Sharkey, animal handler for the Maitland Circus, is jealous of the success of star animal tamer Clyde Beatty - murderously so, as he has once surreptitiously permitted a hungry lion to be prematurely freed in a cage with Clyde, who escapes being mauled by the skin of his teeth. Clyde and his buddy, circus PR Man Larry Henderson, determine to take the maiden flight of a trans-Pacific dirigible, stopping off in India to collect tigers and Africa to collect lions, bring them back and have a novelty mixed-feline act;and take Sharkey along, unaware of the extent of his malice...
Running Time: 68 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: PG
This serial doesn't appear to be well liked, but I have to admit to a fondness for any serial with a good gimmick. I loved the Houdini serial THE MASTER MYSTERY because they allowed him to use the cliffhangers as excuses to do his escape routines, and this one allows Beatty to use his animal-taming tactics. The fantastic aspects here are the island itself (it was supposedly part of a strip of land that connected Africa and Asia, thus explaining the existence of wildly divergent species such as lions, tigers and bears) and Beatty's hypnotic powers that will cause tigers to lie down. Syd Saylor is the comic relief cowardly sidekick who threatens to become annoying (he has a scared reaction that involves a bobbing bowtie and rolling eyes that is more bizarre than funny), but fortunately he doesn't overdo his bit and actually proves to be fairly useful on occasions. The movie also has a cast of characters that I can actually tell apart, which is pretty rare for a serial. All the animals are real with the exception of the gorilla (which is a man in a suit), and I couldn't help but note the irony that this becomes the only animal that Clyde actually kills during the course of the serial. It's not great, but for a Mascot serial, it's better than average.
I'm not going to criticize the movie. There isn't that much to talk about. It has good animal actions scenes which were probably pretty astonishing at the time. Clyde Beatty isn't exactly a matinée idol. He's a little slight and not particularly good looking. But that's OK. He's the man in that lion cage. We know that when he can't take the time away from his lions to tend to his girlfriend, he will end up on an island with her and have to save the day. Someone said earlier that it is a history lesson. The scenes at the circus are of another day, especially the kids who hang around. I didn't realize that even back in the thirties, they sailed on three masted schooners. It looked like something out of 1860. I guess that's the stock footage they had. No wonder the thing got wrecked. They're always talking about fixing her up. There's even a dirigible. It tells us a little about male female relationships at the time, a kind of giggly silliness. But if you don't take it too seriously, you can have fun watching it.
Sherman L. Lowe
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