Merlin tricks Winslow by setting up another station and sending fake messages which lure Don to the old sea mill. Here waiting henchmen capture him, and he is putting up a desperate fight when a Scorpion airplane…
(Spitting iced tea all over monitor) Putting up a desperate fight? Are the people writing these crawls watching the director’s cut or something? Winslow (Don Terry) hits the ground like a sack of flour after about twenty seconds of having stuntmen throw punches at one another—and he lies unconscious while ace pilot Paul Barsac (John Holland) flies over ahead, dropping “eggs” (that’s airplane lingo for “bombs”) on the dwelling that’s housing the table Don’s under. Now, normally…
…this is but a mere optical illusion (thanks, generous use of stock footage!) because the end result resembles one of those Terminex ads with the gi-normous termites chewing on walls. Red Pennington (Walter Sande) runs into the shack to see if there’s anything left of his buddy while Scorpion agents Prindle (Robert Barron), Spike (Ethan Laidlaw) and Corley (Lane Chandler) watch from a safe distance and add color commentary.
CORLEY: Pennington’s crazy if he expects to find Winslow alive in that old mill!
Is he? Or is he so sane it blows your own mind? Red continues to poke through the wreckage and calling out Don’s name.
SPIKE: Oh, blame it on Barsac—we can say he didn’t give us warning enough before unloading those bombs!
Okay, this did sort of make me snarf out loud because in earlier chapters, Barsac was sort of presented as the model employee at Scorpion, LLC and it would now appear that his co-workers have had enough of this “Golden Boy” horsesh*t.
They should have inserted a brief shot of Barsac waving and saying: “Thanks, Uncle Scorpion!”
PRINDLE: We were told to take Winslow alive…
CORLEY: Maybe it’s just possible he is still alive!
PRINDLE: If he is, Pennington will find him…we’ll wait right here and see…
There is then an abrupt cut (I’m guessing due to the sub-standard film print) to the inside of the bombed-out dwelling where we find Red helping Don to his feet because, if the opening crawl is to be believed, Don is shagged out after that desperate fight he put up.
RED: You were bombed, sailor—that’s what happened…a guy in a plane dumped eggs all over the place!
Don asks his pal about the three Scorpion agents who were in the shack with him, and Red says: “I took a couple of shots at ‘em when they ran into the jungle.” Oh, you big fibber! Unless my copy of this movie is missing footage, I think Red is padding his exploits a skosh.
RED: Hey…did you find out anything before the fireworks started?
A bomb devastates a building and the radio inside…yet somehow a guy under the table emerges unscathed, save for a dirty uniform. That is some damn protective furniture. Don is also convinced that the rubble surrounding him and Red was not the secret radio headquarters, and as the two of them go outside to have a chinwag about it (there are very few walls left, so this is an easy task) they’re spotted by the three agents, who are overjoyed that Winslow is not dead. (I know, it makes no sense to me either.) The three goons plan to capture Don and Red since there are only two of them…but then John Blake (Ben Taggart), Mike Splendor (Wade Boteler) and Seaman Chapman (Peter Leeds) come running up and our henchmen decide that the wisest course of action would be to run away.
SPLENDOR: Ah, praise be, lad—you weren’t in there when that spalpeen in the plane bombed the place!
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear no one is watching the same serial as me…let’s synchronize our viewing habits, people, shall we?
SPLENDOR: Well, then how…
BLAKE: Well, why did they bomb it?
SPLENDOR: Oh, I know the answer to that one meself! It was because Don was in there!
RED: You mean…they wanted us to believe that this was their headquarters…
Because it blows up real good? Don is convinced that there’s a mole somewhere on Team Winslow…but dismisses Blake’s suggestion that the bad guys are listening in via the microphone they planted in the radio room (since our hero took care of that in Chapter 5). Meanwhile, tres hombres malos are plotting in another section of that thick, leafy jungle that’s always providing them adequate cover for getaways:
CORLEY: What’s your idea, Prindle?
