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

Monday, April 21, 2008

THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1934)


THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1934). 12 chapter Universal serial. Director: Ray Taylor.

This is a sound remake of the silent serial starring Pearl White. In this version the plucky and charming Evalyn Knapp plays Pauline Hargraves, whose father, the Professor, is determined to find the missing half of a piece of a sacred disc found in a temple. The disc contains the formula for a gas that once destroyed some ancient civilizations, but can now perhaps be used for more positive results. Unfortunately, the evil Dr. Bashan (a highly striking and effective John Davidson) and his associate Mr. Fang, want the formula for their own evil ends, and will stop at nothing to get the second half of the disc before the professor, Pauline, and handsome adventurer Bob Ward (Robert Allen) can do so. Pauline and her group have to deal with explosions, storms at sea, a hurling leopard, and a knife-wielding human tigress in twelve episodes, but the liveliest cliffhanger of all comes at the end of chapter seven. In this a hotel our heroine stays at just happens to have a shark pool [!] fed by an underground passage below her balcony. [Even the characters remark upon the illogic of this even as they try to rationalize it.] Of course Pauline and Bob wind up falling into the pool and are nearly eaten by the fish. There's a tomb full of ghostly moans and a well-executed plunge through a trap door into the water far below in chapter eight. For comedy relief there's the professor's milquetoast secretary Willie Dodge (Sonny Ray). A running joke has Dodge always saying “I'm afraid I'll have to resign my position as your secretary” after some especially harrowing mishap. The action bounces around from Shanghai to India to New York and elsewhere.

Verdict: This is a good and very entertaining chapterplay that is full of good action and lively fisticuffs. ***.

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