A Secret Service agent searches the jungle for his missing brother, also an agent. He encounters a young woman there who is also searching, but for her missing father. They encounter a gang...
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A Secret Service agent searches the jungle for his missing brother, also an agent. He encounters a young woman there who is also searching, but for her missing father. They encounter a gang of ivory smugglers who hold a prisoner who knows the secrets of the missing people and a lost treasure. The pair are also menaced by a giant gorilla which guards the temple which is the smugglers' lair.Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
As each chapter of the "part talking" version began, it looked like a typical silent film with title cards. It was accompanied by synchronized sound effects and music recorded on large discs similar to record albums. In the middle of each chapter there are several segments where the title cards stop and a full dialog sequence commences. After a few minutes the dialog on the audio stopped and the title cards resumed - again accompanied by just music and effects. This was one of several techniques used in the late 1920's for making films that were not fully a talkie and not fully a silent either. The "sound on disc" system quickly fell out of favor for "sound on film" which provided better synchronization of the dialog with the video. See more »
If you've read the 'Trivia' section about this film, you'll know that it's a real curio a serial shot as a partial silent and a partial talkie. The dialogue track is not currently available and so the version I've seen is with musical soundtrack only. Unfortunately, there are plenty of lengthy 'talkie' scenes that leave vital plot points fairly obscure and turn the viewing experience into somewhat of an endurance test.
Larry Trent (Walter Miller) is sent to Africa to arrest a gang of ivory poachers by the British Secret Service. He's also trying to find the last agent sent there, who also happens to be his brother. There, he hooks up with Diana Martin (Jacqueline Logan) who is looking for her father. Together they become involved in the search for a cache of gems hidden in the ruined city of Nuhalla. The jewels are also a target of the poachers, led by Scarface Macklin (Boris Karloff), Jack Drake (Larry Steers) and an intelligent gorilla!
It's easy to point out the factual inaccuracies in this; after all, the title itself is a fine example of accurate spelling being sacrificed in the name of commerce. Additionally, our hero is a positive magnet for big cats in search of a free lunch and these include a rather frisky tiger. A similar refugee from India would seem to be the heroine's elephant (perhaps the two animals escaped from some travelling circus together?) To add to this strange menagerie, a dinosaur guards the treasure! This is actually not a bad trick shot for the time, with a real lizard blown up and put in the same frame as the actors. However, it is just the one shot endlessly repeated and it disappears completely in the later chapters.
The plot probably wouldn't stand up to close scrutiny even if the dialogue were available and soon degenerates into lots of running around a ruined temple, captures and escapes, etc. There is also a surprising (but completely ludicrous) twist toward the end which does nothing for its' credibility. The acting is perfunctory at best, although at least the cast avoid the most exaggerated mannerisms of the silent era. Karloff is, of course, the pick of the bunch but a completely static camera does little to enhance his performance. Director Richard Thorpe actually went on to have a long career in movies that included some of the Weismuller Tarzans and Jailhouse Rock with Elvis Presley.
In all fairness, obviously this was pretty small budget stuff at the time and the absence of the dialogue probably renders a harsher verdict than might otherwise be given. Enjoyable moments are few and far between but an early sequence is a highlight. On hearing that Diana has left for the ruined city, our hero wastes no time in pursuing her into the jungle. Alone, with only a pistol, no map, no guide and no food or water!
One last thought though. This obscure serial may have had a lasting effect on cinema, after all. I can't help but wonder if a certain couple of movie producers might have seen it in the late twenties and got some inspiration from it. I mean, there is an ape in it and it doesn't take a genius to rearrange the words of this title and come up with something a lot snappier and quite a bit more famous!
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