The Lost City (1935) (Part 1)

“You are in the Lost City of the Ligurians. As you may know, the Ligurians were master-scientists. I am the last of that race—carrying on the electro-magnetic traditions of my people!”

 

Director:  Harry Revier

Starring:  William “Stage” Boyd, Kane Richmond, Claudia Dell, Eddie Fetherstone, Billy Bletcher, Josef Swickard, George “Gabby” Hayes, Jerry Frank, Sam Baker, Margot D’Use, William Millman, Ralph Lewis, Milburn Morante

Screenplay:  Zelma Carroll, George M. Merrick, Robert Dillon, Eddie Granemann, Leon D’Usseau and Perley Poore Sheehan

 

 

Foreword:  I hesitated very much before proceeding with this; but having introduced you to some of the best that the science-fiction serials of the 1930s had to offer, in the form of The Phantom Empire and Flash Gordon, I thought it only fair to show you also just how bad these things could get.

The Lost City was made independently by Sherman S. Krellberg, a New York-based producer and film distributor, working with his regular crew of writers and his director, Harry Revier. Its inspirations are amusingly obvious: not only was this serial racing The Phantom Empire into cinemas, it is likewise concerned with a hidden “scientific city” (though this one in the wilds of Darkest Africa, rather than beneath the surface of the Earth); and it showed some prescience by pinching aspects of the comic-strip Flash Gordon – though Universal’s intentions in that respect may have been known at the time – giving us a megalomaniacal bad guy with a tame scientist to do his dirty work (against his will, of course), and a hero of surname “Gordon”.

While I call The Lost City science fiction, the sad reality is that it pulls a painful bait-and-switch. The first two episodes fit that description, and so does the last; but in between this serial transforms into a running-around-in-the-jungle adventure which, while it has its moments, never comes close to the absurdities of its bookends.

It has been argued by some that this was Sherman Krellberg’s intention all along—that he sold his serial to distributors based upon the first two, relatively (and I mean relatively) expensive episodes, and then as soon as the deals were signed, junked that for the cheap-and-nasty jungle scenes.

There is support for this theory in Krellberg’s subsequent handling of the serial, which was re-cut into no less than four feature-film versions. The first two were also released during 1935, and were both also called The Lost City. One of them was made up of the first three chapters and some of the last, glued together with some newly shot footage; the second was made up of footage from Chapters 1, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Then, in the early 1940s, Krellberg released another version, called City Of Lost Men (according to some sources, City Of The Ligurians), which was made up of footage from the previously ignored jungle-adventure episodes; and followed this 30 years later (!) with a fourth re-cut that took the first feature version and tacked onto it more chunks of the last episode. This version was also called City Of Lost Men.

(At least, this is what I’ve been able to deduce, but I don’t swear to any of it.)

Astonishingly, it seems that at some point the serial’s script was also novelised—and from this we get the correct spelling of “Liguria” (which I’m guessing none of its six writers knew was a region in Italy), though it is pronounced with a w-sound:

However—I have a different theory as to why The Lost City is as it is. The serial stars William “Stage” Boyd as the evil Zolok, the story’s Ming the Merciless expy. Boyd had serious health issues at the time stemming from his alcoholism; and my suspicion is that he wasn’t up to the rigours of a serial shoot, particularly not with the need to deal on the fly with new scenes and dialogue. I think that Sherman Krellman, realising this, or having it forced on him, may have set his writers to working around his leading man; and hence the often tediously familiar jungle scenes. (This might also explain the serial’s plethora of writers.)

This is certainly a shame from the viewer’s point of view, as Boyd’s performance as Zolok is the highlight – if I can use that word – of The Lost City: far from the “Oriental” slinkiness of Charles Middleton’s Ming, Boyd plays his villain like a Prohibition-era gangster.

So there is some fun to be had with this serial—though I also need to offer a word of caution. Those of us who watch older material are sadly aware of the need to deal with the racial attitudes of its time; and the serials of the thirties were often guilty of wince-worthy depictions of “natives”. The Lost City goes beyond that, however: it is outright racist in its handling of its black characters, and this is a prominent part of the narrative.

Here too I hesitated—but I’m not a believer in burying this stuff. I think, rather, it needs to be confronted and dealt with.

So let’s strap ourselves in…

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CHAPTER 1: LIVING DEAD MEN

We open with mock-up newspapers and stock footage alerting us to a violent electrical storm and the destruction of a passenger liner at sea (the latter lifted from another film, though I haven’t been able to identify which). This is followed by more stock footage – MISSISSIPPI FLOODS – and a bridge blowing up when it is struck by lightning. A radio-newscaster informs us that similar disasters are happening all over the world.

 

We then cut to New York – of course – which is also being buffeted by violent electrical storms. However, we focus upon the laboratory of electrical engineer, Bruce Gordon, who is conducting an experiment with the assistance of his sidekick, Jerry Delaney.

The one great positive of The Lost City – and yet another reason to mourn the receding of its science-fiction plot – is the prominence of Kenneth Strickfaden’s famous doo-hickeys, which decorate the laboratories of both this serial’s hero and its villain.

In the next room, a military type discusses the grim situation with several suited scientists:

Officer:  “Gentlemen, I am afraid that unless we locate the source of this disturbance, we face the destruction of the world!”

