THE PERILS OF PAULINE (1934)
Article #1526 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-19-2005
Posting Date: 10-16-2005
Directed by Ray Taylor
Featuring Evalyn Knapp, Craig Reynolds, James Durkin
A noted scientist with a beautiful daughter is searching Indochina for a sacred disc that has the formula to a powerful poison gas engraved on it.
The original THE PERILS OF PAULINE was one of the earliest serials, and the title itself conjures up visions of lovely lasses tied to railroad tracks by dastardly villains. The opening credits of this 1934 serial with the same title conjure up that vision; the first thing we see is a train bearing down on and then passing over us. Now, if only this serial had actually attempted to recreate that sense of fun melodrama, it might have been a success; as it is, it underplays to a fault, takes itself too seriously, and fails to add anything really novel or interesting to the form. Its one concession to fun is disastrous; the comic relief character of Willie Dodge (played by Sonny Ray, who would spend the rest of his movie career in uncredited small roles) is one of the most painful examples of the form I’ve ever seen. I became thoroughly annoyed with his blatant mugging, tiresome shrieking, and incessant cowardly whining. In this context, it’s no surprise that the first episode is far and away the best one here; not only does it make wonderful use of stock footage, but you’re not hampered by the awareness that you’re going to have to put up with more of Willie Dodge. All in all, the most disappointing serial I’ve seen in a long time.