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

Thursday, March 24, 2016


KING OF THE CARNIVAL (12 chapter Republic serial/1955). Director: Franklin Adreon.

Bert King (Harry Lauter) is a former paratrooper who is now a high-wire trapeze artist with a circus run by Jess Carter (Robert Shayne), who is also the ringmaster. His former army buddy and fellow paratrooper Art Kerr (Rick Vallin), now an agent with the Department of the Treasury, has tracked down a gang of counterfeiters to the circus and environs. Art sort of deputizes both Bert and his partner, June (Fran Bennett), to help with the investigation and spy on suspicious characters within the circus. The HQ of the gang is in a water-tight compartment on what appears to be a sunken ship, with gang members entering through a water lock. Although he is not the big boss -- there is little attempt to disguise his identity -- a foreign agent named Zorn (Gregory Gaye) is the one who manufacturers the counterfeit bills, with which he hopes to flood Europe. There are some decent cliffhangers involving high-wire performers dangling over a circle of lions, and a bit with a rushing train, as well as a good mid-chapter sequence with a gasoline fire on a water tank. Much of the serial was cobbled together from stock footage, but it still manages to be entertaining -- Adreon's direction is snappy and fast-paced -- although it does become a little tedious towards the end. Lauter and Shayne are fine, although Fran Bennett, mostly a TV actress, has a somewhat flat delivery. Robert Clarke, Stuart Whitman, and Tom Steele have smaller roles. This was the last Republic serial ever made.

Verdict: Handsome Harry handles the hoodlums! **1/2.

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