Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday's Favority OTR

The Lone Ranger: “The Temple of the Sun” saga 3/29/43 – 4/9/43

The Lone Ranger usually did self-contained half-hour episodes, but the show didn’t shy away from doing multi-part story arcs from time to time. There was a series of stories in which the Ranger and Tonto spent some time in San Francisco, outsmarting smugglers and dealing with an outbreak of the Plague. On another occasion, they spent four episodes helping prevent some villains from stopping construction on the Union Pacific railroad. A 6-parter from 1942 took them to the American Northwest, where they found the Ranger’s long lost nephew Dan.

A 1948 4-parter involving the Ranger escorting a piece of meteorite (needed for early atomic research) from California to the East, battling spies along the way. Another multi-part saga involved still more spies trying to get hold of the Ranger’s unique pistols—custom-made for him by Sam Colt. And in 1941-42, the Ranger and Tonto spent over 60 episodes breaking up the Legion of the Black Arrow, a group using terror and murder to set up a despotic empire in the Western territories.

The Temple of the Sun saga is yet another multi-part story arc, this one covering six episodes. What makes it notable (and a lot of fun) is the nature of the bad guy. Calling himself El Mundo (which means “The Universe” in Spanish), he’s a basically a mad scientist. He sets up shop in an ancient Mayan temple he’s discovered in a small piece of land near the Mexican border.

This particular piece of land is disputed territory, claimed by neither the U.S. nor Mexico. Safe from the law because of this, he uses a combination of murder, kidnapping and extortion to try to take over nearby ranches. His eventual goal is to establish a small nation of his own, strategically located to allow him to control trade between the States and Mexico.

El Mundo uses electricity to set up death traps in and around the temple. His minions include some outlaws who are simply working for the promise of money, but most of his followers are poor slobs he’s drugged into a zombie-like stupor after convincing them he holds the secret of immortality. His femme fatale sister Myra is equally ruthless in her efforts to further his plans.

All this makes him very different from the sort of bad guys that the Lone Ranger usually battles. El Mundo reminds me of Fu Manchu in his use of sneaky methods of employing poison or poisonous insects to do in his enemies. Then again, his death trap-filled headquarters is reminiscent of many James Bond villains.

And the uncredited actor who plays him does a great job, giving him a calm, usually emotionless voice with just a hint of a stutter at the beginning of most of his sentences. All this helps to toss just a dollop of science fiction into the Ranger’s usual Old West setting and still have it all make good story sense.

The first two episodes consist of the Lone Ranger finding out about El Mundo and finding his headquarters. He and Tonto fight or think their way out of some death traps and make a getaway, but because the HQ is in the disputed territory, the Ranger can’t simply call in a posse or the Army, as there’s no legal authority in place there.

So the Ranger spends the next few episodes reacting to El Mundo’s attempts to take possession of several nearby ranches. The plot construction here is particularly good—all the various good guys have their moments. The Ranger gets plenty of opportunities to be heroic, but it’s Tonto—using his knowledge of Indian medicine—who whips up an antidote to El Mundo’s stupor-inducing drug. The Ranger’s nephew Dan outsmarts some kidnappers at one point, while the local sheriff finds a clue that proves El Mundo has framed an innocent man for murder.

Finally, a frustrated El Mundo manages to capture Dan and force the Ranger to return to the ancient temple headquarters. This all leads up to an explosive and satisfying conclusion.

It’s a very unusual Lone Ranger story, but that just adds to its overall appeal. With Brace Beamer’s authoritative portrayal of the Ranger backed up by the show’s typically superb sound effects and production values, this story arc is as entertaining as it is memorable.

Click HERE for the first episode in the story arc.

The remaining episodes are included on THIS PAGE.

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