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

Thursday, December 27, 2012


HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (12 chapter Republic serial/1938). Directors: John English; William Witney.

Lincoln Rand (Lane Chandler) and his wife and baby set sail in hopes of finding a lost race from which the American Indians may have descended on an island north of the Arctic circle. Land and his wife are lost during a storm while their baby boy is raised on the aforementioned island by a faithful retainer. Decades later Dr. Munro (Tom Chatterton), his daughter Beth (Jill Martin AKA Harley Wood), and others -- including a gang of cutthroat sailors hoping to find treasure -- mount a new voyage to the island wherein they discover that the son of Lincoln Rand is a strapping loin-clothed man named Kioga (Herman Brix AKA Bruce Bennett). The natives on the island aren't too crazy about Kioga or his handsome buddy Kias (Mala), and the sailors prove to be treacherous at every turn as well. As serials go, Hawk of the Wilderness is mediocre, with mostly unexceptional cliffhangers, colorless villains, and a fairly bland cast. Harley Wood is so plain (by Hollywood standards) that when you first see her you think she's the middle-aged Dr. Munro's wife and not his daughter, and her acting isn't so hot, either. Brix is a touch stiff as Kioga; he appeared in a number of serials -- Daredevils of the Red Circle is one of the better ones -- but made more of a mark as "Bruce Bennett" in more prestigious Hollywood productions such as Mildred Pierce. Fred Toones, AKA "Snowflake" is hard to watch as he plays the stereotypical stupid and cowardly "negro" of the past., but "Tuffy" turns in a good performance as Tawnee the courageous dog. The final chapter, set in credible caverns inside the Valley of Skulls, is exciting, but a serial needs more than one good chapter to succeed. 

Verdict: Even Republic studios is allowed an occasional stinker. **.

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