Two of the scientists then get into a heated argument over whether the storms are the result in variations of the orbit of the moon, or of the sun.

The entire crowd then bursts rather rudely into Bruce’s laboratory. The oldest of the scientists then consults with two of his slightly younger colleagues about Bruce’s more radical theory of the source of the storms—drawing from one of them, Dr Colton, this rather remarkable conclusion:

Colton:  “In my mind, it’s just a publicity scheme!”

Yeah, that’s right: Bruce is going to get rich not saving the world from destruction.

Bruce overhears this, and insists that his instrument will not fail—prompting scowls and sulkiness from the others (!). Indeed, just at that moment, Bruce utters a cry of triumph—but at the same time, the generator powering his instrument begins to overheat and burn out, then goes out with a bang.

Colton [gleefully]:  “That’s the end of his detector!”
Reynolds:  “Just as I thought! An impractical failure!”

Well, congratulations, fellas!

More people burst into the room, and Colton can’t wait to share the happy tidings—only for Bruce to interrupt with the news that, before the meltdown, he was able to determine not only that the storms were originating on Earth, as he suspected, but from a location in “the heart of Africa”.

The oldest scientist protests that this is “unexplored territory”; while a bowler-hatted newcomer snarls, “That’s absurd! You’ll find nothing but jungle! – rough country!”

The screenplay offers no explanation, by the way, for why all these people are so eager for Bruce to fail. It seems just a tad…counterintuitive.

Fortunately, there are a couple of dissenting voices: when Bruce declares his intention of going there and putting an end to the disturbances, the older scientist promises that he can count on him for everything he needs; while another Suit – addressed as “Commodore” – declares that, “The resources of the entire nation are at your disposal!”

Bruce:  “I shall prepare an expedition at once!”

 

Speaking of counterintuitive, Professor Reynolds and Doctor Colton then volunteer their services—insisting that they believed in Bruce, “From the first.”

We then cut to Darkest Africa for our first encounter with, sigh, a “native tribe”: some large black men carry off some smaller black men, to the accompaniment of screams, grunting, and ooga-booga noises.

(Okay…I’m not going to that for every such scene; but in the interests of accuracy, you should imagine that sort of soundtrack over anything involving the natives.)

Somewhere nearby is a compound. This is overtly the “trading-post” of one Butterfield, one of our subsidiary villains; but in practice it functions more like the headquarters of his private army—with many of the local natives obeying Butterfield’s orders because of course they do, he’s white.

A eye-patched white man in ragged clothing staggers up to the compound, begging frantically for entry. Butterfield recognises the newcomer as a man called Andrews. He carries him into his own, rather luxuriously appointed cabin, while the natives stare and bug their eyes because of course they do, they’re black.

Butterfield demands to know what happened. Andrews reports that the natives are “all gone”: that they were attacked—“By giants!” This, to be fair, causes Butterfield to stare and bug his eyes, too. He remain sceptical, however, until Andrews tells him that the giants carried the natives away into the jungle, “Towards Magnetic Mountain.”

Bruce’s expeditionary party then arrives at the trading-post. Butterfield reacts rather as he did to hearing of the giants, but he puts on his most welcoming face for the introductions. Bruce explains what they’re doing there – “the heart of Africa” being mysteriously exempt from the destructive storms – and prompting Andrews to exclaim, “You must be speaking about that cursed Magnetic Mountain!” Bruce begs urgently for more information, but Andrews gets only so far as telling him that this is, “A mountain where the blacks—”

“A mountain of iron,” cuts in Butterfield, “a sort of natural lightning rod.”

Andrews is having none of it:

Andrews:  “There are horrors there you never dreamed of! Giants! – black giants! The biggest, most terrible creatures you ever saw!”

Andrews’ further insistence that, on the night of the attack, the mountain lit up, “Like a thousand search-lights!” prompts Bruce to set up his detector.

We then cut to the scientific city of Liguria.

What? No, I didn’t say “Lemuria”. I didn’t say “Murania”, either.

 

We get our first full-on dose of the doo-hickeys here. (I wish the prints of this were better, but I’ve done what I could.) We also meet four of our main characters: Zolok, a master-scientist (!) and “the last his race”; Gorzo, his short, hunchbacked (or hunched over) minion; Appolyn, his guard, or goon (who has the distinction of wearing even less clothing than Buster Crabbe did in Flash Gordon, plus they never made Buster wear sequins); and Dr Manyus, his tame scientist.

William Boyd then sets the tone for his entire performance, with Zolok waving his fists and shouting angrily at Manyus, “I MUST HAVE MORE POWER!!”

Leading to the following exchange of Immortal Dialogue (please imagine William Boyd bellowing in upper case):

Manyus:  “Zolok, you have already discharged enough electrical energy into the atmosphere to destroy a hundred cities!”
Zolok:  “I’ll have this cosmic condenser holding the power to destroy the world!…if I desire it!”
Manyus:  “When I invented these instruments, I did it for the benefit of mankind!”

Zolok observes that Manyus knows the consequences of defiance; which, from the hang-dog demeanour he assumes, I guess he does. Zolok then orders Gorzo to take Manyus to his labratory:

Gorzo [opening line]:  “Yes, Master!”

