SECRET AGENT X-9 (1945)
Article 3969 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor
Featuring Lloyd Bridges, Keye Luke, Jan Wiley
What it is: Wartime spy serial
During WWII, an American secret agent stumbles upon a Japanese plot about which he knows only the number “722”. This takes him to a neutral island which is a hotbed of spy activity. Can he figure out the secret of 722 before it is too late?
For the record, 722 is the number of a compound created by an American scientist for a failed project to create a new explosive; the Japanese have discovered that the compound, when combined with distilled water, creates an artificial fuel, thus providing the fantastic content for this serial. This is not a spoiler; the opening scenes of the serial establish this before we even meet the main character, so the mystery elements of this serial are negligible. And I should also point out that the fantastic content is pure Gizmo Maguffin; outside of a short scene at the beginning where the fuel drives an engine for a short time, it’s only use is to give the spies something to fight over. This is a Universal serial, and like most of the Universal serials, it’s a bit on the talky side. However, it has a bit of star power to help it out (Lloyd Bridges), it manages to keep an acceptable balance between talk and action, the characters are more interesting than usual (especially the mysterious tiddlywinks player at the bar), and the plot is decent enough to keep things fun, though it does drag in a few of the middle episodes. It’s no classic, but it’s better than average serial entertainment.