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Mandrake, the Magician

D: Sam Nelson, Norman Deming / 14m

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

With Mandrake unconscious on the mill wheel, and facing certain death, luck intervenes as the wheel rotates down into the cellar below and the magician falls from the wheel onto the floor. Regaining consciousness he exits the Mill River Inn where he finds Lothar fighting some of the Wasp’s men. Together they escape. Back at the home of Professor Houston, Mandrake muses on how the Wasp could have known he was going to the Inn. He suspects there is a listening device hidden somewhere in the house and with Betty’s help he not only finds it, but he also sets a trap for some of the Wasp’s men by telling her that the formula for platinite is in a safety deposit box at his bank.

The next morning, Mandrake baits the trap and manages to capture one of the Wasp’s men. The man tells Mandrake about the Wasp’s plan to destroy the Interstate Power House; Mandrake and Lothar rush there to try and stop it from happening. Somehow, the Wasp finds out about Mandrake’s imminent arrival at the power station and his men there are alerted. When Mandrake and Lothar get there they are both overpowered by the Wasp’s men: Mandrake is tied to a generator while Lothar is knocked unconscious. Just as the Wasp aims the radium machine at the building, Mandrake frees himself. Grabbing Lothar he lurches towards the exit, but then the room begins to collapse around them.


With Mandrake again taking the fight to the Wasp, Chapter 5: The Devil’s Playmate inherits the mantle of shortest entry from Chapter 4: The Secret Passage, and also continues the trend of having a title that doesn’t relate to anything that happens during the episode. But this is an episode that crams a lot in and speeds along with gusto, the writers’ decision to make Mandrake even more proactive proving a good choice indeed. He’s not getting any nearer to finding Professor Houston or his radium machine, and he still isn’t any nearer to discovering the Wasp’s real identity, but at least he’s trying, and at last he’s found the hidden radio transmitter (go Mandrake).

This time around there are the usual punch ups and car chases (one of which ends with the Wasp’s men veering round Mandrake’s car so they can end up in the river), and the bizarre sight of Mandrake swinging from an upper balcony of the bank in order to take out three of the Wasp’s henchmen. Tommy is present for a minute or so before being sent to bed, Raymond shakes Betty’s hand then holds onto it for a very long time indeed, and as Mandrake makes to grab Lothar he stops to pick up his hat and put it on (he must really like that hat). As noted above, the Wasp somehow learns of Mandrake’s last-minute trip to the Power House, but unless he’s telepathic it’s impossible for him to know (we know he’s someone working with Mandrake but this is stretching his omniscience a bit too far). And it’s a shame that the cliffhanger ending is much the same as the destruction of the radio building at the end of Chapter 3: A City of Terror. But again, this is an episode that flies by, and it retains the series’ charm.

Rating: 5/10 – shorter than previous entries, but in some ways better, Chapter 5: The Devil’s Playmate has an energy about it that makes it all the more enjoyable; much more rewarding than the previous chapter, this bodes well for the development of the rest of the serial.