led by Egyptian Turhan Bey and British Lionel Atwill playing Japanese spies. The Dead End Kids don't trust the police and think they can handle this group of highly organised saboteurs on their own. If that sounds familiar it is the same plot structure as the earlier serial JUNIOR G MEN. It takes several fistfights, some explosions and a couple of car chases to convince the street kids to join up with the Junior G Men (played by the Little Tough Guys), the police and the Government agents to stop the gang.
There is plenty of action but very little suspense and the cliffhangers in many cases are just plain disappointing. The fight scenes look forced and unconvincing, At the end of chapter 6 the kids are fighting the spies in a burning warehouse. Billy Halop is kidnapped by Turhan Bey but flaming wreckage falls on the car as he tries to get away. Great right? Well in chapter 7 we see the car drive out BEFORE the ceiling collapses and Billy gets away when Turhan crashes into a streetlight. Spies fleeing from a burning garage stop to put their hats on! Want more? How about a dam explosion that looks like just what it is . . . a well built but very obvious miniature. The special effects crew did not even bother to overcrank the camera so the collapse would appear in slow motion! A few chapters like this had me howling for the much better special effects of the Lydecker Brothers over at Republic.
Oh well, we all know serials were not Universal's specialty so things like this are just fun to watch to see the Dead End Kids and the Little Tough Guys (can you tell them apart?) getting into and out of so many scrapes and actually doing a better job than the cops at rounding up the Bad Guys.
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