austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Beware of pretty faces that you find

The Perils Of Pauline Episode Five, ``The Flaming Tomb'', opens with the discovery that Pauline is not dead. Warde neither.

While Warde's plan to keep shooting apes with his six-shooter isn't getting him anywhere, the apes decide after some stock footage charges that they don't really need to be in this and let him go. He goes marching back to the village when the jaguar from last time, or maybe a different jaguar, attacks, and what do you know but Warde shoots him, too? As they approach the village Warde is ready to fight it out with the natives since, hey, he's got a gun. But one of his native guides insists the angry villagers are his friends and that they're hunting for a white man. Indeed, there's another white guy tromping around Sarawak, and it happens to be Robert Sullivan, another old friend of Warde's. Great luck, huh? Sullivan doesn't seem to have been tied to the railroad, but they were flying partners back in the War, apparently. Sullivan's happy to help Warde with whatever the heck he's on about.

Meanwhile back in captivity, Pauline happens to notice the villagers have a jaguar (again!) in a little cage inside her prison hut, so she takes a moment to distract the guards and open the jaguar's cell. Since Pauline won the initiative roll she's able to escape in the confusion and the jaguar doesn't even bother to attack her. But Bashan still has Dr Hargraves and Willie Dodge, so Pauline, Warde, and Sullivan work out a plan. They can have Sullivan's natives attack Bashan's natives. Surely nothing bad will come out of that scheme.

Well, there's some little unwanted side effects, like setting fire to the huts that Hargraves and Dodge are tied up in. Pauline races in to free them, but, it is pretty massive conflagration. It's also a surprisingly slow one, to start, at least by modern movie standards. The straw huts need some time to simmer and catch on fire. It's a truism that in old movies stuff happened slower --- editors hadn't quite realized just how little people actually need to see of something before they can assimilate it as a plot point --- but I wonder if this reflects an understanding that they need to fill twenty minutes with footage of anything so why cut away the smouldering stages of a fire when you'll just have to write that much more script? It makes me wonder how long a grass hut does take to catch fire, and whether they were showing a more realistic process than the surely accelerant-and-editing-paced the equivalent scene would use today.

Trivia: By 11 July 1902 the Piazza San Marco was given glass sensors to detect any measurements; the next day, pieces of brick were raining down from it and most of the glass sensors inside had shattered. As it was Saturday, they chose to wait until Monday for futher action and the campanile remained open. Source: Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa, Nicholas Shrady.

Currently Reading: The Kid Of Coney Island: Fred Thompson And The Rise Of American Amusements, Woody Register.

Tags: movies, perils of pauline, serials

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