We, instead, cut to a nearby corridor, where the black giants are carrying the still-screaming captured natives towards Zolok’s prison-cells, under the eye of the person we are obliged to call this serial’s “heroine”.

I guess it doesn’t amount to much in the overall scheme of things, but Claudia Dell’s performance in The Lost City is one of its real irritations—her “acting” consisting almost entirely of her wringing her hands or clutching at the air: a tic captured for posterity in the serial’s opening credits.

Back in what apparently isn’t the laboratory in spite of the presence of the cosmic condenser – or perhaps it is Zolok’s private laboratory – Zolok smirks when he hears the hysterical screaming and turns to Appolyn:

Zolok:  “Appolyn! Stand by the enlarging machine!”

(Despite the spelling, Jerry Frank’s character is usually called “App-uh-lone”.)

Manyus and Gorzo then enter the same corridor, where we discover that the lurking blonde is Natcha, Manyus’s daughter. (Of course she is: what elderly scientist doesn’t come accessorised with a twenty-something blonde daughter?)

Say what you like about Claudia Dell, Natcha here joins the Best Opening Lines Stakes:

Natcha:  “Can’t we do something to keep him from creating more living dead men?”

Manyus reminds her – you’d think she hardly need it – that unless he does as he is told, Zolok may “injure” her.

The black giants deposit their much smaller (and still screaming) captives in the cells. They then stalk away using the time-honoured stiff-legged gait that conveys mind-control if not actual living-dead-ism.

 

In the laboratory, we find Manyus playing with some doo-hickeys, while Natcha watches him anxiously, and Gorzo – who is obviously in their confidence in this act of rebellion – gives her puppy-dog eyes. “It’s a success!” Manyus announces. “A new invention for humanity!”

And then we cut away to the “enlarging machine”…also one of Manyus’ inventions…

One of the giants grabs a native captive (all of them screaming hysterically in a way no-one would dream of making white actors do) and half-drags, half-carries him into Zolok’s presence:

Zolok:  “Put him in the brain-destroyer!”

During this scene, the main black giant is called and referred to as “Hugo”. He is played by Sam Baker, who after his participation in The Lost City nursed deep feelings of guilt and regret for undertaking this demeaning role. It was not until his meeting with Martin Luther King some twenty-five years later that he was able to come to terms with his own actions—accepting the extreme limitations of his options, and the necessity of providing for his family. He also learned to focus on the few positives arising from the situation, including his friendship with Jerry Frank—who was Jewish, and had problems of his own.

Be all this as it may, Hugo is one of the more memorable things about The Lost City; and we are glad rather than regretful when he, or at least Sam Baker, shows up again despite being killed off at the beginning of Chapter 3.

As the native undergoes the brain-destroying treatment, Zolok commands him that in future, he will think as he, Zolok, wills it; that he will obey his orders; that he will be his slave…

(At this highly inappropriate moment we get this serial’s one attempt at artiness, with an inverted-reflection shot pinched from The Mask Of Fu Manchu.)

Manyus is then summoned to the enlarging machine – I’d’ve forgiven this serial everything if only they’d called it an “embiggening machine”* – where he obediently throws some switches. Some doo-hickeys respond with flashing lights, sparks and electrical arcs, and the unfortunate native (via the magic of forced perspective) embi—uh, enlarges; which has the side-effect of giving him a wild afro, and making his loin-cloth and sandals grow to accommodate his new proportions. Gorzo escorts the new giant to his “quarters”, where his fellow giants greet him with grunts and ooh-ooh-ooh noises.

(*Actually I wouldn’t.)

On his way back, Gorzo encounters Natcha, who condemns him for his “heartlessness” in assisting Zolok. Gorzo explains that he serves Zolok because, “He promised to make a man of me, like other men: big; strong!” Natcha shatters his dream via a suggestion that this is likely to be via the enlarging machine: “You’ll see!” she warns him, literally stamping her foot at him.

Back at the compound, Our Heroes – remember them? – have finally succeeded in setting up Bruce’s detector. They turn it on, and when it starts crackling and sparking, the natives run away shrieking in terror, because of course they do. Bruce is soon able to confirm that Magnetic Mountain is indeed the source of the disturbances.

Back in Liguria, all this has the effect of interfering with Zolok’s inevitable spying-on-the-entire-area device. He orders Gorzo to turn on the amplifier (yet another arcing doo-hickey), and is then able to spy on the newcomers and see what they are up to. He recognises the magnetic detector at a glance, and is fully awake to its implications: “Those strangers have located my Lost City!”

 

(Um, not really lost, is it?)

Zolok has Gorzo summon Appolyn to “the Control Room”, interrupting Natcha – yet again, we gather – rejecting his proposal of marriage. “You’ll change your mind,” Appolyn smirks at her as he turns away. Natcha carries her grievances to her father, but he has other things on his mind: “I have big news! – white men are coming this way!”

(…underscoring the fact that Zolok, Appolyn and Gorzo are the only Ligurians we ever see…)

Natcha immediately sees this as a possibility for escape; but the always pessimistic Manyus concludes rather that the strangers will just end up more victims of Zolok.

As they also watch the strangers approaching, Appolyn suggests to Zolok that, “Butterfield must have talked”; though a growling Zolok concludes that he wouldn’t have dared: “You know why!”