PRINDLE: When Winslow and his men start gettin’ their car, we’ll break from cover…they’ll follow us to Sam’s house in the native village…with Butch and Sam helping us—we’ll take Winslow alive…
Oh, well…there yuh go, as Dennis Weaver used to say. If these three inept morons would only add Butch and Sam to the mix…we’d have five inept morons. As Winslow and Company return to where they parked the car, Splendor gives out with an unintentionally funny bit of dialogue:
SPLENDOR: By golly—I can’t figure out where all them Scar-pian agents is hidin’ themselves on this island!
Well, if you’d let Red chase after those creeps every once in a while you might get an answer to that, Commander.
BLAKE: Yeah…they might even be working for me—I don’t have any way of knowing…
“E-Verify…Shme-verify…cheap, easily-exploited labor is the backbone of this business!” Splendor has little need for all these undocumented worker niceties, either—he’s simply spoiling for a fight: “But once I get me two hands on the blatherskite…”
Mike gets interrupted when the car carrying Prindle, Spike and Corley emerges from a clearing and starts up the road—Don fires a few shots in its direction, and demonstrates why he was never asked to participate in any marksmanship contests at
Annapolis. So Winslow and his posse give chase, driving
down the same stretch of Tangita highway that was featured in Chapter 2!
SPLENDOR: Sufferin’ snakes! They’re layin’ down a dust trail to keep us away from them! Can you see to drive, lad?
RED: I can drive this thing through a haystack and come out with a needle!
As you’ve already surmised, the car with Winslow and the crew stops at the edge of the village because “Haystack” Pennington has lost sight of the bad guys’ car. But first…a quick screen cap of
… Tangita City
SPLENDOR: No…but there’s a couple of cars parked up there that look like the one they were in…
SPLENDOR: And what would you be wantin’ with them?
SPLENDOR: Well, maybe me hat and coat will get into a good fight…I can’t!
Irishmen in the movies are always spoiling for a scrap…or drinking. I’m part Irish (on me sainted mother’s side) but let’s just say I avoid a donnybrook whenever possible.
RED: Don…why don’t you let one of us go in your place this time?
“And besides—whose f**king serial is this, anyway?” So Don rambles on into the village—you have to see this, by the way:
And from a nearby house, he’s watched by Spike, Prindle and Corey…who are not duped in the slightest by his disguise.
PRINDLE: Yeah…changed his clothes…thinks he’s trying to fool somebody…
“He’s apparently confused us with the Scorpion’s blind henchmen.” Noticing that our hero is also alone (and dressed like that, it’s no wonder), Prindle issues orders (“You know what to do”) to second-string goons Butch and Sam while he and the others hide in an adjacent room. Butch is played by Jack Rockwell, who was in scores of B-westerns and serials like Daredevils of the West (1943). The role of Sam is essayed by serial-western henchman veteran Ken Terrell (Mysterious Doctor Satan, G-Men Never Forget)—who works twice as hard as Rockwell in this little epic since he also plays a henchman named Rocky later on.
Don reaches Sam’s crib and spying the car parked conveniently out front, gives Blake “the high sign,” prompting Blake to go back and fetch the rest of them. Butch answers the door when Don comes a-knockin’…which, again, is sort of odd because it’s been established that Sam is the owner.
BUTCH: Yeah? Whaddya want?
BUTCH: Maybe me or maybe somebody else…what’s it to ya?
BUTCH: Come on in, if you think it’ll do you any good…
What an odd dialogue exchange. Don comes inside as the three men he really wants to get his hands on watch from another room. Meanwhile, Blake has returned to where the others are waiting, and tells them they need to move in.
BUTCH: Yeah…that’s right…you heard what we said—now get goin’!
BUTCH: We’ll answer nothin’...now are you gonna get out of here or are we gonna have to throw you out?
