Lionel Atwill was dying from bronchial cancer when he began filming his scenes in January 1946.His fatal illness prevented him from working beyond February 4,so George Sorel filled in for him in all remaining scenes, usually with his back to the camera. See more »
This is a sad film to watch as it's star, the great Lionel Atwill died halfway through filming. Due to the disjointed way serials are filmed, Atwill is seen intermittently throughout the proceedings with another character filling in for the scenes Atwill was supposed to appear in, while a body double stands in the background or is only shown from behind. The plot concerns a search for a rare element that can be used as defense against the atomic bomb. War monger Sit Eric Hazarias (Lionel Atwill) has traced the element, dubbed Meteorium 245, to the Himilian province of Pendrang, ruled over by casino owner Indra (Helen Bennett). Hazarias fakes his own death and shows up in Pendrang as philanthropist Geoffrey London along with his secretary Malborn (John Mylong), who is secretly the real war monger, Hazarias being his beard, and they start an archaeological dig for the legendary Lost City of Pendrang as a cover for their search for Meteorium. United Peace Foundation operative Rod Stanton (Russell Hayden) arrives in Pendrang soon after having trailed Hazarias there with a two fold mission, prove London is really Hazarias and find out what he is looking for in Pendrang. Made during the final year of serial production for Universal, the plot is a rehash of the previous year's Secret Agent X-9, where two groups are in an area cut off from the rest of the world, fighting over a simple maguffin while a third party plays them off each other, while waiting to grab the prize for themselves, and a mystery man hangs around in the background occasionally giving the heroes and villains information he shouldn't really have. Most of the action is lively, though it is obviously taken from bigger budgeted feature films with new footage of the serial actors inter cut with it. The acting is pretty decent, though Hayden's side kick Keye Luke continually blows him off the screen without even trying. John Mylong is also horribly miscast as the true villain of the piece, being unable to produce a single moment of true menace in the entire serial. Atwill of course shines in every moment he is on screen, even though he is noticeably ill. He has several great moments. Chapter Four has a cat and mouse confrontation between Atwill and Hayden where Atwill plays the other man expertly and smugly lets him in on secrets without revealing anything. Chapter Eight has another of those great moments where the archaeologist Atwill has been conning reveals he knows Atwill's true identity. Atwill starts out giving an impassioned speech about trying to change his evil ways but a man's reputation always follows him, when that doesn't work he immediately drops the facade and shows his true nature by having the man tortured right there in front of him with out the barest glimmer of feeling showing on his face or in his voice. It's just business as usual for Atwill and he's the biggest selling point for viewing the film.
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