(Chapters 1-6)

Howdy folkses! Here we are, back after an extended break with our inaugural review for 2022! During our hiatus we watched a lot of movies, good, bad, and ugly, some of which will undoubtedly grace the front page in coming months, but first we bring you something of a blast from MMT's past, with a back-to-basics, old fashioned b-movie offering of the sort that our site's admittedly shaky reputation was built upon.

For the past two months I've been re-reading archived reviews, waxing nostalgic about the carefree, halcyon days of the original Million Monkey Theater, when Founder Nate would lounge upon his golden throne in the grand hall of Million Monkey Towers, a 26-pound Gateway laptop perched delicately across his knees, waiting patiently for his propane-powered modem to deliver its blistering 56kbs/second of early-2000's inter-webs data. Life seemed so simple then, when the movies were mostly washed-out, pan-and-scan, dollar-bin DVDs and feline former intern Kelby was merely a sassy comic drunk rather than an accused felon and international fugitive. Perhaps some of you have fond memories of that kinder, gentler site too, before my rampant profanity and gratuitous penis jokes dragged us down into the sordid mire of filth and depravity we're wallowing in today.

Once upon a dial-up, I was just another faceless fan of Founder Nate's trailblazing combo of critical summary, social satire and sweet nekkid boob-spotting. I thrilled to his exhaustive tallies of on-screen cigarettes smoked, his obsessive identification of military aircraft and his troubling, pathological fantasies about TV journalist Ann Curry. I was an early adopter, and I vividly remember the very first wave of Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra reviews back when you'd still have to stare at a pixilated chimpanzee for twenty or thirty seconds while the home screen loaded, hoping against hope that Nate had posted a new review since your last visit.

What a difference nineteen years has made! I can now instantly manage virtually every aspect of the site, from layout to graphics, to screen caps to coding, to editing and live-posting reviews, from just about anywhere I happen to be with nothing but a smart phone and a wi-fi connection. That's certainly not to say it doesn't take some work to promote the site and keep the content coming, but I am keenly aware of how much easier I have it now than Nate did when he was posting his first reviews in the early years of the twenty-first century.

As an avid MMT reader one of the things I always looked forward to most was when Nate and Editor Pam would write a review in tandem, particularly when they'd go back-and-forth on an old movie serial such as The Phantom Empire or Zombies of the Stratosphere, so I recently asked Pam, now our esteemed CEO and Grand Poo-Bah, if we could review a serial together and perhaps attempt to recapture some of that old Million Monkey magic.

To be honest I was shocked when she agreed. Between her work as an ambassador-at-large for Sweaters for Ferrets International and her more recent gig as road manager the all-ferret indie-pop boy-band Weasel War Dance she's had a pretty full plate.

The new album drops in March.

Hopefully by the time I've finished with this opening chapter she'll be back from their promotional tour and ready to get to work on chapter two.

The Undersea Kingdom was the second film serial produced by Republic Pictures, a "mini-major" studio founded in 1935 through the consolidation of six smaller Poverty Row studios. Their focus was on a low-to-mid budget product, but unlike most other independent studios of the era they eschewed exploitation material and instead concentrated on more family-friendly projects with broad, escapist appeal. Republic was initially known primarily for its westerns, but the output diversified and expanded in quality, budget and subject matter over time, eventually producing some major films with A-list talent such as The Sands of Iwo-Jima (1949), The Quiet Man (1952) and Johnny Guitar (1954).

Mascot Studios, one of the entities that had been acquired to help form Republic Pictures, had specialized in serials for most of its eight-year existence, so with that handy infrastructure already at its disposal the newly-minted studio immediately began producing serials of its own. Republic released sixty-six serials over nineteen years, beginning with the diverting 15-episode comic adventure Darkest Africa (1936) and ending with the abysmal and derivative 12-episode crime drama King of the Carnival (1955).

The Undersea Kingdom was designed as a direct response to Universal Studios' wildly popular Flash Gordon released earlier that same year. The two projects feature similar themes and aesthetics, but Republic's knock-off takes a cheap, clumsy and slapdash approach, with preposterous plotting, horrendous acting and a threadbare budget three and a half times shy of the now-classic sci-fi juggernaut whose success it had hoped to emulate.

Flash Gordon was chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1996. As it seems unlikely The Undersea Kingdom will ever be afforded the same honor, we figured it deserved preservation in a review on Million Monkey Theater...which is pretty much the next best thing.

Chapter One: Beneath the Ocean Floor

First up is a series of tableau introducing the dashing heroes and hiss-worthy villains we'll be alternately cheering and sneering at for the next twelve episodes, beginning with our dashing hero Ray "Crash" Corrigan, whom we last encountered in Zombies of Mora Tau (1957) with a one-line, barely-there bit part. Undersea Kingdom was his first major role and Republic had high hopes of turning him into the first breakout star under contract to their fledgling studio, but despite a relatively decent showing in low-budget westerns he never achieved the high-profile fame that had been predicted for him. He eventually became better known in the industry for his "Corriganville" western movie ranch, which he rented for use in hundreds of films and television programs over nearly 30 years, and as the owner-operator of two of Hollywood's most in-demand gorilla suits.

