- Mandrake the Magician (serial)
Mandrake the Magician Directed by Norman Deming
Produced by Jack Fier Written by Joseph F. Poland
Screenplay, based on the comic strip by
Starring Warren Hull
Music by Morris Stoloff
Cinematography Benjamin H. Kline Editing by Richard Fantl
Distributed by Columbia Pictures Release date(s) 7 December 1939 Running time 12 chapters (215 minutes) Country United States Language English
Mandrake in this serial works with conjuring tricks and sleight of hand instead of all the all-powerful hypnotism in the comics. Lothar is portrayed as an Asian with hair instead of a giant bald African. Unlike the comics where Lothar handles the fighting, Mandrake goes from fight to fight, which is just as well as Lothar is a weak imitation of the comic character. The fights are not too convincing and the music is a little too loud in the action scenes, of which there are plenty. The villain is The Wasp, a man in a cloak, mask and hat who gives orders to his gang from a movie screen.
Thieves learn that Professor Houston has been perfecting a machine which will create radium energy and plot to steal it. Daughter Betty telegraphs Mandrake for help. He is just returning from Shanghai and Tibet on the S.S.Mohawk. A lama in Tibet has told him a formula for mixing the already tough Platinite with steel to make it even tougher. However, Platinite is very rare and only found in one place, in America.
The Wasp uses the sign of a wasp on a wall as well as a buzzing sound to announce his presence to the professor, which Mandrake later reveals was simply a torch shining through an image of a wasp to project a picture. Mandrake survives two death attempts and a car chase before meeting the professor, with friends Bennett and Webster who turn up just after him. The prof reveals that his ray is far more powerful than radium and gives a demonstration of the inevitable death-ray, which at the end of the first episode is inevitably used on Mandrake.
Mandrake has convinced The Wasp's men that he has some platinite which The Wasp needs for his ray machine as it can only run a short while with a steel casing before destroying itself. The villains keep after Mandrake and fights follows kidnappings, follows car chases (all sped up for excitement) follows death traps, follows fights. There is little real storyline and action is used to drag the serial along at a hectic pace. There is also some magic thrown in, notably a very good sleight of hand show in the first episode. You do not see the performer's face but this was not done by Hull since the white cuffs of the magician can be seen throughout whereas with Hull's costume, the cuffs were hidden.
- Warren Hull as Mandrake the Magician
- Doris Weston as Betty Houston
- Al Kikume as Lothar, Mandrake's Assistant
- Rex Downing as Tommy Houston
- Edward Earle as Doctor Andre Bennett
- Forbes Murray as Professor Houston
- Kenneth MacDonald as James Webster
- Don Beddoe as Frank Raymond
- Dick Curtis as Dorgan, a henchman
- John Tyrrell as Dirk, the "spearpoint heavy" (chief henchman)
- ?? as The Wasp
- Shadow on the Wall
- Trap of the Wasp
- City of Terror
- The Secret Passage
- The Devil's Playmate
- The Fatal Crash
- Gamble for Life
- Across the Deadline
- Terror Rides the Rails
- The Unseen Monster
- At the Stroke of Eight
- The Reward of Treachery
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