Undersea Kingdom (1936)

Article #1387 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2004
Posting Date: 5-30-2005
Directed by B. Reeves Eason and Joseph Kane
Featuring Ray “Crash” Corrigan, Lois Wilde, Monte Blue

Navy hero Crash Corrigan rides with Professor Norton in his new submarine and discovers the underwater kingdom of Atlantis. There they get caught up in the machinations of an evil dictator named Unga Khan, who has designs of conquering not only Atlantis, but the upper world as well.

Some thoughts on this serial:

1) Of all the serials I’ve seen since THE LOST CITY, this is the one that comes closest to capturing that one’s goofy charm. It’s better acted than that one, but actually that lessens the charm; if only Monte Blue could have chewed the scenery with the glee that William “Stage” Boyd had done in the earlier serial.

2) Despite having the technology to produce robots with zap guns, flying bombers, long distance giant-hot-dog launchers, free-floating television viewing, and armored cars with the horns stuck automatically in the “ON” position, they still need one of those humans from the upper world to design rockets to launch them to the surface of the sea.

3) Despite having the technology to produce—(please insert all the stuff that I posted in the above sentence but was too lazy to insert here)—, they still do most of their battling with men riding around on horsies and waving sabres. They also have enough forethought to bring ladders in their sieges of the imperial city.

4) Despite having muscular bad-guy-turned-good-guy John Merton to help him out, Crash Corrigan still keeps embarking on dangerous missions using the little boy as his companion. I know the kid’s a bit annoying, but that’s no reason to keep putting him in danger, is it?

5) One thing the serial does right: after taking the time to establish the comic-relief characters of Salty, Briny and their talking parrot, the serial promptly forgets about their existence. Other than a couple of token appearances in the middle of the serial, the next time we see them is aboard the submarine at the end (and I even missed the sequence where they were rescued). Someone at Republic was being merciful.

6) This is the serial in which Ray “Crash” Corrigan utters that classic phrase, “Go ahead and ram!”, one of the most hilariously silly heroically noble tough-guy quotes ever.

7) Atlantis exists in an air-pocket underneath the sea. The rockets added to Unga Khan’s castle will take it straight up to the ocean surface. Obviously, some barrier up above the castle is keeping the water from coming in. What is this barrier and why does the castle have no problem getting past it? I’d pursue this question, but I’m afraid of embarassing someone.

8) Just for fun, try to figure out how many Atlanteans are alive at the end of the serial.

9) Incidentally, though Salty and Briny appear in the submarine in the final episode, the parrot does not. Did I just miss it? Did it not make the shot? Did the filmmakers not consider him an important character? Or did the parrot suffer the same fate as Gertrude the Duck in JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH? I’d pursue this question further, but I’m afraid someone will look for the missing footage and show it to me. I’m not that curious.

10) Despite having that free-floating television viewer that can spy on the upper world, Unga Khan and his men are still totally caught off guard by the technology of the navy and only have a chance to launch one giant hot dog during their invasion. So we wait for twelve episodes to see the most incompetent invasion of the world I’ve seen since Bela Lugosi tried to take over the world with the help of a few bombs and a bi-plane in THE PHANTOM CREEPS.

So there you have UNDERSEA KINGDOM. Have fun.

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