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HURRICANE EXPRESS, THE [serial] (director/writer: J.P. McGowan/Armand Schaefer; screenwriters: George Morgan/story by Colbert Clark, Barney Sarecky & Wyndham Gittens; cinematographer: Ernest W. Miller/Carl Wester; editor: Ray Snyder; music: Lee Zahler; cast: John Wayne (Larry Baker), Shirley Grey (Gloria Martin), Tully Marshall (Howard L. Edwards, Railroad manager), Conway Tearle (Stevens, Railroad attorney), J. Farrell MacDonald (Jim Baker), Lloyd Whitlock (Walter Grey), Edmund Breese (Stratton), Alan Bridge (Carlson), Charles King (Mike, Wrecker henchman), Ernie Adams (Barney, Wrecker henchman), Glenn Strange (Jim, Wrecker henchman), Al Ferguson (Sandy, Wrecker henchman); Runtime: 223; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Levine; Mascot Pictures; 1932)
“A young, vigorous, virtuous and athletic Wayne makes for an engaging hero.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An exciting twelve-part serial that John Wayne made for Nat Levine and Mascot Pictures after the unhappy Duke left Columbia for various reasons including the main one that the studio didn’t use him right. The cliffhanger serial follows commercial pilot Larry Baker (John Wayne) in search of the killer of his railroad chief engineer father, Jim Baker (J. Farrell MacDonald), working for the L & R Railroad and driving The Hurricane Express. The killer is known only as “The Wrecker,” and works with a team of agents to sabotage the railroad which aids a competing airline. The Wrecker wears a rubber mask that can resemble anyone on the train, which enables his identity to remain hidden and causes undue confusion.

Larry Baker dedicates himself to finding his father’s killers and bringing them to justice, after he’s fired from his airline job. He befriends the railroad’s cute secretary Gloria Martin (Shirley Grey), who helps his investigation. He soon learns her dad is Stratton (Edmund Breese), an escaped convict who claims he was framed for robbery by the railroad when he was their general manager and escaped from prison to clear his name. Other prime suspects include Edwards (Tully Marshall, old-time actor from the silents), the new surly General Manager of the railroad; Stevens (Conway Tearle) the smooth railroad attorney; Walter Grey (Lloyd Whitlock) the head of the rival airline who has the most to gain by the railroad going out of business; Jordan (Matthew Betz) an engineer who was fired and in a fit of anger promised revenge; and Carlson (Alan Bridge) a station agent in Plainville who seemed frightened at an inquiry held over one of the train wrecks and might have lied about what he witnessed.

It was co-directed by veteran actor J.P. McGowan (“The Hazards of Helen”-1915) with Armand Schaefer. George Morgan is co-writer with Mr. McGowan; the story is by Colbert Clark, Barney Sarecky & Wyndham Gittens. Though the unknown Wayne wasn’t top billed, that honor went to the more widely known Marshall, he’s clearly the star. A young, vigorous, virtuous and athletic Wayne makes for an engaging hero, and the serial gives younger viewers a nostalgic look back at the past to see how audiences got their thrills back in the day. These type of serials would regularly be part of the double feature of a Saturday matinee.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”