austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

There's a man who lives a life of danger

The Perils Of Pauline was maybe the iconic cliffhanger serial of the silent era. It's believed lost now, at least in its whole. Nine abridged chapters still exist. But in 1933 Universal Studios figured, why not make a new serial and see what happens?

``The Guns Of Doom'' opens in China, in time for the millions to go about teeming and burst out in revolution. Pauline recommends going sensibly home, but her father, Dr Hargraves, professor of science stuff, figures it's their chance to find the ancient Sacred Disc of Confu, an Egyptian super-scientist type whose powers were so awesome he was able to create a gas that would kill a whole civilization, which explains why it's buried in China. Pauline sensibly asks why they'd go after this, but you know, science and stuff. Plus the ``Eurasian'' scientist Dr Bashan knows about the disc and might just get it first, and he'd do inscrutable things with it.

Dr Bashan, who appears to live in an ``East Meets West'' mall store and hires the Martians from Santa Claus Conquers The Martians as underlings, figures to follow them and swipe the discs, and there we have our plot for this serial.

Meantime designated romantic lead Robert Warde, who dresses like Dick Tracy and wears enough makeup as to be distractingly goofy, has his planned railroad-engineering job cancelled by the Revolution, falls across Pauline on her way being accosted by Bashan's thugs. Meantime Dr Hargraves and his assistant, Willie Dodge --- much more on him later --- make their way to the ancient temple of inscrutable Orientalism, so you can start the timer to see when it starts exploding.

I don't imagine it'd be possible to make this short anytime other than the early 30s. I don't mean about the economics of it; I mean the unstated assumptions that go into the background. There's the ongoing revolution in China --- which I recall also affecting Ace Drummond; there's the building of railroads as excuses for people being in exotic locales --- this snuck into a couple Zorro shorts, and if you allow railroad lines and air bases as functionally equivalent it got Ace Drummond going too --- as well as the menace of gas as the great destroyer of the world --- see also, Buck Rogers, Ace Drummond, and some plot gimmicks in the Lone Wolf series --- and mystic Oriental cults --- Ace Drummond again --- and so on. I think particularly the notion that a super-weapon, probably a gas, would be usable as a way of assuring permanent peace by being too terrible to use marks this as a distinctly early-30s production, in a way you couldn't even pitch in jest anymore.

Trivia: Joseph-Marie Jacquard was born 7 July 1752 in the Lyons parish of St Nizier. Source: Jacquard's Web: How A Hand-Loom Led To The Birth Of The Information Age, James Essinger.

Currently Reading: Today and Tomorrow And ..., Isaac Asimov.

Tags: movies, perils of pauline, serials

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