OFFICER 444 (1926)
Article #512 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 8-9-2002
Posting date: 1-2-2003
A police officer is on the trail of an arch-villain known as The Frog, who is harboring a stolen chemical known as Haverlyite.
The opening episode of this Ben Wilson serial is quite thrilling; it involves our hero bravely saving people from a large warehouse on fire. However, from the second episode onward this serial gets incredibly muddled; I have the worst time just telling the characters apart. The Frog himself is hardly very threatening; he is hunched over, walks sideways, and swings his arms back and forth in a matter for more likely to elicit laughs than fear. There are also unnecessary characters; in particular one of the villain’s gang, a woman known as “The Vulture” is introduced in every episode and described as “subtle”; I find it hard to argue with that description, as I never once noticed her doing anything that caught my attention. The serial also claimed to be trying to show the various scientific methods used by the police to catch criminals, but outside of a short sequence of the villain going through several steps in the justice system in the last chapter, and the occasional use of a lie detector throughout, I see very little evidence of this. The serial’s saving grace is its sense of humor; there are a number of quite hilarious sequences and running jokes throughout this one; my favorite running joke is the nightclub being used as a hideout by the criminals, in which the patrons are so dedicated to the muse of Terpsichore that they effectively ignore everything else going on around them.
One other bizarre aspect of this serial is the lack of gunplay; instead of shootouts between the cops and the villains, we end up with fistfights and brawls; did cops actually fight this way in the twenties? This is a weird one, to be sure.