Thursday, June 13, 2013
"They're walking into their graves and don't know it."
In 1939 on the eve of WW II, the Nazis have sent agents to the "dark continent" believing it is a necessary strategy to take over Africa, and are using "Tambosa" as their base of operations. One of the German agents is Dr. Elise Bork (Tala Birell) who runs an experimental farm, and works with another Nazi named Lang (Douglass Dumbrille). On the side of the angels are Bob Eliot (Edward Norris) and his buddy Chuck (Eddie Quillan), who go on a mission to Africa and share a plane with Pamela Courtney (Lois Collier), whom they suspect of being an imposter until they all wind up lost in the jungle after the plane crashes. The Nazis are trying to force control upon the natives, but they are less successful with a weird white queen named Lothel (Ruth Roman), who shows up unannounced to make pronouncements, give advice to the natives, and rescue the boys and Pamela; Lothel is also impervious to bullets [where the hell she came from is never explained]. Then there's the "Sword of Tangu," which has a supposed secret, and is coveted by some of the characters. This is a fairly ridiculous serial but it's often entertaining, the leads are all competent, and it has everyone from Cyril Delevanti to Cy Kendall [the untalented Charles Laughton] in the supporting cast. Pamela is nearly eaten by hungry gators and mauled by a lion, there's a volcanic eruption that sends buildings and statues toppling, and Bob is pursued by dozens of salivating crocs in a river, nearly falls into a pit of lions, and is subjected with the others to a deadly gas attack. Birell had a notable role in The Monster Maker and Collier was in Flying Disc Man from Mars and many other movies.
Verdict: For all of its flaws, it's one of the better Universal chapterplays. ***.