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1941: Because his country is on the brink of entering World War II,
American ace pilot Jack Martin (Tom Brown) in China is bitten by the
patriotic bug and wants to return to the USA to train fighter pilots and,
if necessary, join the war himself. But his friend General Kai Ling
(Sidney Toler) persuades him to fly one last mission ... and fetch his
excellency Mah Ling (Cyril Delevanti) of Mandon, one of the very few men who knows
the location of a secret supply route from India to China that would give
China another lifeline in their losing war against the Japanes ... and how
could Jack refuse such a request ?
And soon enough, Jack, together with Captain Wing (Keye Luke), Tommy
(Edgar Barrier) and his sister Janet (Marjorie Lord) and their friend,
foreign correspondent Gertrude Müller (Rose Hobart) are off to fetch Mah
Lin, along with his servant Wu Tan (Philip Ahn). Soon though, they have to
realize that a Japanese organisation called the Black Samurai is
also after Mah Lin's secret, and if they don't get it, they want to at
least kill Mah Lin, so China can't profit from it either. And as if that
wasn't bad enough, the Black Samurai's leader, the German Fräulein
von Teufel is amongst Jack's entourage ... it's Gertrude Müller,
somehow her name does seem to give her away ...
What further complicates matters is that Mah Lin won't give the secret
of the route to India away just like that, he first wants China, Great
Britain (then still making the Indian policy) and the USA to guarantee
that they won't continue to use the route after the war so his province
will be secured its isolated but peaceful state.
So first, our heroes are off to Chungking, which is presently bombarded
by the Japanese, then to Hong Kong, where no stone is left unturned by the
Black Samurai to abduct or kill Mah Lin, then everybody flies off
to Honolulu ... but the plane is shot out of the sky by a Japanese sub.
Somehow though, Jack and his friends manage to take over the sub ... where
Jack has to learn the Japs are planning to attack Pearl Harbour
unannounced and drag the USA into the war. Desperately, Jack tries to warn
the proper authorities, but first, the radio on the sub is broken, then an
American battleship Jack hitchhikes turns out to be overtaken by the
Japanese, and when he finally gets through to America, he has to learn he
comes too late ...
But still, he has managed to bring Mah Lin here ... unfortunately his
signing of the last papers with the USA that would finally prompt him to
reveal his secret is delayed a bit too long, and once again, the Black
Samurai kidnap him ... and this time he is even killed, just before Jack
can save him - but at least he can tell Jack whom to turn to for the
secret (even if that means going all the way back to China). But
unfortunately, Fräulein von Teufel (good old Gertrude) has tampered with
some evidence quite a bit so it looks as if Jack personally has shot Mah
Lin ... and he can escape his own arrest only just.
Only later can he prove his innocence, but now it's back to China to
get the secret of the route to India from Mandon's holyman Lo San (Nigel
de Brulier), the only other man who knows the secret ... but of
course, the Black Samurai are hot on Jeck's trail and even plant evidence
on him that he has killed Mah Lin after all - so Jack has to go through
one of these test of the gods to prove his innocence, and play the
perfect decoy for the Black Samurai, until he finally finds out that
Fräulein von Teufel is his very good friend Gertrude Müller. But Miss
Müller has already trapped him and all of his friends in a basement
that's about to be bombarded ... just too bad the bombardment starts half
an hour early (because these Japs want to get rid of Fräulein von Teufel,
actually), and in the end it's only her who dies in the basement, while
Jack could free himself and his friends just in time, and with the secret
of the route to India, he gives China another lifeline.
First things first: Of course, Adventures of Smilin' Jack is
blunt and shameless army propaganda in the light of the Second World War,
no two ways about it. The outcome however is a lively and fast paced
serial that keeps the action on a high level - both in terms of quality
and of quantity, and does benefit from some cleverly inserted real life
war footage. That all said, it's hardly the best serial ever, or even
remotely great, it's just good entertainment, if you are in the serial