Secret Service in Darkest Africa

Secret Service in Darkest Africa is a 1943 Republic serial. It was Republic's thirtieth serial, of the sixty-six produced by the studio.

Secret Service in Darkest Africa
SecretServiceDAPoster.JPG
Directed bySpencer Gordon Bennet
Written byRoyal Cole
Ronald Davidson
Basil Dickey
Jesse Duffy
Joseph O'Donnell
Joseph Poland
Produced byWilliam J. O'Sullivan
StarringRod Cameron
Joan Marsh
Duncan Renaldo
Lionel Royce
Kurt Kreuger
Frederic Brunn
CinematographyWilliam Bradford
Edited byWallace Grissell
Tom Malloy
Music byMort Glickman
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date
  • July 24, 1943 (1943-07-24)[1]
Running time
15 chapters (243 minutes) (serial)[1]
100 minutes (TV)[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$174,536 (negative cost: $210,033)[1]

It was a sequel to G-Men vs. the Black Dragon released earlier in 1943, again starring Rod Cameron as American secret agent Rex Bennett. This time Bennet faces the Nazis rather than the Japanese. As with the earlier installment, Bennet is supported by characters from some of the allied nations in World War II.

The serial is also known by the titles Manhunt in the African Jungles, changed when it was re-released in 1954, and The Baron's African War, when it was edited into a 100-minute film for television in 1966.

PlotEdit

In an attempt to control the entire Middle East and defeat the Allies, Nazi agent Baron von Rommler (Lionel Royce) captures and impersonates Sultan Abou Ben Ali (also Lionel Royce), leader of all the Arabs. Opposed to him is Secret Service Agent Rex Bennett (Rod Cameron), along with British reporter Janet Blake (Joan Marsh) and Chief of Police Captain Pierre LaSalle (Duncan Renaldo).

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

Filming on Secret Service in Darkest Africa took place between April 12 and May 27, 1943. The production budget was $174,536 but the negative cost rose to $210,033 ($35,497, or 20.3%, overbudget compared to a studio average of $8,199, or 5.7%, over all its serial production). Not only did this make the serial the most expensive of 1943 it was also the third most expensive and third most over budget of all the sixty-six serials Republic produced. The only serials that were more expensive were The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939, $213,997) and Captain America (1944, $222,906). While Captain America was also the most overbudget (by $40,283 or 22.1%), the second most overbudget Republic serial was another 1944 serial, Haunted Harbor (by $37,757 or 22.2%).[1]

At forty-five days, the serial's production also shares the title of the second longest shoot of all Republic serials with Jungle Girl (1941). The longest was Drums of Fu Manchu (1940) at forty-seven days.[1] The serial's production number was 1295.[1]

A car chase from this serial was re-used in Flying Disc Man from Mars.[3]

StuntsEdit

Special EffectsEdit

The special effects in this serial were produced by Republic's in-house effects duo, the Lydecker brothers.[4]

ReleaseEdit

TheatricalEdit

Secret Service in Darkest Africa's official release date is July 24, 1943, although this is actually the date the seventh chapter was made available to film exchanges.[1]

The serial was re-released on April 5, 1954, under the new title Manhunt in the African Jungles, between the first runs of Trader Tom of the China Seas and Man with the Steel Whip.[1]

TelevisionEdit

Secret Service in Darkest Africa was one of twenty-six Republic serials re-released as a film on television in 1966. The title of the film was changed to The Baron's African War. This version was cut down to 100 minutes in length.[1]

Critical receptionEdit

Stedman compares Secret Service in Darkest Africa poorly to the first serial, G-Men vs. the Black Dragon, which was directed by William Witney. He considered Darkest Africa to be example of the decline of serials. Spencer Gordon Bennet, the director of this sequel, is blamed for this lapse, giving the serial a style similar to the Batman television series of the mid-1960s. Two scenes are highlighted. In the first, a duel goes into and then out of a wardrobe without stopping. In the second, the meaning of a clue is deduced with the following dialogue:

"Two face cards lying face up"
"With holes in them"
"Wait a minute! Holes? No, they're 'O's. Aces with 'O's!"
"'O'-Aces!"
"Oasis Cafe! Let's Go!"

This style was toned down in future Bennet-directed serials.[5]

In the words of Cline, both this serial and its predecessor were "well-made topical drama with highly capable and professional casts". In a departure from the normal formula, the villain's identity is known to the audience.[6]

Chapter titlesEdit

  1. North African Intrigue (25min 26s)
  2. The Charred Witness (15min 35s)
  3. Double Death (15min 33s)
  4. The Open Grave (15min 34s)
  5. Cloaked in Flame (15min 36s)
  6. Dial of Doom (15min 36s)
  7. Murder Dungeon (15min 35s)
  8. Funeral Arrangements Completed (15min 35s)
  9. Invisible Menace (15min 35s)
  10. Racing Peril (15min 34s)
  11. Lightning Terror (15min 34s)
  12. Ceremonial Execution (15min 33s)
  13. Fatal Leap (15min 33s)
  14. Victim of Villainy (15min 33s)
  15. Nazi Treachery Unmasked (15min 33s)

Source:>[1][7]

This was the only 15-chapter serial produced by Republic in 1943. The other two productions were both 12-chapter serials. It had been the standard since 1938 for Republic to release two of each (which they did again for the last time in 1944).

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mathis, Jack (1995). Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. Jack Mathis Advertising. pp. 3, 10, 70–71. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8.
  2. ^ Holland, Ted (1997). B-Western Actors Encyclopaedia. McFarland & Company. p. 89. ISBN 0786404752.
  3. ^ Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "2. "We Come from 'Earth', Don't You Understand?"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  4. ^ Hayes, R.M. (2000). The Republic Chapterplays: A Complete Filmography of the Serials Released by Republic Pictures Corporation 1934-1955. McFarland & Company. p. 72. ISBN 0-7864-0934-7.
  5. ^ Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "5. Shazam and Good-by". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 137. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5.
  6. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "3. The Six Faces of Adventure". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 50. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  7. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 236. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.

External linksEdit