DARKEST AFRICA (1936)
Article #1258 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-24-2004
Posting Date: 1-21-2005
Directed by B. Reeves Eason and Joseph Kane
Featuring Clyde Beatty, Manuel King, Elaine Shepherd
An animal trainer undertakes to help a young jungle boy rescue his sister from the clutches of a power-hungry high priest from the lost city of Joba.
If my sources are correct, this was the first Republic serial, and even at this point I can see a marked improvement over the previous Clyde Beatty serial, THE LOST JUNGLE. This time the curiosity value is upped a notch by the inclusion not only of Beatty, but of Manuel King (“The Youngest Animal Trainer of All Time”) as the jungle boy. The fantastic elements are much more pronounced here, as the lost city of Joba is inhabited largely by winged flying men known as Bat Men. Watching them on the wing is actually quite a bit of fun, even if you can tell they’re obviously miniatures in some scenes (though not all) and certain flying sequences are repeated ad infinitum (spot how many times we see the same shot of a Bat Men flying away from us with leafless trees in the background). The guys playing the Bat Men don’t get credited by name, though; they are listed simply as Bat Men in the credits. For that matter, neither does Ray “Crash” Corrigan, who is billed (as he was in ZAMBA) by the name of the gorilla he plays (in this case, “Bonga”). For those who remember THE LOST JUNGLE, there is no sign of Syd Saylors in this one (the guy with the bobbing necktie), but the comic relief character Hambone is painful, and you can be thankful that he appears only intermittently.