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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, Dick Curtis

Climbing up to the overhead wire just as the hook holding up the trestle car straightens out completely, and sends the car plummeting to the canyon floor below, Mandrake rejoins Lothar and Webster as they fight off the Wasp’s men. The henchmen flee in their car, with Mandrake et al. in quick pursuit. The Wasp’s men hide out at a gas station, leaving the famous magician to return home; their leader informs Dirk of what has happened, and he tells them to pose as telephone repair men in order to plant a dictaphone in Mandrake’s home. When they get there, Betty and Tommy let in two of the Wasp’s men.

Mandrake returns home and immediately realises the two men are phony. He has a fight with them but they both escape. Meanwhile, the Wasp has Dirk and another of his men, Dorgan (Curtis) set up Professor Houston’s radium machine so that he can use it to destroy a dam. Still needing some more platinite to complete Houston’s new machine, Mandrake and Lothar return to the canyon where Webster has been mining some more of the precious metal. While Webster leaves to get a magnetic test kit, Dorgan takes a flag marker out to the dam and places it as a target for the Wasp to use with the radium machine. At the canyon, some of the Wasp’s men confront Mandrake and Lothar and a fight ensues. The Wasp destroys the dam, and the waters flood the canyon, causing massive destruction and into which both Mandrake and his loyal assistant fall to their deaths.

Mandrake 8

Three fist fights, a car chase, the Wasp getting out from behind his desk, Betty having even less to do than Tommy, Mandrake running in from another room (and at quite a distance) while the Wasp’s men shoot into one of his magic tricks (a cage he’s obviously disappeared into), Webster panhandling for platinite that’s already been mined – see Chapter 7: Gamble for Life – and the worst exploding dam effect seen in many a year, Chapter 8: Across the Deadline scrambles from one scene to the next with all the energy and vigour of a small child with ADD. This is another filler episode, adding nothing to the serial’s overall plot, and lacking in sense throughout.

And yet it still retains the serial’s rude charm, and provides the usual amount of unintentional laughs in amongst the seriously played theatrics. There’s little that can be said when the Wasp’s men are able to escape by holing up at a random gas station in the middle of nowhere, or by having Dirk and Dorgan test the radium machine on a lump of concrete, as by now the writers have abandoned what little plot development had been gained in the previous episode and decided to throw in the first idea that came to them – whether it works or not.

Rating: 4/10 – not the best of episodes and spurious in its plotting, Chapter 8: Across the Deadline becomes an episode to be endured on the way to the finale; at least it’s fast-paced, and the sight of Mandrake and Lothar congratulating themselves for having avoided a landslide is guaranteed to raise a chuckle.