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

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Khan (Jan Arvan) confers with Trader Tom ( Harry Lauter)
TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS (12 chapter Republic serial/1954). Director: Franklin Adreon.

In what is supposed to be the China seas but looks more like the coast of California, Trader Tom (Harry Lauter) is importuned to take over from a murdered special agent, James Dean (William Hudson), who was investigating smugglers who are trying to foment revolution in an Asian country by stirring up the natives; the leader of these bad guys is Tarent (Lyle Talbot, as professional and bland as ever). Captain's daughter Vivian (Aline Towne) joins with Tom to discover Tarent's hide-out and secret cache of munitions, which includes a deadly poison gas. The interesting thing about this serial is that Tom and Vivian are equal partners; she's just as brave as he is and just as likely to pull out a gun and start shooting at everyone, and Tom just seems to take it as a matter of course. When the action doesn't take place at sea or underwater -- in chapter three Tom must fight off a fat murderous fellow as his air supply is running out -- it's in the mythical country where Tom has a secret meeting with the leader Khan (Jan Arvan). This is one of the last of the Republic serials, and it's as smooth, fast-paced and entertaining as most of their product, if decidedly on the minor side. "Handsome" Harry Lauter is fine as the hero, Towne is game for anything, and Robert Shayne, Tom Steele, and Victor Sen Yung are also in the cast. Lauter had about a zillion credits and Towne was also busy, appearing in such serials as Don Daredevil Rides Again and Radar Men from the Moon.

Verdict: Standard Republic serial is nevertheless fun. **1/2.

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