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Mandrake, the Magician

D: Sam Nelson, Norman Deming / 16m

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

Escaping (of course) from his crashing plane, Mandrake parachutes to the ground in time to aid Professor Houston in getting away from the Wasp’s men at the ironworks in Dorgan. Unfortunately he has to leave his radium machine behind. The Wasp alerts his men to watch Mandrake’s country home. While they keep watch, Webster arrives. Mandrake needs him to help retrieve some platinite to help the professor build another radium machine. Tapping into Mandrake’s phone line, the Wasp’s men learn that he needs to collect some parts from Houston’s home. They get there first and ambush the magician but Lothar intervenes and they get away – but without the parts.

The platinite can be found in a canyon where the Suburban Telephone Company have a base of operations. Mandrake, Lothar and Webster travel there. At the same time, the Wasp’s lieutenant, Dirk, continues to implement his boss’s plans to sabotage all the local communication networks by sending them to the same site. As they arrive, Mandrake and Webster decide they have enough platinite and start to head back to their car. Alerted to the presence of the Wasp’s men by the site foreman, Mandrake and Webster tackle them. One of the men climbs a gantry and heads across the canyon in a trestle car. Mandrake jumps on and the two fight but the hook the car is hanging from is slowly straightening out. The Wasp’s man falls over the side, and as Mandrake watches him fall, the hook straightens entirely, sending the trestle car crashing down into the canyon.

Mandrake, the Magician Chapter 7

One of the more amusing episodes (and probably not for the right reasons), Chapter 7: Gamble for Life sees more things happen by chance than by any logical design. The Wasp instructs his men to watch Mandrake’s country home when he can’t know that’s where he’ll go, and instead of telling his men to go the canyon (because that’s where Mandrake and the platinite will be) they get there under their own steam – what a coincidence! Other amusing moments: Mandrake parachuting to the ground sans chapeau, and then rushing to Houston’s aid with hat firmly back on his head; telling Houston to “Buck up, man” when the professor claims he can’t make it; a gate telephone that drops down out of nowhere; and Kikume’s stunt double wearing an ill-fitting wig to make him look more like the real thing (not happening).

For all the poorly choreographed fight scenes and glaring lapses in logic and common sense, the series continues to be highly enjoyable, and often because it is rough and ready around the edges. Hull is still a somewhat smug Mandrake, everyone else has to stand in line to wait their turn in front of the camera, and the fisticuffs to narrative ratio is still approximately four to one. It’s good to see Webster, a character who otherwise pops in and out of the material, given a bit more to do, and the showdown at the canyon is one of the better set ups so far. Of course, there’s five chapters to go, so the writers have got a lot to do to wind this up, and judging by the preview for Chapter 8, they’re still not in any hurry.

Rating: 6/10 – as fast-paced and entertaining as ever, Chapter 7: Gamble for Life maintains the devil-may-care approach to the material already established and at last shows Mandrake getting one over on the Wasp by rescuing Professor Houston; it’s all thrilling stuff and it’s still a pleasure to come back to each week.