G-MEN VS. THE BLACK DRAGON (1943)
Article #1011 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2003
Posting Date: 5-19-2003
Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and William Witney
Featuring Rod Cameron, Roland Got, Constance Worth
A government does battle with the Black Dragon, an organization bent on using sabotage to aid the Japanese war effort.
You can tell this is a yellow peril serial right off the bat; the title of the first episode is “Yellow Peril”. Of course, this being a wartime serial, the peril is from Japan rather than China; in fact, the hero’s second-hand man is an agent from China.
When I started watching this one, I vowed to keep track of just how many times the serial used the most tired cliffhanger of all; i.e. the hero is seen to die in a fatal vehicular accident, and the next episode shows that he saw it coming and bailed out just in time. Of the fourteen cliffhangers here, five of them feature this cliffhanger, but fortunately, only two involve cars; two others are by plane and one is by boat. Oddly enough, I thought the score was going to be less than that, because there were so few in the first ten episodes of the serial. However, towards the end of the serial it starts becoming common; in fact, the last three cliffhangers of the serial are all of this variety.
Nonetheless, this is definitely one of the better serials I’ve seen. Part of the reason is that the villain is fairly fun, mostly because his pet raven gets into some of the action. The female member of the team of good guys actually gets in on the action, too, and isn’t there just to be rescued on occasion. The fight scenes are wonderfully staged; energetic, creative and easy to follow. All in all, this is an excellent example of the work Republic would put into their serials. And not a single episode of the fifteen succumbs to the money-saving tactic of recycling action footage from earlier in the serial.
One thing I did notice this time is there are a lot of fight scenes in warehouses. I couldn’t help but notice that in these fights, if you threw a man against against a big wooden crate (say, 6 foot by 10 foot by 3 foot), the crate will tip over. Maybe it’s just me, but I do believe a crate that size would require a lot more effort to tip over, even if it’s empty. Unless it was made of balsa wood, of course, but I don’t think they ship items in balsa. At any rate, there are a lot of crates and barrels in this one that seem awfully easy to move in comparison to their real-life counterparts.