Appolyn:  “What are your orders, Master?”
Zolok:  “Trap them in the Hut of the Mysterious Voice!”

He also orders Gorzo to the scene with a squad of giants, as back-up; and then summons Natcha to the Control Room.

Bruce and the others are still slogging through some unconvincing jungle. Colton is starting to get cold feet, worrying that Andrews might have been right about the giants; he points out that many of their bearers have deserted already. Bruce is defiant, insisting that they are going on anyway. He doesn’t notice the conspiratorial glance exchanged by Colton and Reynolds.

The party then approaches a large grass hut—from which issues, apparently, a terrified scream, followed by desperate pleas for help:

Jerry:  “That sounds like a white girl’s voice!”

****

****

I’ll be honest with you: ultimately, that line is why we’re here; the burning sensation creeping up the back of my neck notwithstanding.

Bruce and Jerry rush towards the hut. Colton and Reynolds take the opportunity for a little conspiracy, but are immediately set upon and captured by the giants. “What are you going to do with us?” demands Colton; to which Gorzo responds by rubbing his hands and going, “Mwoo-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

Despite the continued shrieks and pleas for them to hurry on the part of the White Girl’s Voice, Bruce and Jerry approach the hut cautiously—

—although not cautiously enough to avoid the trapdoor in the middle of the floor, which sends them plunging into the unknown depths—

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CHAPTER 2: THE TUNNEL OF FLAME

—but it’s okay, b—

Actually, I can’t really do my usual “But it’s okay, because” approach to the cliffhangers, or at least not for all the chapters. The Lost City takes a somewhat different approach, sometimes pulling back to show us how whatever situation Our Heroes end up in was created in the first place, or at least giving us a different perspective.

Here, for example, the flashback footage is intercut with new scenes of Zolok forcing Natcha – she being the only White GirlTM in residence – to scream into a microphone in his Control Room, so that the sound of her White Girl’s VoiceTM emerging from speakers hidden in the hut will lure Bruce and Jerry into the trap, as Zolok chortles triumphantly

And while I’m explaining things, perhaps I should also reassure you that not all my chapter summaries are going to be as long as the first. For one thing, as with many serials, the first chapter of The Lost City is twice as long as the succeeding ones; for another, it is also where most of the fun – or “fun” – or at any rate, touches worth commenting upon – are to be found. Once we get to the jungle sequences, I promise much shorter shrift.

Anyway—

I can’t even say this time that it is okay, or not immediately: Bruce and Jerry end up sliding down a ramp, which deposits them in an iron-walled dungeon, where – via more speakers – they can hear Zolok still chortling away:

Bruce:  “That laugh! The laugh of a madman!”

 

It is at this point that Jerry fulfills his manifest destiny by emerging as the Odious Comic Relief, reacting with “comical” terror to the many dangers even while square-jawed Bruce drags him into them.

Here, a strange beam of light slides across the floor, causing a hidden door to open. Jerry’s instinct is to go in the other direction, but Bruce forces him through the doorway: “We have to find that girl!”

They find the corridor lined with giants, although they are passive and do not react as the two creep along. They find another door and hesitatingly enter the room—to be confronted by Zolok, who welcomes them casually and finally gets around to explaining just who he is and where “this” is:

Zolok:  “My name is Zolok! I am the master of this place… You are in the Lost City of the Ligurians. As you may know, the Ligurians were master-scientists. I am the last of that race—carrying on the electro-magnetic traditions of my people!”

Ah, dear. That line promised so much; but it’s nearly all downhill from here. Mind you, this does beg the question of why, if Zolok is himself a “master-scientist” in the “electro-magnetic tradition”, he needs Manyus in the first place?

Weirdly enough, we never get any explanation for how Zolok came to be “the last of his race”, or why, under the circumstances, he wants to be able to “destroy the world”…except maybe to go out with a bang.

Bruce naively assumes that Zolok doesn’t know about the side-effects of his experiments, though he soon learns differently. Learning of his profession, Zolok quite graciously invites Bruce to inspect his electrical equipment; and he and Jerry find themselves being shown around by Hugo. This turns out to be a distraction, so that Zolok has the opportunity to acquire the magnetic detector. He begins planning for when he has Bruce in his power, only for Appolyn to point out that Bruce, unlike Manyus, has no daughter to threaten. (No hint, alas, that Jerry might occupy that role…)

Zolok:  “He’ll do as I say or I’ll put him in the enlarging machine! I’ll control his brain, even if I have to make him a white giant!”

There’s not all that much to see in Liguria, as it turns out, just a series of blank metal corridors (or rather, the same one over and over). The always-lurking Natcha spots the newcomers and takes the first opportunity to make contact. She leads Bruce and Jerry to Manyus’s laboratory, while the oblivious Hugo stomps off in the other direction.

Introductions have no sooner been made than Zolok’s voice comes over a speaker—explaining who Bruce is, and all about his magnetic detector. When Bruce asks how he could have known about their whereabouts, Manyus gives the answer that, in 1935, explained everything: “Television!”

 

He has a short-circuiting device, however, so there is the opportunity for a brief private conversation. Manyus decides to work with Bruce to put a stop to the worldwide disasters. Hearing about the amplifier (in the Powerhouse, which is where those first scenes were set), Bruce resolves to destroy it. Manyus cannot leave the room, which has a giant guarding it, but Natcha offers to act as guide.

