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Mandrake, the Magician

D: Sam Nelson, Norman Deming / 17m

Cast: Warren Hull, Doris Weston, Al Kikume, Rex Downing, Edward Earle, Forbes Murray, Kenneth MacDonald, Don Beddoe, John Tyrrell, Sam Ash

Narrowly escaping from the collapsing radio station (and without a scuff mark between them), Mandrake and Betty return to her home. With Dr Bennett and Webster present he lets them know that he’s going to focus his investigation on finding Regan, the man who impersonated Professor Leland. He heads over to his friend Raymond’s magic store to see if he has any information but Raymond draws a blank. Coincidentally, Tommy Houston is there for a junior magician’s meeting, and is met by Betty. After Mandrake has left they overhear two of the Wasp’s gang in the store talking about Regan. Tommy hides in the boot of their car and learns Regan’s whereabouts.

He manages to jump out of the car without being seen and makes it back to Mandrake’s apartment where he tells Mandrake where he can find Regan, a place called the Mill River Inn. Mandrake and Lothar head there straight away and ambush Regan just as he’s about to go on stage. While Lothar ties up Regan and takes him back to their car, Mandrake disguises himself as Regan and performs his act. But the Wasp’s henchmen find out about Mandrake’s presence at the inn and arrive to take Regan away. Megan escapes from Lothar and Mandrake is attacked by the Wasp’s men. They corner him at the top of a staircase and force him over the railing and down on to a mill wheel that rotates downward with Mandrake unconscious on it.

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With a bit more purpose about it, Chapter 4: The Secret Passage has the shortest running time so far (and the first three minutes are a recap of Chapter 3), but it at least shows Mandrake being a bit more proactive than in the last episode. It’s still heavily reliant on coincidence and people overhearing other people in order to propel things forward – if the Wasp’s henchmen weren’t such blabbermouths Mandrake wouldn’t find out anything – and contains a couple of obligatory fight scenes (Mandrake takes on three goons in his apartment and only thinks to involve the police when he’s caught two of them). And it gives Downing, as Tommy, a chance to get involved as well, after spending the first three episodes largely in the background (and looking bored).

At the Mill River Inn, Mandrake’s magic act involves a tablecloth that deposits a lot of cutlery on the floor, a basket of flowers that appear from under it as well, and a variation on the Indian rope trick (which is strangely ineffectual). It’s a reminder of the character’s background, or day job, but the tricks shown are more in line with Tommy’s junior magician group than someone who’s meant to be the world’s greatest magician. It’s the first episode where the Wasp doesn’t make an appearance on the big TV screen in his gang’s hideout and instead, literally, phones in his orders, and there’s no car chase in the countryside. And while it’s Mandrake in peril at the end this time, it’s probably a fair bet that he’ll wake up just in time to save himself.

Rating: 5/10 – another solid entry that, briefly, gives Mandrake the upper hand, Chapter 4: The Secret Passage doesn’t feature a secret passage, and doesn’t give any further clues to the Wasp’s real identity (though the word “moustache” might give it away); still ticking over, the serial meanders ever onwards in search of a more exciting series of events to satisfy its audience.

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