Chapter One of Ace Drummond opens with the photograph of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, ``America's Beloved Ace of Ace, The Inspiration Of Youthful Airmen The World Over'', and the title in that crescent-based Chinese Restaurant font reading, ``Chapter One: When East Meets West''.
That title and the initial shots of Movie Newsreel China provoked my inner Tom Servo to say, ``Well, if we're lucky it'll just be racist.'' Cynical me. But there are a good number of shots establishing a monastery and bunches of colorfully-dressed natives. Far above, there's: an airplane. Some of the underlings are upset at the disruption to their sacred ceremonies, but the High Lama insists all people are equal, and the coming of the airline will be good for their people as well as the world, and sentences the complainer to penance.
International Airways's management is convinced they'll bring peace to the world by air transport and are sure this and other deaths are the result of a few fanatics; as they debate, the electric fan begins spinning. Over the spinning fan comes the voice of The Dragon, warning that the plane will never land. And on final approach to International Airways's Bai-Tal Field, the pilots' radio microphone emits a puff of smoke and the pilots fall unconscious; the plane follows swiftly. More planes crash, suggesting Inner Mongolia is a busier air route in 1936 than I would have thought, but International Airways's financial future is endangered.
International Airways's head orders another flight to come, and promises there'll be no crashes because his son is on board. Among the passengers is a guy who looks like the flustered neighbor in most 1950s sitcoms, fiddling with the radio. He says, ``I'd give a million dollars to hear a good band right now'', and the stewardess suggests, ``try 742''. I imagine this to be some kind of 1930s in-joke that doesn't make sense to us anymore, since what is played is not jazz at all, and John King as Ace Drummond takes the martial music to sing a rousing song of aviation greatness (``Give me a motor's roar/Give me a plane to soar/ Into the blue/ Following through'') that I'm making my serialized subject-lines for this and which you should definitely see. This makes the entire passenger compartment stare at him as you might stare at a person in coach who began singing a rousing song of aviation greatness. It's a great moment in film awkwardness; catch it about ten minutes into the first chapter on archive.org.
As this plane approaches the radio microphones explode again, but Ace Drummond rushes to the cockpit and regains control. It's discovered the co-pilot isn't quite dead, and he recovers. Drummond leaves the cockpit in the hands of the not-dead copilot and uses the chance to bail out and ``get a closer look'' at a biplane which was circling them, because the one thing an airplane that's lost one pilot and had the other partly electrocuted doesn't need is an extra, skilled, un-injured pilot.
Drummond lands beside a log cabin and jalopy where Peggy Trainor has come in search of her (wait for it) missing father, the archaeologist. She falls into the clutches of a pair of alleged archeologists, who were flying the biplane, and with whom Drummond commits exposition. (``Ace Drummond? What are you doing in Mongolia?'' ``Just what I was going to ask you gentlemen.'') As Peggy tries to escape we get a fistfight, and she drives off in what seems like the same scene played a couple times over, and the ``archaeologists'' try shooting at the editor. Drummond and Trainor take off in the biplane, which The Dragon commands be shot down. And sure enough, The Dragon's men do ... something ... that wrecks his rudder controls.
Drummond warns they're going to crash, and the plane goes sailing into the monastery wall and that's our cliffhanger.
The ``Next Week'' card here shows a model of a Chinese dragon moving around and spitting flame under the title of next week's episode, and the proclamation ``The Dragon commands!'' There's not exactly a direction given on the card --- just, that next week at this theater is Chapter Two, `The Invisible Enemy' --- but it's still cute. I might start randomly following statements of fact with ``The Dragon Commands!''
Trivia: The act to set up a colonial entrepot in Darien was passed by the Scotland's Parliament on 26 June 1695. Source: History of Money, Glyn Davies.
Currently Reading: ``The Good War'', Studs Terkel.