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

Thursday, May 15, 2008

SECRET AGENT X-9 (1945)


SECRET AGENT X-9 (1945). 13 chapter Universal serial. Directed by Ray Taylor and Lewis D. Collins.

This is the second serial adapted from the comic strip "Secret Agent X-9." The action takes place mostly on Shadow Island, “the only neutral territory in Asia,” during World War 2. The villainess is not some sexy Asian doll, but is made up to be a plain-faced, skulking, matronly type named Nabura [Victoria Horne, who is at least a good actress]; the heroine, Jan Wiley, is rather luscious, however. (Wiley was also in Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. and She-Wolf of London.) Lloyd Bridges was never much of an actor, and he makes one of the least memorable serial heroes of all time. Smirking his way through all thirteen chapters, he seems less dashing than disinterested, and is simply not cut from the heroic mold. Keye Luke, however, is notable as a suitably brave Chinese agent. A scene with a moving floor is more comical than thrilling; in fact, the serial on a whole is rather dull, slow and almost pitiful in spots, definitely not a high point in chapterplay history. Universal may have turned out some of the worst cliffhanger serials of all (although there were exceptions). This one just lacks punch, although the theme music is gripping and terrific.

Verdict: Too bad everything else is so blah. *1/2.

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