The Mysterious Pilot (1937)
- Summaries (2)
The second of Columbia's serials (between "Jungle Menace" and "The Secret of Treasure Island"), and all of the first three were outside productions from Louis Weiss, with the remaining 54 serials being in-house assigned to various Columbia contractee producers. While this one is basically filled with canoes chasing canoes down the river, and air-plane crashes galore (at least 10 times in 15 chapters), it is heads and shoulders above the three serials Weiss produced for Stage and Screen Distribution in 1935-36. All three of the Weiss-produced serials for Columbia, while padded beyond the needs of the story line, make more sense logically than the majority of the Larry Darmour serials directed by James W. Horne. Nowhere near as much fun to watch, though. While it had been over two years since the Weiss-Merrick crew had made a serial, they still managed to populate this cast with nearly every player that had appeared in their "Stage and Screen" serials. Esther Ralston, billed 3rd in the cast as Vivian McNain, played Dorothy Sebastian's step-mother (looking ten years younger than Sebastian), did not appear until Chapter 10, "Whirlpool of Death", and promptly fell out of sight a couple of chapters later. The lead was played by famous American aviator Frank Hawks, billed above the title and all the posters as Captain Frank Hawks. In June 1933, he had flown non-stop across the USA in 13 and a half hours, four hours faster than the previous record, which he also held. While acknowledged as one of the best flyers around, he was also something of a daredevil and risk-taker who managed to kill himself a few months after the completion of this film by crashing a non-commercial aircraft he was flying. The source novel, barely, for this was a book about Hawks by William Byron Mallory called "The Silver Hawk" (the name of Hawk's airplane.) It opens on a train traveling through the Canadian wilds, when Jean McNain overhears a conversation in the next compartment where James Crawford accuses Carter Snowden, her "host" and potential fiancé of murder. Snowden promptly dispatches Crawford. More than a little alarmed, Jean slips off the train at Titan Pass. For the next 14 chapters, Snowden's henchmen are after Jean, for not only can she identify him as a killer, she also co-owns, with her step-mother Vivian McNain, a thriving lumber company Snowden covets, and, all else aside, he still wants to marry her as he figures her beauty can be of great value to him in his forthcoming political campaign.(He should have been looking in the direction of the step-mother who was better looking, available and willing, and filled with a little larceny herself.) Snowden is truly a man with many irons in the fire. Jean encounters Jim Dorn, a cartographer for the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the rest of the serial concerns the efforts of Dorn, RCMP Sergeant "Kansas" Eby and Indian Luke to keep Jean out of the hands of Snowden's minions. They lose her about every-other chapter (called Acts in this serial) but get her back in the next one, while Snowden hirelings James 'Soft Shoe' Cardigan, Kilgour, Carlson and Yoroslof take turns screwing up Snowden's best-laid plans. Late in the film, Snowden announces to some of his hired hands that he has become a believer in the axiom that if you want something done right, then you need to do it yourself. He puts this to the test in Act 15, "Retribution", and crashes and burns for his efforts. The video version is about 45 minutes shorter than the original theatre version, where Hawks gives flying lessons to some kid at the end of each chapter... uh... Act.
A 15-episode serial in which our hero, Jim Dorn helps hide Jean McNain from a man she can implicate in a murder.
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