There is such a charm to old serials, you can see how George Lucas’s good works were inspired by them. Sure now we often look back and go “Oooh that’s kind of racist” when you notice certain extenuated details about villains. But the pulp charm is often something we have lost in our more cynical age. I reviewed one last year that I got as a gift during the main lockdown ( Sgathaich: The Phantom Empire) but it was a collection of 3 serials and time we look at the second.
Released in 1936 by Republic Pictures, The Undersea Kingdom was their answer to the now famous Flash Gordon. While Flash Gordon flew into space “Crash” Corrigan (not even trying to hide what this is trying to be) leads a team under the sea to the surprisingly spacious and not at all looking undersea Kingdom of Atlantis.
The tale has him face against bulky post box looking robots under the command of the evil (and kind of Ming the Merciless looking) Unga Khan who quickly captures scientist Professor Norton who he proceeds to put under his mind control so he can use his scientific knowledge to lead his people above to the surface and take over the world. Accompanying “Crash” and the professor were others such as reporter lady Diana Compton and son of the professor (and annoying small child) Billy Norton.
Atlantis isn’t really the interesting setting you think it would be but you do get the aforementioned robots and some fancy tanks but if you’re looking for a fanciful city, you’re looking in the wrong place. The only thing of note is it doesn’t look at all like it’s underwater, or even in some cave just looks like some generic above ground plain in America.
The format continues the usually serial way as each episode starts with a resolving of a cliffhanger while ending in a new one.
While with the Phantom Empire they had a reason for why the lead was routinely having to perform a musical number. This has our brave lead openly knowing the professor is now a mind controlled pawn of the villain of which he openly speaks praises of, yet keeps leaving him unguarded with their back turned to him when trying to rescue him. All this resulting in him betraying them, now maybe the first time this happens is one thing but it happens multiple times through the story clearly to just pad things out.
But it’s a serial from the 30s don’t expect high art just expect a silly adventure from …. wow getting close to 100 years. Also the show has lots and lots of silly hats and “Crash” takes his shirt off I don’t think its back on till the end of the story.