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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

Having both been thrown clear of the train crash, Lothar finds Mandrake unconscious at the side of the wreckage. While he goes to find a doctor, an ambulance arrives and takes Mandrake away. Lothar catches sight of it, and later, tells Professor Houston, Betty, Dr Bennett and Raymond about it. Deciding that a search of the local hospitals is the best way forward, Betty and Raymond try to find Mandrake together, while Bennett searches on his own. Meanwhile, Mandrake is taken to a room in the Green Valley Rest Home and tied up. Later, Webster is brought to the rest home as well, and chained to the wall in another room.

Betty, Raymond and Bennett arrange to meet at their last destination, the Green Valley Rest Home. Bennett arrives first and is locked in another room. When Betty and Raymond get there, he decides to look around the grounds; eventually he goes inside and gets involved in a fight with two of the Wasp’s men. Betty is caught also, and she’s locked in yet another room. The Wasp appears in person to interrogate Mandrake, but when he’s brought from his room, with a hood over his head, it turns out to be his guard. Loose in the building, Mandrake tries to find a way out. Betty also manages to escape her room and the two meet up. But with corridors being blocked off by the Wasp and his henchman Dirk, they’re herded into the east wing, which is then blown up.

Mandrake 10

Pushing the narrative forward, Chapter 10: The Unseen Monster is yet another fast-paced episode that packs a lot into its short running time, and which succeeds in having fun with the identity of the Wasp. With all three suspects gathered together in one place – Bennett, Raymond and Webster – it’s up to the viewer to work out just who is the masked criminal (though there is another clue hidden away amongst all the mayhem). It’s a clever move, designed to throw doubt in the viewer’s mind if they’ve settled for one particular character already, and it adds a level of drama that’s been missing for several episodes. And with Mandrake sidelined for most of the chapter, it’s a welcome change of focus.

It also makes for a pleasing change in tone, with the emphasis on action in the previous two episodes downplayed in favour of putting everyone in peril, and giving its supporting players a lot more to do. This allows directors Nelson and Deming a chance to adopt a more studied race against time scenario, rather than the breakneck speed they’ve had to employ thus far. And there’s still time for a few series’ favourites, such as a couple of rounds of fisticuffs, and Mandrake’s hat going with him in the ambulance – even the Wasp’s men know how important it is to him – and being knocked off and then quickly put back on during a fight.

Rating: 6/10 – with two episodes to go, Chapter 10: The Unseen Monster shows the serial heading towards its conclusion with a much needed injection of gusto; playing up the Who-is-the-Wasp angle works a treat, and results in an episode that shows the serial won’t be on auto-pilot all the way to the end.