austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

While kissing persuasive lips

The Perils Of Pauline Episode Twelve, ``Confu's Sacred Secret'' reveals that Pauline and Warde are not dead, although it's rather a cheat in how they get out of the falling tower.

See, the building was next to the waterfront, as adequately established last time. Pauline and Warde try to break out of the tower, but fail utterly, and they don't get some last-minute save like it's revealed they jumped into a safety net just before the tower collapsed. Instead, the tower collapses, into the water, as seen at the end of the last installment, and Pauline and Warde are found in the rubble in the water. Now, here's why I consider that a cheat: while it may be possible to survive a collapsing several-storey tower particularly if it does fall into the water, that survival depends on luck. Pauline and Warde couldn't do anything to make it more (or less) likely that they survive this. A good cliffhanger needs a good resolution, and it ought to be our cliffhangee doing something that keeps her going. There've been other installments that didn't really make that connection, like Pauline and that exploding vase, but they're weak too.

Bashan believes Pauline's dead and correctly observes this should make his life much easier, but that report's false. Dr Hargraves figures to go back to work on the formula at the private home he's been staying in, rather than the destroyed Chemical Building, since surely that makes a good deal of sense. (It also lets Willie Dodge get in an alleged comic scene where he doesn't know what tellurium is.) But Hargraves quickly gets his work done, and explains how the potion is just about ready and once compounded will kill everything it comes in contact with, and he wants all Our Heroes to see the final steps. He does tell them to back up a foot or so which makes for a curious blend of ... you know, this really only makes sense if you suppose he's trying to kill everyone in the party.

Bashan sneaks into the mansion by doing the old fake delivery scam, and since Dodge is temporarily the guard, Bashan's minions ... actually, stupidly, grab Dodge and try to shove him into a closet. Dodge's cowardly screams attract abundant attention, though, foiling all the plans to sneak in and grab the formula or better the compound. In the big scuffle, done entirely with punching since apparently everybody forgot they have guns, Pauline phones the police who for some reason aren't guarding the doctor and his formula --- maybe not telling the War Department he had the formula was a bad idea --- and Bashan goes off to the vase to steal valuable papers. I suppose they're the formula, although my thought when I first saw the episode was, there's a stolen bank securities plot nobody thought to tell us about? However, Bashan tosses a gun to Fang, which accidentally goes off and shoots the beakers full of poison gas.

The gas, spreading out so thick that it obscures the chemical lab, doesn't penetrate the vapor-proof door frame or go out the windows or hurt anyone except Bashan and Fang, which for a poison gas able to destroy the world suggests it's under-achieving in these interwar years.

In the coda the police inspector and Dr Hargraves talk about how Bashan's death proves the tricks of fate, with how what he fought to possess destroyed him. The inspector says it wasn't fate, it was justice, since Bashan wanted to use this formula to destroy, which ... doesn't precisely disagree, although it isn't exactly justice, I think.

And in the coda, Dodge delivers to Warde an urgent telegram, from last week, reminding him that Warde has a backstory in building railroads. Pauline asks if they can go together, implying that they're going to make a go of it as a romantic entanglement after all.

I find it interesting that the resolution is actually a pretty low-intensity affair, a little if numerous fistfight, with the actual killing of the villain done by himself. Maybe it's that way to avoid the problem that the protagonist, the star, the title character is Pauline, yet, you can't really have Pauline killing Bashan the way that, say, Warde might be able to. She was able to take the initiative, and drive a lot of action, and generally showed good sense, but maybe the killing or capturing of the villain would be a step too far. Maybe not; I haven't seen the original, silent, short and so don't know how she got through the problems there. And, of course, 1914 and 1933 were quite different eras, culturally. Maybe they just couldn't resist the irony of the villain doing himself in with the weapon he wanted to use, though. I might be overthinking all this. But it does leave us with a story where the hero and even the hero's support team only incidentally saves the day. It's a funny resolution.

Trivia: Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Britain returned to her dock on 19 July 1970, the 127th anniversary of her launch. In its time she had been a passenger ship, troop ship, emigrant ship, coal and grain carrier, and storage hulk in the Falkland Islands. Source: Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation, Alan Gurney.

Currently Reading: Voyager: Seeking Newer Worlds In The Third Great Age Of Discovery, Stephen J Pyne.

Tags: movies, perils of pauline, serials

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