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The Perils of Pauline

USA 1934
produced by
Henry MacRae (associate) for Universal
directed by Ray Taylor
starring Evalyn Knapp, Robert Allen (= Craig Reynolds), James Durkin, John Davidson, Sonny Ray, Frank Lackteen, Pat O'Malley, William Desmond, Josef Swickard, William Worthington, Adolph Muller, James Wang, George DeNormand, Beulah Hutton, Merrill McCormick, Ethan Laidlaw
screenplay by Basil Dickey, Jack Foley, Ella O'Neill, George H. Plympton, based on a story by Charles W. Goddard

serial

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Confu's disc contains the secret for the most powerful poisonous and explosive gas, so powerful in fact that Confu has, centuries ago, broken the disc in half and hidden the two halves in two very seperate spots.

In the now (1930's that is), Professor Hargraves (James Durkin) is hellbent to find the two halves and retrieve them for the USA lest they fall into the wrong hands - namely those of villain Doctor Bashan (John Davidson). The first half, Hargraves and his party - his feisty daughter Pauline (Evalyn Knapp), his cowardly and klutzy assistant Willie Dodge (Sonny Ray) and all-American hero Robert Ward (Robert Allen) - find in a temple in China, when the revolution is at its peak turning China into a battleground.

From China it's off to Borneo, where Hargraves and his party and Bashan and his men get caught up in tribal warfare, and ultimately our heroes are only saved by aviator Sullivan (Pat O'Malley), who also gets them a quick passage to Singapore.

From Singapore it's off to India, where our group of heroes are almost slaughtered for desecrated a sacred temple, then almost fall prey to the temple's in-built traps. But in India, Hargraves finally finds the decisive clue that leads to the second half of the disc ... which is back in New York, in the Egyptian museum - just too bad that Bashan knows that as well ...

In New York, Bashan makes an attempt to get the half of the disc in the Egyptian museum as well as the other half that actually Pauline carries on her body, but to no avail, finally Hargraves gets the whole disc, translates it into English and compounds the formula - even if that sets his lab aflame when Bashan's men make another attempt. But in his friend Professor Thompson's (William Desmond) home he gets access to another lab, and this time he compounds the formula for good ... before once again Bashan's men attack, but Pauline is cool-headed enough to call the police just in time, and soon enough, Bashan's gang is overpowered, only Bashan and his lead henchman Fang (Frank Lackteen) evade the cops, but when they try to take the gas that Hargraves has compounded according to the formula with them, the container breaks and they are killed by the gas they were so hell-bent to get ...

 

Though this serial claims to be a remake of the then 20 years old Pearl White serial The Perils of Pauline (that serial's screenwriter Charles W.Goddard is even credited as story writer of this one in the on-screen credits), the two serials have little in common. While the old serial was about a fun loving woman who threw herself into one adventure after another simply because she wanted to, not knowing that there's someone out there hell-bent to kill her, in this one Pauline is little more than the (decidedly feisty and courageous) love interest for hero Paul Allen, and while the old serials hopped from genre to genre (Western, horse racing, car racing, pirates, aerial adventure, ...) with the greatest of ease, this one is firmly rooted in the tried and true adventure serial formula.

So in direct comparison, I have to admit, the 1914-version is the better serial.

However, taking the 1934-version by its own merits, it's a very entertaining adventure serial: the action hardly ever lets up, the serial features a welcome change in scenery every few chapters, the rather simplistic story is well told, and heroine Evalyn Knapp gives a fkine performance that easily outshines that of hero Robert Allen. Only Sonny Ray in the role of the scared-as-shit butler that is supposed to be comical is annoying rather than anything else, and totally unfunny as well. However, his role isn#t big enough to ruin the serial.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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