Ray "Crash" Corrigan as Ray "Crash" Corrigan

He's a naval officer, submariner, multi-sport athlete and all-American he-man who looks perfectly dreamy in his Navy dress uniform, but sadly will be spending most of this serial in a goofy mock-Trojan helmet and a pair of two-sizes-too-small fish-scale shorts. Some sources claim that "Crash" was a nickname from his previous work as a stuntman, others say it was chosen by the studio because it sounded like "Flash." My money's on the latter.

Lois Wilde as Diana Compton

She's a sassy newspaper reporter, anxious to make a name for herself and maybe even bust through a few glass ceilings along the way. She's a fast-talking modern gal, a tough-as-nails go-getter, and generally a smart and capable lady who gives as good as she gets. She's not the greatest actor I've ever seen, but she's got a bit of a Carol Lombard vibe going on, so you'll get no further complaints from me.

Monte Blue as Unga Khan

Our dastardly villain, seeking to usurp the throne of Atlantis and unleash havoc upon the upper world. He tries really, really hard to be fearful and menacing, bless his black little heart, but his squinty eyes, Fu-Manchu mustache and theatrical posturing undermine his efforts at every turn. He's essentially a made-in-China, Dollar Tree bootleg Ming the Merciless.

William Farnum as Sharad

The High Priest of Atlantis and the good guys' leader in the kingdom beneath the waves. He's feeble, credulous and wishy-washy, and he kind of looks like Chef Boyardee after a few weeks on Noom and a couple of high colonics.

C. Montague Shaw as Professor Norton & Lee Van Atta as Billy Norton

The Professor is a smarty-head inventor who has built the fancy experimental vessel that sets the plot in motion. His son Billy is an over-enthusiastic stowaway that the producers shoe-horned in so the kids in the audience could feel that they, too might enjoy some thrilling underwater adventures if only they'd be willing to hide in a footlocker on a submarine. Owing to the Professor's advanced age I'm guessing Billy was the product of a whirlwind May-December romance, presumably with a university student less than half the old rascal's age. It probably ended in either disgrace or tragedy because the mother is never seen nor mentioned.

Smiley Burnette as Briny Deep & Frankie Marvin as Salty

The perfunctory comic relief buffoons. They have an adversarial relationship with a sassy parrot, which probably tells you everything you need to know. The instant I saw them mugging at the camera I knew I would fucking hate them, and sure enough I did.

There are others, but we'll greet 'em as we meet 'em.

We open with some stock footage of the Annapolis Naval Academy, where Crash is in his third year of officer training--a pretty nifty trick, since he would have been 31 at the time of his admission, yet the program doesn't accept anyone over the age of 22. Maybe ol' Crash had a Senator uncle or Naval Admiral dad pulling some strings for him.

The first five minutes or so are all about showing us what a fine specimen of manhood our hero is, and boy-howdy they sure do lay it on thick. First up we see him in line for his annual physical, and as the doctor puts a stethoscope to his broad, powerful chest a couple of officers lament that they'll be losing this peerless hunk of masculine prowess when he leaves the academy at the end of his term. One excitedly states "He'll make a fine officer!", while the other longingly opines "I wish we had more like him!" Then they surreptitiously ogle him from across the room and dribble a little thirsty drool over the tips of their fountain pens.

"No homo, bro, but I just struck wood."

We get a brief montage of Crash throwing a shotput and doing a long jump, then we cut to the annual Army-Navy football game where--wouldn't you know it--he's the star player who makes the game-winning touchdown. Next we see him in the ring of the academy gymnasium, Greco-Roman wrestling his way into the hearts of impressionable pre-teen boys across America.

Outside the gym Billy Norton comes swaggering up in his little bo'sun hat and tiny midshipman's uniform and makes like he's gonna walk right in. The Sentry on duty stops him, saying it's against orders, but Billy says insists he has an important message for Crash. No-go says the Sentry. Even if he let him in now, he says, Crash is too busy grasping and grappling with another hot, sweaty man to take the message anyway, so whether important or not it will just have to wait.

Billy goes sulking off around the corner of the building and finds a spot where he can reach a service ladder. He climbs up to nearly the top of the wall and finds an unlocked tilt-in window. He opens it flat and crawls right out onto the glass, using it as a platform from which he can watch the riveting man-on-man action below, unimpeded by killjoy ensigns who just don't understand a young man's needs.

Billy experiences his first, awkward stirrings of puberty.

As the match continues apace Billy gets a little over-excited and causes the window to fall the rest of the way open, leaving him hanging perilously from the edge of the frame some thirty feet above the floor! He cries out for help and as the rest of the assembled trainees and officers stand stupefied, helplessly craning their necks, Crash leaps into action. First he swings on some hanging gymnastic rings towards where his little pal is dangling, then climbs up the open framing of the wall and onto the rafters, grabs Billy and brings hims down safely, all to the stirring scherzo strings of some poor, struggling composer's stock library adventure music.

Crash experiences Billy's second, even more awkward stirrings of puberty.

