Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Perils Of Pauline!

The Perils of Pauline is a 1933 serial which purports to be a remake of the silent classic. It's a pretty decent serial from Universal pictures, filled with action, a lovely girl, and lots and lots of scene changes.

The action begins in and around Borneo somewhere in a city which is undergoing a revolution. With bomb blasts resounding everywhere we meet our cast, Pauline Hargrave and her dad Professor Hargrave who are trying to find a sacred disk which has inscribed upon it a secret formula for a lethal gas which according to legend wiped out many an ancient culture. They are opposed by Dr.Bashan and his henchmen, especially one tough buzzard named Fang. The Hargraves are helped by engineer and all-around nice guy Robert Ward, and comedy is supplied by Hargrave's valet Willie Dodge.

This basic ensemble head into the jungle and tangle with natives for several chapters, then find one half of the disk in a temple which is as much fitted out with Egyptian designs as anything else. Then after many hectic installments where Pauline does indeed face assorted perils alongside her new protector Ward, the scene shifts to India for a chapter and then ultimately to New York to wrap things up.

Evalyn Knapp who plays the titular lead is a pretty girl and looks quite fetching in a few scenes here and there as she tumbles through the plot, always being perky and ignoring pleas for her to remain where it's safe. Craig Reynolds is a dandy hero, who does become something of a plant as the story rolls around him. It's not his fault really as he's only ever asked to dive in and save the girl or her dad or both time after time.

Bashan & Fang

The show is almost stolen in the first several chapters by Fang, played by Frank Lacksteen, and this is a henchman for the ages. He suffers more than Pauline does by a longshot, but he keeps going, trying to do Dr.Bashan's will at all times. He's a tough looking fellow and perhaps the most interesting face in the film. Bashan played by John Davidson is a worthy villain, but seems a bit too passive at key times to really appear to be a true threat to our heroes. The demise of these two is a great bit of movie making, that I will assert.

All in all this is a passably entertaining movie, neatly long but not too long. The NYC stuff gets a bit tiresome before it closes, but that's because the producers seemed intent on using every random scrap of film they got their hands on to compose threats. Lots of stock footage in this one, but that's typical for a serial.

For a few bucks this is one to look out for.

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