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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

Escaping from the Interstate Power House just as it starts collapsing around them, Mandrake and Lothar head for their car. Spotted by the Wasp’s henchmen, a struggle ensues during which Mandrake manages to acquire a distinctive knife from one of the henchmen. Back at Professor Houston’s he tells, Betty, Tommy, Dr. Bennett, Webster and Raymond that he should be able to find out where the knife was purchased. But two of the Wasp’s men are listening outside and when no one is looking, they steal back the knife.

Meanwhile, Professor Houston manages to outwit one of his guards and get a radio message to Mandrake, telling him that he’s about to be moved to an ironworks in a place called Dorgan. With Betty’s help, Mandrake learns that Dorgan is fifty miles away, so he decides to fly there in his plane. The Wasp learns of this and arranges for another plane to intercept Mandrake’s. The magician reaches Dorgan only for the pilot of the other plane to shoot at him. Houston attempts to slip away while the Wasp’s men watch as Mandrake’s plane is hit and it crashes into the ground.

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It’s the halfway stage, and Mandrake, the Magician is proving to be a serial with a keen sense of its own absurdity and a great deal of vigour. It’s formulaic to be sure, but every now and then it throws in something unexpected, as with this episode and Mandrake’s taking a brief time out from sleuthing to show off a magic trick to Betty and Tommy. And with the brief running time (which still includes the same title sequence as every other chapter, a recap of the previous episode, plus a look ahead to the next chapter), there’s no chance to indulge in a car chase, and only a very short bout of fisticuffs. Instead, the focus drifts away from Mandrake for most of the episode, leading to a scene where the Wasp punishes one of his men, and more time with Professor Houston.

The fast pace and devil-may-care approach to the material – the Wasp remains as supernaturally omniscient as always, now the radio transmitter has been found the Wasp’s men take to eavesdropping at windows – help make the serial fun to watch, and Chapter 6: The Fatal Crash (which we all know isn’t true) is a good case in point. The writers clearly know their stuff, and make this episode – and despite its short amount of new material – a pleasing addition to the series, bringing all the main characters together and through Professor Houston, showing that Mandrake isn’t the only proactive character. And yes, as you can see above, the makers have seen fit to include lightning bolts to indicate an electric shock – does it get any better than that?

Rating: 6/10 – the whole section with the knife is all filler and to be honest, heavily redundant, but there’s enough incident in Chapter 6: The Fatal Crash to make this one of the more enjoyable episodes; surprisingly improved by having less Mandrake in it, the serial maintains the energy of previous entries and makes the next episode look even more exciting.