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SHADOW OF THE EAGLE, THE [serial] (director: Ford Beebe; screenwriter: from the story by Ford Beebe/Colbert Clark; cinematographers: Ben Kline/Victor Scheurich; editors: Ray Snyder/Wyndham Gittens; music: Lee Zahler; cast: John Wayne (Craig McCoy), Dorothy Gulliver (Jean Gregory), Walter Miller (Danby, a director), Lloyd Whitlock (Green, a director), Richard Tucker (Maj. Evans, company owner), Edward Hearn (Col. Nathan B. Gregory), Little Billy (circus Midget), Edmund Burns (Clark, a director), Pat O’Malley (Ames, a director), Kenneth Harlan (Ward, a director), Ivan Linow (Heinie, the Strongman), James Bradbury Jr. (Henry, the ventriloquist), Ernie S. Adams (The Mechanic, Kelly), Roy D’Arcy (Henchman Gardner), Bud Osborne (Henchman Tim Moore); Runtime: 225; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Levine; Mascot Pictures; 1932)
“A typical action serial from Mascot, that held my interest only because of John Wayne.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Directed by Ford Beebe from his own story; it’s written by Colbert Clark. It’s a typical action serial from Mascot, that held my interest only because of John Wayne.

A young John Wayne stars in this cheesy Mascot produced serial. It’s an action-packed 12 episode cliffhanger serial (with 20 minute chapters) that leaves the viewer guessing who is the villain up until the last moment. The Eagle, a former WW I flying ace, who was shot down by mistake by his own squadron during an air fight on May 23, 1918, returns from the dead and threatens a corporation whom he accuses of stealing his invention that is worth a fortune.

Craig McCoy (John Wayne) is a stunt pilot for a small traveling circus run by the economically scrapped, kindly cripple Nathan B. Gregory (Edward Hearn), who will turn up not crippled before the first chapter ends with an explanation that probably would draw raised eyebrows from any non-judgmental person including a saint like Mother Theresa. Given a c-note by a mysterious stranger for a sky writing message, Craig soon finds the message about the Eagle shook up the board of directors of a nearby company (coincidentally, all the directors were members of the same squadron as the Eagle). The directors realize Gregory is the Eagle, but he soon disappears (throughout Gregory will disappear and then return with the help of friends). Another sky writer claims Gregory is not the Eagle. Craig is framed and thought to be that sky writer who is working as an agent of the real Eagle, who possibly stole Gregory’s invention and left him broke and embittered. Craig is determined to find out what the heck is going on (which is the same problem the viewer has with this needlessly complex serial), who is the real Eagle and to convince Gregory’s cute single daughter Jean (Dorothy Gulliver) that he’s the real McCoy and that they would make fine soul mates. For 12 chapters Craig investigates the mystery with the help of Jean, a midget called Little Billy, a strongman and a ventriloquist.

The serial is loaded with scenes of mistaken identity, red herrings and fisticuffs. Comedy comes by way of the carnival performers, mainly a midget called Little Billy who keeps being mistaken for a child and gets all riled up over being dissed. Its main problem is that the acting is just slightly better than atrocious and the convoluted plot never quite makes sense, even after justice is served at the end and the blackmail scheme is explained.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”