Gorzo brings Colton and Reynolds into Zolok’s presence. Zolok frightens them by accusing them of spying, then easily acquires all the information they can give him. Hearing of Bruce’s expertise – and Jerry’s! – makes Zolok decide that he must hobble the two of them immediately; he has Appolyn prepare the enlarging machine…

Zolok then discovers Manyus’s interference with his TV system, and goes into a rant that ends with him dropping Colton and Reynolds down another trapdoor into another metal dungeon.

Manyus is demonstrating his freezing-gun – capable of freezing any sort of power – to Jerry when Gorzo and Hugo arrive to collect them. Meanwhile, Appolyn catches up with Bruce and Natcha at the Powerhouse, where Bruce has detached the amplifier. To Appolyn’s snarl, “What are you doing with that amplifier?”, instead of just, I don’t know, dropping it, he hands it off to Natcha and pops Appolyn one on the jaw. In the ensuing scuffle, Appolyn is forced, somewhat embarrassingly, to call for Hugo’s help (beaten up by an electrical engineer, huh, tough guy?); while Natcha hides the amplifier, I guess.

In Zolok’s laboratory, Jerry has been strapped into the brain-destroyer. (Shades of Dale Arden and the Dehumaniser!) Zolok then mocks Bruce for thinking he could match wits with him! – only for Appolyn’s previous embarrassment to become nothing compared to Zolok’s own when Natcha pushes a button and drops him down one of his own trapdoors, causing him to end up in the same cell as Colton and Reynolds.

This is by far the best Natcha moment, so enjoy!

While Manyus and Natcha free Jerry, Bruce engages Appolyn once again. Hugo may not be there to help, but he is outside the door; and though Manyus and Natcha slip by him, Bruce and Jerry are each caught in a choke-hold. Hugo drags them away into another room, where Jerry collapses, gasping; Natcha wrings her hands helplessly; and Bruce is forced towards another door, behind which is—the deadly tunnel of flame—

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CHAPTER 3: DAGGER ROCK

Oh, go on, make a liar out of me: this cliffhanger plays out exactly as a cliffhanger should, with our flashback including a cutaway to show Jerry recovering, so that he is able to spring up and rescue Bruce—dragging him free, so that it is Hugo who (rather clumsily) ends up falling into the “flames” (more electrical arcs).

So it’s okay.

(Except for Hugo. And he’ll be back.)

 

Meanwhile, there’s no end to Zolok’s embarrassments—first getting taunted by Colton and Reynolds, then getting jumped when Gorzo opens the dungeon door.

The other two make a break for it—coming across Manyus, who the rest are now frantically searching for. Reynolds conceives a plan:

Reynolds:  “If we can get him out of the Lost City, his scientific knowledge will be worth a fortune to us!”

(I may say that earlier there was a brief, unexplained reference to “ivory”, so I think something got lost in the editing. Anyway, we can safely assume that these two are there for the Filthy Lucre and not SCIENCE!!)

Manyus returns to the laboratory, where Natcha is waiting, and where Reynolds and Colton soon follow. They explain, truthfully enough, that they are members of Bruce’s expedition, and that they’re looking for a way out. Manyus’s mention of the Tunnel shocks surprises Natcha, who cries that it is certain death

—unless someone has a freezing-gun, of course.

More splitting up and searching follows (get used to it). Almost caught, Colton slips away leaving Natcha to face Zolok. She admits that Manyus is in his laboratory (where Appolyn apparently failed to search), but defies Zolok when he demands to know if she has given the strangers information about his city:

Natcha:  “I’m no scientist!”
Zolok:  “You can’t deceive me!”

Trust me, Zolok, she isn’t. She isn’t.

Zolok drags her away and spends ages opening a door with some electronic gadget instead of just turning the handle, which gives Jerry – watching with Bruce from a distance – the opportunity, if not reason, to conclude that Natcha is “in cahoots” with Zolok. Thwarted by the door, they head for the laboratory—

—where Reynolds and Colton are trying to persuade Manyus and his freezing-gun that the others are waiting at the Tunnel. Appolyn interrupts—and all things considered wins the Embarrassment Stakes, I think, when the much older scientists manage to knock him out and tie him up.

 

Meanwhile, in the next (soundproofed?) room, Manyus shows a little sense for once and leaves a recorded message for Natcha. Outside, he is weirdly outraged by the hog-tied Appolyn; and at this point Colton and Reynolds drop their disguise and physically hustle him away. They open up the door Tunnel – I’m not sure how they knew where it was – and Manyus dissipates the electrical energy with his gun, clearing an escape route to the jungle.

After a wearying amount of wandering, Bruce and Jerry make it back to the lab. Appolyn wusses out almost immediately and tells them that Manyus has been taken away by the others.

Meanwhile, Zolok has subjected Natcha to the “photographing of her thoughts” with “the record-chart”, thus discovering the others’ plans for escape. He sends out an electrical signal that closes all the open doors, including the one to the laboratory. Jerry longs for a crowbar, but Bruce realises the significance of Zolok’s previous actions. He demands a “light-key” from Appolyn, who denies having one – and honestly, it’s very difficult to know how he could be concealing that or anything else in his clothing! – but they do finally find one tucked away, and make their escape. The key also gives them slowww entrance to the room in which Natcha has been left tied up, “To learn to tell the truth!”

