Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Dog Sidekick and a Killer Gorilla for a Pet. It HAS to be Awesome.

As of the day I'm writing this (about six weeks before it is scheduled to post), I have just watched the first chapter of the 1942 Republic serial The Perils of Nyoka. Normally, I'd wait until I've watched the entire serial--at the legally and morally prescribed one chapter per day--before writing about it. But the first chapter alone is so Awesomely Awesome with an Awesome filling & covered in Awesome Sauce, that I simply can't wait.

Perils is sort of a sequel to 1941's Jungle Girl, which starred Frances Gifford as Nyoka Meredith in a story that claimed to be based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, but pretty much just took the title and went its own way.

For the sequel, the name Nyoka was reused, but this character has a different last name (Gordon) and is played by a different actress (Kay Aldridge). This Nyoka has been living in the desert since her scientist father was supposedly killed during an expedition. She's convinced he's still alive and is searching endlessly for her. Along the way, she's gained the loyalty of a band of friendly Arabs and is accompanied by Fang, the world's coolest dog.

Well, there's another expedition coming into the desert, looking for the lost treasure of Hippocrates. The good guys want the treasure because it includes golden scrolls that record a cure for cancer. The bad guys--led by the beautiful but evil Vultura--want the treasure because... well, because the golden scrolls are made of gold. Vultura, by the way, is a great villainess. Played by Lorna Gray, she exudes both intelligence and evil. She also keeps a killer gorilla as a pet, which I now believe should be a standard practice for all villains.

As is typical of most serials, the opening chapter runs about a half-hour. The script does an excellent job of
succinctly explaining the plot, then tossing us into the action. The good guys have a papyrus that will lead them to the treasure, but only Nyoka can translate it since her dad was an expert on this particular dead language. Vultura has Nyoka kidnapped, but Fang helps the girl escape.

Therre's a murder, an ambush, and a pitched gun battle, which all results in Vultura getting the papyrus--though she no longer has Nyoka handy to translate it. The finale involves Nyoka and Dr. Larry Grayson (played by future Lone Ranger Clayton Moore) infiltrating Vultura's base to get the papyrus back. This leads to an energetic and magnificently choreographed sword fight and a cliffhanger that involves a collapsing ceiling.

I wonder what year in medical school is it that they teach you to sword fight three thugs at the same time? Or is that covered in Pre-Med?

It was an Awesome half-hour from start to finish, with the sword fight being one of the most entertaining battles I've ever watched. Though I've only watched Chapter One so far (and I've never watched this particular serial before), I'm going out on a limb to say this is one of the best serials ever.

The following clip shows two scenes from the first chapter.

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