ACE DRUMMOND (1936)
Article #775 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-29-2003
Posting Date: 9-26-2003
Directed by Ford Beebe and Cliff Smith
Featuring John King, Jean Rogers, Noah Beery Jr.
A mysterious criminal known as the Dragon is sabotaging an airline company trying to open an airport in Mongolia, and Ace Drummond is called in to investigate.
There’s a radio station in our area that they play at work; it claims to repeat no songs from nine to five on weekdays, so you can listen the whole day and not hear the same song twice. That’s all well and good; however, what they don’t tell you is that each day of the week they play all the same songs they did the previous day, usually in the same order. As far as I’m concerned, this makes them predictable and dull.
What does this have to do with serials? Well, some serials are like that; each episode is just like the last one, and if you were to take all but the first and last episodes of some serials, toss them in a box and pull them out at random, you might find that it wouldn’t make any difference which order you watched them. If anything, I’ve grown to appreciate those that don’t suffer from this problem. Fortunately, this is one of those where the order of the episodes makes a difference, and there is a decent variety between the episodes; it doesn’t just repeat the same thing over and over again.
I also like some other aspects of this one; the characters are differentiated from each other well enough so that you can keep track of them (though Lon Chaney Jr. has been consigned to a truly forgettable henchman role), and the opening of each episode (in which the plot so far is updated via a series of pictures drawn in comic-strip fashion, which is fitting for a serial based on a comic strip). The identity of the villain remains a closely guarded secret, though if you watch carefully during the last episode, you just might figure out who it is several minutes before it is actually revealed. Also, the villain has a somewhat clever way of transmitting his messages (via prayer wheels, water wheels, electric fans; basically any object that does circular revolutions). Their are several light science-fiction touches throughout, the music is quite nice (though I do wish our hero would learn more than one song), and some quite fun moments. It’s not quite up there with GANG BUSTERS, but it’s world’s better than QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE, so I certainly can’t complain.