Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie Serials: Ace Drummond

(This post appeared in somewhat different form on October 13, 2005.)

ACE DRUMMOND was based on the comic strip of the same name that was "created" by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. My guess would be that Rickenbacker didn't contribute much to the strip other than his name, but I could be wrong about that. Ace Drummond is known as the "flying G-man of the air", and in this serial he's sent to China to investigate sabotage plaguing International Airways' efforts to build an airport in Mongolia. It seems that a mysterious masked villain who calls himself The Dragon is trying to prevent the airport from being built because it's near the location of a secret mountain of jade.

There were a couple of things I liked about this serial. The recap at the beginning of every chapter is done in the form of a comic strip, which is an interesting, refreshing change from the usual serial recaps. Also, a very young Noah Beery Jr. plays Ace's sidekick Jerry and does a good job, already showing signs of the fine character actor he would become.

However, that doesn't make up for the glacial pace of the plot, the poorly done action scenes (you can sure tell this wasn't a Republic Pictures production), and the weakness of the lead actor, John King. As Ace Drummond, the skinny, narrow-shouldered King is about the frailest-looking serial hero I've ever seen. He also has the annoying habit of breaking into song in just about every chapter, and if that wasn't bad enough, it's always the same dumb song.

This isn't a terrible, unwatchable serial, but compared to good ones like ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION and S.O.S. COAST GUARD, it's pretty mediocre stuff.

UPDATE: It's been more than eight and a half years since I watched ACE DRUMMOND and wrote that post, and despite the negative things I had to say about it, here's what's odd: I still remember the serial pretty well, and my overall impression of it is more favorable than these comments make it sound. It's like the annoying parts have faded while the things that work remain clear in my mind. Maybe there's a lesson in that. Or maybe not.


Anonymous said...

I have a VHS copy of Ace Drummond. As you say, it's not the greatest, but there was something about the serials by Universal Studios that I almost like better than the Republic serials. They used to show them in Philly on Sunday morning in the fifties and it was like reading the Sunday Funnies. Maybe it's nostalgia. But at their best, such as the Flash Gordon serials, they had a good mixture of action and character. Another goodie is Tim Tyler's Luck. Hard to find but any serial that has a dozen guys in gorilla suits gets four stars from me.

John M. Whalen

Tom Johnson said...

Unfortunately, that's one I missed. I have about 100 serials, mostly Republic, but a few others. It's fun watching them now, though it doesn't compare to when we were kids and watching them at the town theaters. I used to get mad when the chapter ended suddenly, and couldn't wait for the next Saturday to see what happened. Then sadly forgetting the serial and going to see Jungle Jim or Durango Kid at a different theater - with a different serial playing.