Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


MANHUNT OF MYSTERY ISLAND (15 chapter Republic serial/1945). Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Wallace A. Grissell and Yakima Canutt.

With the aid of criminologist Lance Reardon (Richard Bailey), the quick-on-the-trigger Claire Forrest (Linda Stirling) searches Mystery Island for her father, Professor Forrest (Forrest Taylor), who has been kidnapped by the self-styled modern-day pirate, Captain Mephisto (Roy Barcroft). We learn early on that the villain not only models himself after a long-dead pirate, but alters his appearance to resemble him with the aid of an electronic transformation machine. In reality, Mephisto is one of the four owners of Mystery island, and the serial keeps you guessing throughout as to which of the four it might be. There are cliffhangers involving disruptor guns, gas-filled rooms under trapdoors, a descending wine press, a flooded tunnel, and a collapsing suspension bridge. Most memorable is our hero clinging to a fire hose that Mephisto tries to cut after flinging him out of a skyscraper! Then there's a great, protracted battle between Mephisto and Reardon in chapter eleven, and a bit with an out of control plane in chapter fourteen. Although Barcroft, frankly, doesn't play with as much gusto as you might like, Manhunt of Mystery Island is still entertaining and thrilling stuff.

Verdict: One of the best serials put out by Republic or any other studio. ***1/2.


Neil A Russell said...

One of the things I loved about this serial was the way the character Claire was an active participant in the shooting, fighting, and general rear end kicking just like the main character.
Usually the leading lady in these things stood around and chewed her knuckle while a fight was going on.
Not Claire, she'd grab up one of those old S&W M&Ps and start chopping away.

William said...

Yes, you're right, she was a very active participant -- absolutely no hesitation or squeamishness on her part -- but we can expect nothing less of the "Tiger Woman" herself!