King of the Wild (1931)

Article #1513 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-6-2005
Posting Date: 10-3-2005
Directed by B. Reeves Eason and Richard Thorpe
Featuring Walter Miller, Nora Lane, Tom Santschi

An American salesman who just happens to be the spitting image of the Rajah of Rampur takes on the Rajah’s role after a tiger attack fatally wounds the Rajah. This is done to give the Rajah’s brother time to receive a note that explains the situation that is intended to call the brother in to take over the reigns of the government rather than letting it fall into the hands of the scheming cousin named Dakka. However, the salesman’s associate sells the note to Dakka, not knowing that Dakka has written the agreement on the back of the note in disappearing ink, but since the brother arrives just in time, Dakka’s plans are foiled, but since the ink has disappeared, the associate fails to get paid and takes hold of the note in order to get the ink to reappear so he can collect his money. The salesman is framed for the murder of the Rajah, but escapes a year later to find his associate and recover the note which will prove his innocence, but the associate has teamed up with an Arab named Mustapha and a wild ape man in an attempt to find the location of a diamond mine discovered by a man whose sister is framed for the murder of a woman who was trying to force from the brother the location of the said diamond mine, but she escapes the shipwreck along with an old woman who is actually a secret service agent and a Swedish animal hunter with a secret mission. However, there’s also a mysterious man in dark glasses running around and….okay, the plot is just really complicated, got it?

You know, with most serials, I can sum up the plot in two lines, and in some ways, I find it refreshing to run into one with a setup this elaborate. Yes, I know that serials aren’t supposed to have plots this complicated because it gets in the way of the action sequences, but, truth be told, I’m not a big action fan. In short, I like this one, not so much for its complicated plot, but more for its assortment of well-delineated characters, each with their set of motivations and goals, and for many of them, you don’t know on which side of the struggle they’ll eventually turn out to be. The ape man makeup is also quite fun, and it’s one of Karloff’s better serial roles (he plays Mustapha), even if he doesn’t really pull off the accent he’s trying to do. You should also be able to figure out the identity of the mysterious man in the black glasses early on, so don’t pay any attention to certain deceptive scenes that lead you to believe you’re wrong. The cliffhangers are often quite good, with most episodes ending with double cliffhangers with two different people in separate perilous situations. I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this one.

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