They find Manyus’s message and head for the Tunnel. By now, Manyus, Colton and Reynolds are out in the jungle, which Zolok has seen on his TV: he sends Appolyn and Hugo after them.

So begins in earnest the wandering-around-in-the-jungle part of The Lost City.

Manyus, Colton and Reynolds are spotted by Butterfield and some of his natives: he tells their leader that it is Manyus who has, “Captured your men and made them brainless slaves”, which…isn’t entirely untrue. The natives swarm up and, while Colton and Reynolds slip away, Manyus is captured. Butterfield snarls at him that he is to face the vengeance of the natives, “For all you’ve done to them…and to me.” We don’t actually know what that is, though we suspect it has more bearing than anything Manyus might have done to the rest.

Butterfield:  “To the Altar of Sacrificeqwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas

(—sorry, my cat just decided to rest his head on my key-board—)

Butterfield:  “To the Altar of Sacrifice!”

Manyus is tied onto a flat altar-stone, above which is suspended a large flat rock with dagger-blades protruding from it. The natives set the mechanism in motion, and the deadly blades begin to descend—

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CHAPTER 4: DOOM

This time we get a re-cut of the footage: we watch Zolok trying and failing to get in contact with Appolyn, who is out searching for Manyus with a giant who looks suspiciously like Hugo, before tuning his television to watch the beginning of Manyus’s execution. Desperate to save the “kindly old scientist”, as the titles here choose to call him, Zolok goes back to shouting down his communication device at Appolyn, who now suddenly has his own transportable version of same, which he clearly did not in the previous chapter. He is ordered to rescue Manyus.

Meanwhile, Bruce, Natcha and Jerry are also wandering around in the vicinity, when suddenly—

Bruce:  “What are those drums?”
Natcha:  “Those are the Drums of Death!”

 

The three “hurry” in a somewhat leisurely fashion; Appolyn is again urged onwards; and then Zolok – whose communication system apparently works wherever he needs it to – snarls through the ether at Butterfield that, if Manyus dies, “I’ll destroy your entire tribe!”

Or you could, oh I don’t know, destroy Butterfield. Anyway, Butterfield smirks in an unconcerned manner, and re-enters his trading-post / headquarters. Colton and Reynolds are there under guard:

Colton:  “You cowardly renegade! Why did you have your blllacks attack us?”

Butterfield tells them they should be grateful, otherwise they’d’ve ended up like Manyus; laughing uproariously when they ask what he means.

Back in Liguria, Zolok is getting frustrated with the lack of action, and orders Gorzo to, “Turn on Switch 31!” This brings one of Zolok’s doo-hickeys to sparky, crackly life; the sparking and cracking somehow terrifies the natives dancing around the altar, who run away screaming because of course they do; and Bruce, Natcha and Jerry are able to free Manyus in time, thanks to the descending daggers doing a reverse at some point between shots.

However, they don’t get far before they are captured by some of Butterfield’s natives, to the accompaniment of much ooga-booga-ing. They are taken to the trading-post, where Manyus recoils in terror at the sight of Butterfield: “That’s the man who ordered the natives to torture me!”

To kill you, actually, but we won’t quibble. Butterfield justifies himself on the grounds of the captured natives’ fates – the suggestion that he is genuinely concerned for them seems weirdly out of place – and the others convince him that Zolok is really to blame. Butterfield allows them to take Manyus to his quarters, then roughly interrogates Colton and Reynolds, who deny all knowledge of the Lost City in general, and giant-making in particular.

Meanwhile, Manyus is convincing the others that Colton and Reynolds are not to be trusted; while Natcha changes from her white dress-and-boots outfit into a snug black pantsuit-and-belt ensemble that she just happens to find in Butterfield’s room.

In the hut next door, the others are agreeing that they have to get Manyus away from Butterfield before he learns that, “He can restore the mental powers of those giants!”, a point which has not previously been mentioned—although we get a retconny sort of explanation when we cut to Andrews telling Butterfield that he (somewhere, at some point) heard Manyus say that, “He could not only restore the minds of these living dead men, but he could make giants with full mental power!”…

…that kindly old scientist.

Butterfield:  “With a regiment of men like that, Africa—is mine!”

Bruce and Jerry come up, asking the whereabouts of Colton and Reynolds. Butterfield points them at the wrong hut, confusing Andrews. “You’re so dumb,” observes Butterfield, signalling at a couple of natives. As Bruce and Jerry approach the hut, a half dozen or so natives jump them; only to get their butts handed to them because of course they do. More natives pour out of the hut and this six-to-one ratio is too much even for our Heroic White GuysTM, who are forced struggling into the hut they had been about to enter of their own free will.

 

(I may say in passing that the big winner from The Lost City’s bait-and-switch was Eddie Fetherstone, with Jerry Delaney morphing from Odious Comic Relief to Two-Fisted Sidekick; not that this makes him any less obnoxious.)

Butterfield:  “If I can get into the Lost City – and get Zolok out of the way – I’ll bring the old man back with me – and I’ll make all the giants I need!”

