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

Thursday, June 16, 2011

THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1934) -- Revisited

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

Professor Hargrave (James Durkin) and Dr. Bashan (John Davidson) are after the same prize: a secret formula to a gas created by "Confu" that once destroyed ancient civilizations. The formula is written on a disk or medallion that is in two separate pieces. Bashan wants the formula so he can control the world, while Hargrave's motives are a bit fuzzier. Pauline (Evalyn Knapp) is Hargrave's plucky daughter, who is falling for Robert Warde (Robert Allen aka Craig Reynolds aka Hugh Enfield), an engineer who is helping the professor. This globe-trotting adventure begins with a revolution in China and moves to underground treasure chambers in Borneo, a hotel in Singapore, a temple in India, and the Egyptian wing of a museum in New York City. Highlights include the trapdoor that plunges Pauline and Bob into a pit filled with water, and when the two are caught in a fiery, collapsing building. Perhaps the best sequence takes place in Singapore when Pauline has a cat fight with Bashan's vicious female ally and she and Bob wind up falling off a balcony into the hotel's special attraction, a pool full of sharks! The actors are all professional, but Davidson, with his great, commanding voice, is a cast stand-out, as is Sonny Raye, who is often hilarious as the professor's nervous nelly and very excitable secretary. Busy serial actor Frank Lankteen is cast as Bashan's associate, Fang. Allen/Reynolds had a long career; he was also in The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry. Davidson had an even longer career, beginning with silents, and appeared in several serials. Kanpp appeared in films from 1929 - 1943.

Verdict: Action-packed serial fun. ***.

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