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.