Despite being a man claiming to be the poster boy for civility, Don shoves Butch toward Sam and both miners wind up on a couch on the other side of the room. “You asked for it, mister!” growls Butch as his and Sam’s stunt man attacks Don—there is then a quick cut to the others hiding in the next room, and then when we return back to the front room Don’s stunt guy is mixing it up in his place. There are countless unconvincing punches thrown and people flipping over tables until Spike emerges from the hidey hole…
SPIKE: Let him up, fellas!
(The two miners help Winslow to his feet)
SPIKE: Tie him in that chair!
As Spike is giving Don a lesson in etiquette (“You sure have a lot of nerve, bustin’ in and roughhousin’ my friends…”) Red, Blake and the rest come right through the front door and Splendor makes his presence known: “Hands in the clear, all of ya!” The miners and Spike drop their weapons, and as Splendor and Blake untie Don, Corley and Prindle (in the adjacent room) decide that their mothers are calling them. They somehow manage to reach their car outside and start it up, with the motor distracting the others long enough for Spike to duck into the adjacent room and lock the door behind him—then he manages to double back and jump into the back seat as the three men drive off, with Red firing ineffective shots after them. Yes, it’s as lame as it sounds because—well, we can’t capture the bad guys just yet with four chapters left. You think I’m making this up, don’t you?
RED: He’s getting away with his two men!
BLAKE: We’ll go after them, Commander!
It’s all about pacing. You know, Don…there are four of you there—you could do both, you know. The miners, to no one’s surprise, lawyer up in a hurry:
BUTCH: Sorry, Commander…I didn’t figure who you was, bustin’ in the way you did…
“My lawyer has advised me to pursue a Mistaken Identity defense.”
“That you must be trying to prolong this serial, seein’ as how you let them go so easily…”
BUTCH: Oh—you mean Spike? Not much…him and a couple of other guys named Prindle and Corley come over here sometimes…
“We kick back…guzzle some brews…order some ‘za…watch Game of Thrones…”
BUTCH: Sometimes…not regular…why? They deserters from the Navy?
BUTCH: Well…I figured if they was I’d help ya catch ‘em…
BUTCH: Oh, sure—he’s the big shot of the mine…ask him about me…Butch Clint’s the name…this guy here’s Sam Munn…
“Former Democratic Senator from
Georgia.” (Okay, that’s Sam Nunn—but I couldn’t resist.)
Winslow shoots his friends a look that speaks volumes: “I really suck at
this interrogation thing, don’t I?” As
our heroes file out of the cottage, Butch and Sam watch them leave. “Smart guy,” editorializes Butch. “But they can’t outsmart the Scorpion
They won’t need to—they’re plenty capable of outsmarting themselves. Arriving back at the car, Splendor asks Don if he thinks Butch is on the level and Winslow’s not certain…so he suggests a trip over to the mine might be in order, and as they drive off, Prindle and the others are watching from their car. (My theory is that Don and the others never see the bad guy’s car because they close their eyes tightly.) Ordering Spike to contact Spencer Merlin (John Litel) at Scorpion headquarters, the henchman humorously breaks out a radio and headphones…
PRINDLE: Winslow and his men are heading for the mine along the shore road…
MERLIN: All right…cut through on the jungle road and get here before them…
PRINDLE: Okay…looks like this is the time we get Winslow…
MERLIN: Now get this, Prindle…I don’t want anything to happen that will make Winslow suspicious of the mine…you carry out my orders—leave the rest to me…
Just before Don and the others arrive at the mine, Parker the radio operator lets Merlin know that The Scorpion (Kurt Katch) is signaling to give Spence his weekly butt-chewing. I neglected to introduce the actor who plays the role of Parker back in Chapter 4—but now is as good a time as any, I suppose. He’s character great Ray Teal, whom you’ve seen in scads of films and TV shows including Ace in the Hole (1951), The Wild One (1953) and Judgment at Nuremburg (1961). Teal also graced a good many serials (he has an uncredited part in Raiders of Ghost City, currently in progress over at She Blogged by Night) but most folks remember him as no-nonsense lawman Roy Coffee on the venerable boob tube oater Bonanza. (As coincidence would have it, I ran across Teal in a rerun of the short-lived cop show 87th Precinct just last night.)