Back out in the jungle, Gorzo and a giant run into Appolyn and another giant…who would appear to be none other than Hugo (!). (In fact Hugo offscreen-teleports between serving Appolyn and serving Gorzo over the next stretch of this serial.) Gorzo gives Appolyn a paralysing-ray; and he departs alone with the declared intention of “getting Manyus”, though he hasn’t exactly excelled himself in that department so far.

However, Colton and Reynolds are also manoeuvring to “get Manyus”, in pursuit of which cause Colton somehow recruits a few of the natives. I guess it’s just instinctive with them to do whatever a White ManTM tells them.

Speaking of which, while Bruce and Jerry are struggling to free themselves from their bonds, the former produces this contextual gem:

Bruce:  “Butterfield is supposed to be a white man!”

Ah, yes, my all-time favourite expression: That’s very white of you. Because white people are just so gosh-darn wonderful, aren’t they?

“He’s gone native,” responds Jerry as he chews at the knots at Bruce’s wrists.

I dunno. Butterfield is apparently planning a grab for power based on the exploitation of the natives: that sounds pretty white to me.

Natcha’s futile search for Bruce alerts Butterfield to the fact that Colton and Reynolds are up to something: they enter the hut where Manyus was left and find Reynolds dying of a splotch on his chest. He mutters something about Colton and the natives, and keels over.

Butterfield sets out after Colton, Andrews sends the natives after Butterfield, Natcha and Bruce go after the natives—once Jerry has Two-Fistedly jumped Andrews, who tries to stop them—and we get one of those tedious everyone-following-everyone sequences. It ends up being Gorzo – or anyway, his giant – who recaptures Manyus; while Appolyn bails up Bruce and Natcha with the paralysing-ray, which he earlier used on a couple of Colton’s natives for no particular reason. He declares his intention of taking them back to the Lost City, and Bruce jumps him. They struggle on the ground while Natcha stands around waving her hands and screaming—as Appolyn discharges the paralysing-ray—

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

CHAPTER 5: TIGER PREY

—but it’s okay, because – as we saw at the end of the previous chapter – Appolyn misses.

Dear me. If this guy is a typical Ligurian, no wonder it’s a dying civilisation.

 
Isn’t the point that it is *not* death-dealing?

Bruce knocks down and disarms Appolyn, but then leaves him at Natcha’s urging to return to the search for Manyus.

Meanwhile, Butterfield has come across an Arab encampment (!) ruled by one Ben Ali. He and Butterfield know each other; the latter is disconcerted to learn that Ben Ali is in this territory looking for slaves: “Giant slaves.” Butterfield – a terrible liar, considering all the practice he gets – tries to convince him that his journey has been for nothing.

Bruce and Natcha run into Jerry, who isn’t alone:

Bruce:  “Did you find seen any trace of Dr Manyus?”
Jerry:  “No, but I ran across this bunch of Arabs here.”

Bruce decides to go and see whether Manyus has been taken back to the trading-post, convincing Natcha that she’ll be much safer in the Arab camp. She goes off with Jerry…who starts ordering the Arabs around just like Colton was ordering the natives around earlier, and with exactly the same amount of explanation offered.

Butterfield is disconcerted again, when confronted with Jerry and Natcha, but quickly claims them as “friends” and tells Ben Ali that Natcha is the daughter of “an explorer”: winking broadly at the others. “I wondered what such a beautiful girl was doing in the jungle,” drones Ben Ali disinterestedly, prompting a modest lowering of the eyelids from Natcha.

Meanwhile, Zolok sees on his television that Manyus and Gorzo (and Colton and Hugo, but they don’t rate a mention) have been captured by the Arabs, and orders him to go after them: “They are in Zone 15!”

 

A message gets brought to Ben Ali, who leaves the tent—allowing Butterfield to explain to the others what will happen if the slave-trader finds out about Manyus and the giants. Of course it’s already too late, as Manyus and Hugo (and Colton and Gorzo, but they don’t rate a mention) have just been brought into the camp. Ben Ali is giving Hugo an impressed up-and-down when Colton begs him for a private audience. Granted it, he blurts out exactly what Butterfield least wanted Ben Ali to know—including the fact that Manyus is, “The greatest scientist in the world!”

Colton reinforces Ben Ali’s denunciation of Butterfield and suggests that the two of them could work together: “Have the old man make slaves for us, and we can become rich!” There seems a slight flaw in that reasoning to me, but Ben Ali just now is more intent upon playing games with Butterfield, trapping him into repeating his lies. The others, meanwhile, are dispersed into various tents, with various degrees of courtesy or rough handling. Natcha manages to slip out, and finds where her father is being held. She whispers to him her plan to escape and find Bruce and what she here calls “the light-gun”. Jerry, likewise, easily fools and overpowers his guard.

Ben Ali questions Colton, who insists that he has seen for himself Manyus’s ability to make giants—which he actually hasn’t, although the writers may have forgotten. Colton then stupidly presses Ben Ali about “what’s in it for him”, and of course ends up a prisoner too. Duh. Ben Ali chortles that, after all, he did ask to be, “Taken care of.” A few minutes later, shots are heard…

Back at the village, Bruce is questioning a drunken Andrews about the whereabouts of Manyus and Butterfield when two natives jump him. He takes care of them because of course he does, but the paralysing-ray ends up in Andrews’ hands…

Meanwhile, as Natcha hurries through the jungle she is confronted by a tiger (because of course she is). She screams, fleeing in terror. She finds herself at the edge of the river, where a raft sits. She pushes off into the water, but the tiger follows: she fights it off bravely using the raft’s pole, but then plunges into the water—

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

CHAPTER 6: HUMAN BEASTS

—but it’s okay, because the tiger then just swims away, while Natcha climbs out of the water again.

Oh, come on.

But let us hope for better! – this was a double cliffhanger, after all; and now we cut back to Bruce, who is at the point of the paralysing-ray—

—but it’s okay, because Andrews can’t figure out how to work it. As he stares at it in a puzzled way, Bruce pops him one.

Oh, come ON.

Seriously, those may be the worst cliffhanger resolutions I’ve ever seen—and two for the price of one!

 

Bruce and Natcha are separately wandering around in the jungle when they find each other. Natcha tells Bruce that “Father and Gorzo” are prisoners in the camp (and Butterfield and Jerry and Hugo – not so much Colton, I guess – but they don’t rate a mention).

Meanwhile, Ben Ali and Manyus are having tea:

Ben Ali:  “I understand you make supermen?”
Manyus:  “That is true.”

Ben Ali then basically pitches to Manyus what Colton pitched to him. Manyus waves a dismissive hand:

Manyus:  “I am not interested in riches. My discoveries were made to benefit these natives.”

You know, I was just thinking that!

Ben Ali then sends for Natcha, to “change your mind”; but since Manyus is confident Natcha isn’t in the camp, he doesn’t blink. Though she is in fact nearby: Bruce is just giving her the you-wait-here speech, though she doesn’t because of course she doesn’t. They spy on the camp a bit and then slip away again; and between cuts they’ve apparently worked out a plan, with Natcha declaring herself willing to do anything to help her father. Bruce gives her the paralysing-ray, urging her not to be afraid to use it if necessary.

And then, because this is Chapter 6 and we haven’t had any mushy stuff yet—

Bruce:  “You’re a brave girl!”
Natcha:  “And you, Bruce—”

There is a weird pause here – I guess she didn’t know how to finish that botched line sentence – and then Bruce picks her up and carries her into the bushes jungle.

Ew. Can we have the tiger back, please?

Meanwhile, Appolyn has finally reached the outskirts of the camp – where the hell has he been? – and he immediately has a (justifiably) cranky Zolok on his back, via his communicator. He is ordered to bring back both Manyus and Bruce.

 

Ben Ali has a tanty when he learns that Natcha has escaped, while Manyus smirks—though he resumes his usual hang-dog expression when he is put back under guard. Almost at once, however, Natcha and Bruce show up—and we are greatly relieved to discover that Bruce picking up Natcha was a part of their plan, not – anything else – as Natcha is pretending to be unconscious. Bruce, still a stranger to Ben Ali and playing [sic.] dumb, claims that he found her lying out in the jungle.

Ben Ali gets straight to work on the “recovering” Natcha, telling her to reason with her father or else; while “honoured guest” Bruce is shown to another tent—by an “Arab” who turns out to be Jerry in the robes of the guard he jumped. They split up to search for Manyus.

Belatedly, Gorzo thinks to order Hugo (who he calls by a different name here, I think, unless he’s speaking “Ligurian”) to break his own bonds and then free him. He further orders him to grab their guard, who obligingly turns his back and goes deaf in order to facilitate it. Gorzo then also disguises himself as an Arab, there fortunately being robes just his size sitting nearby in a basket.

(They were really struggling to fill out their running-time by this stage, and one of the ways they did it was to have Gorzo repeat every order to the giant at least three times!)

Bruce’s snooping finally leads him to a trussed-up Butterfield, who puts the blame for everything on the late Dr Colton, and promises that if Bruce will help him, he’ll get all of them out of their mess:

Butterfield:  “I’ll get my blacks to come back here and wipe out the entire camp!”

The snooping has been spotted, however, and Ben Ali has another tanty at learning that another white man has lied to him. He issues orders in “Arabic” that’s almost as embarrassing as the natives’ “ooga-booga”, and Bruce and Butterfield are caught just as they are leaving the camp. Butterfield takes advantage of Bruce tackling three or four armed Arabs on his own and slips away; while Two-Fisted Jerry comes to Bruce’s aid, after which the Arabs have no chance.

And then yet again they split up to find Manyus. (How big is this damn camp?) Both of them are required to pummel a few more Arabs into submission along the way, and Bruce ends up in the tent vacated by Gorzo—whose last order was for the giant to destroy anyone who came in.

The giant stalks forward—and seizes Bruce by the throat—

 

[To be continued…]

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6 Responses to The Lost City (1935) (Part 1)

  1. RogerBW says:

    The poster just under “strap ourselves in”: “High-voltage action! Electrifying thrills! … hey, Morty, what’s another word for electrical? Thunderbolt, that’ll do.”

    That’s not a Torture Stone, it’s clearly a Murder Stone. I dunno, some people…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bruce Probst says:

    As stated best in “The Meaning of Life”: “A tiger? In Africa?”

    Like

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