SCORPION: I’m going to give you one more chance, M-22…with the plane Captain Jacklin brought you on the Z-40 submarine, Barsac should be able to bomb all the construction work Blake has done on the submarine base…
“For the uninformed…that’s my nephew Barsac.” The Scorpion gripes at Merlin to carry out his orders, yadda yadda yadda, and then Prindle, Corley and Spike enter the radio room to let Spence know Don and his buddies are on their way. Merlin tells his henchies to stick around because he may need them…”but keep out of sight.” Just as he’s getting ready to go topside, Parker interrupts him with another request: a chemist who answers to “
requests an audience with him.
Yes, in addition to the big honkin’ sub base and underground oil well that the bad guys are always boasting about on a weekly basis, they apparently have Dr. Bunson Honeydew conducting important research—I wouldn’t be surprised if next week they’ve put in a spa and a Johnny Rockets. Okay, I am being a little facetious—the lab is actually above ground (I learned this only because Don later confronts henchman Prindle near its entrance and it seems unlikely that they would let him go traipsing about down below)…and Taylor is played by Irving Mitchell, a thesp who played miniature roles in films like Citizen Kane (1941) and The Pride of the Yankees (1942)…but outside of the 1941 Little Tough Guys serial Sea Raiders I don’t remember him much.
MERLIN: Go ahead…but make it as brief as possible…
“Um…Poindexter…why are you bothering me with all this nonsense?” If you’re wondering what this vaporization and reduction stuff is, it apparently has something to do with the fake mining operation—because when Prindle interrupts the conversation to let Spence know Winslow has just pulled up, Merlin tells the nerdlinger to continue on with his experiments since “we have to ship some more gold out of here right away to keep up our front.”
MERLIN: Well, Commander—this is an agreeable surprise!
MERLIN: Why, of course, Winslow…I’m entirely at your service…
“Nope—see ya later down the road, ol’ buddy!”
MERLIN: Prindle…Spike and Corley…yes, I believe we have—but not regularly…
Who are these guys—Manpower hires?
MERLIN: Why do you ask?
Dun dun DUN!!!
MERLIN: Well…now we’re getting somewhere! Shouldn’t be difficult to round them up…
Spence starts out the door with Don, but is quickly interrupted by an identified flunky who tells Merlin he’s wanted at “Lateral Number Two.” So Merlin suggests Don sit in the waiting room or wait in the sitting room…and with Don by his lonesome, he soon wanders past the entrance to the vaporization chamber (as I mentioned earlier) but stops when he sees Prindle down at the other end of the corridor.
PRINDLE: We can’t talk here…
I had a joke to insert here, but it’s bad luck to use two Firesign Theatre references in one write-up.
PRINDLE: …I don’t want Merlin to know I’m in the mine…
Don starts to march Prindle down the corridor…and behind him, a stuntman who looks nothing like Spike jumps our hero, bringing on a brief display of fisticuffs before Don is knocked senseless, falling back into the vaporization chamber where Merlin and Taylor were chatting earlier. Inside the observation room, Taylor and his lab assistant Beaker (Eddie Polo) are “starting the vaporization process”—whatever the hell that is—which apparently turns the chamber where Don lays unconscious into a sauna.
Are the people writing these crawls watching the director’s cut or something?
They're makin' it up, baby!
One of my favorite things in these serials is the use of stock footage of enormous explosions that end up just knocking over a few 2x4s.
Hey! That IS Jack Rockwell! He's in this week's episode of "Raiders of Ghost City," too. Doesn't look like so much of a dink when he's in Western wear. I think it's because the enormous cowboy hat balances out that superstache.
The guy who plays Prindle is also in "Raiders," last week seen standing in front of the Prussian-invented walk-in tub. I knew there were shared characters but this makes, what, six now? Seven if you count Iron Eyes Cody in archive footage?
Today I learned "spalpeen" is a word.
BRB laughing 4evr at the "Golden Boy" crack.
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