So they get back onto terra firma and Crash asks what the dickens he was even doing up there in the first place, and Billy explains that he has a message from his dad asking him to come to the lab right away...which in no way addresses why he came in through a window just below the freaking roof. Everybody just accepts this like it's a perfectly reasonable answer, however and Crash heads off to get himself all showered and purdy so we can all go meet Professor Norton.

In Norton's lab we see Diana interviewing the frisky old codger for her paper regarding a machine he's invented that can predict earthquakes with pinpoint accuracy, locate the exact source of the disturbance that's causing them and even prevent them if he can get the thing physically close to that source.

All of this is pretty timely, it seems because there's been a rash of temblors ravaging coastal areas nearby and the Professor is convinced that there's some human agency behind the signals that are triggering them. He furthermore believes that these signals are coming from beneath the sea, and further-furthermore states that they're coming from the lost city of Atlantis!

It sounds to me like Norton may have a touch of that "brain fever" so popular in 19th century romance novels, but he shows her what he calls definitive proof in the form of a recently discovered idol made of pure orichalcum, a metal he says is made by fusing copper and gold that he insists only Atlanteans know how to make. Since all the tests done on the thing shows that it was made only a few years before he feels that's pretty much game, set and match for his theory about Atlantis.

Note to metallurgically-minded comment trolls: Yes, I know the difference between a fusion and an alloy, but the people who made The Undersea Kingdom did not.

In his account of Atlantis, Plato mentioned orichalcum as a mined metal, rather than an alloy or fusion, claiming that it was no longer known or available his era, but then he also probably never meant his story to be taken as anything more than an instructive parable rather than the historical account most people assume it to be today. To make things even more confusing orichalcum is also the name assigned to a particular type of bronze used by the Romans for making coins.

The Professor is planning an expedition to the trace the signals he's been detecting and hopes to get his anti-earthquake machine close enough to block them. He points on a map to the location where Atlantis was supposed to have sunk, conveniently situated just off the coast Maryland, and claims that, contrary to popular belief, it didn't sink all at once but over a course of years, giving the Atlanteans plenty of time to construct a roof of orichalcum over the city to keep out the water and keep their civilization intact.

He provides no further evidence beyond the Home Depot garden statue to back up any of these claims, yet he confidently asserts that "Atlantis, though lost, still lives."

Hey! There it is now!

We cut to Atlantis itself, which isn't so much a lost continent as a lost landscape of rocks, waterways and trees identical in size and features to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Despite its location beneath the ocean and inside a huge dome of dark metal it's every bit as bright and sunny as Southern California.

The main city is a medieval Spanish-style castle complex, inside the main hall of which we meet Sharad, the High Priest and de facto leader of Atlantis. He's having a really shitty day because the evil would-be usurper Unga Khan has launched an attack, and all of the officials and advisors of the besieged city believe capitulation is their only hope for survival. Sharad, has the final say, however, and calmly asserts that Poseidon has never forsaken them before in their time of need, so he certainly won't forsake them now, if only the people will have faith.

Faith is nice, but Unga Khan has tanks and airships.

There's a cavalry and infantry attack, and during the battle both sides use arrows and spears despite Khan's forces also having some powerful modern weaponry. The airship, which looks kind of like the starship Enterprise with its saucer section missing, drops a devastating payload of bombs on an admirably detailed scale model of the city then heads back to its hangar inside a massive tower a few miles from the scene of the battle.

Hey, Unga...overcompensate much?

This is Unga Khan's stronghold, and inside a swanky throne room/control center we see the man himself receiving a report from his Number Two that pleases him greatly. Sharad's forces have been driven inside the "sacred city," he is told, and have been forced to take up a siege position.

The would-be usurper gloats that with the religious fanatics of Atlantis under control he will have no more interference in his plans to conquer the upper world. He's very emphatic about his evil plot, raising his hand and shaking his finger in the air as he rants triumphantly about it.

Just don't ask him where that finger's been.

They head over to a retro-futuristic TV monitor to watch some stock footage of cars driving around a typical American city. Number Two further offers up the encouraging prediction that once the entire upper world has sunk into the sea Atlantis will rise again and his boss will be ruler of the whole planet...but won't he still really just be ruler of Atlantis? I mean, nothing else will be left to rule over because he will himself have destroyed it all, right? I don't really think he's thought this through.

Unga Khan orders Number Two to activate "The Disintegrator," so the dutiful henchman heads over to what looks like a big circular above-ground pool in the middle of the room that's actually a hole in the floor with a solid barrier around it. He looks down into some kind of futuristic boiler room/laboratory below. The place is run by clunky robots he controls with a big boxy belt fitted out with rows of unmarked knobs and buttons. He twiddles a few of these with his deft fingers and the robots lumber to life.

These are the Volkites, awkward, shambling things with dryer-hose limbs and bulky silver claws, that will later appear, with slight modifications, in two other Republic Pictures serials, the next being The Mysterious Dr. Satan (1940), then later in Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952). One of them even showed up in a fifth season episode of Star Trek: Voyager called "Bride of Chaotica", so the things have quite a bit of pop-culture cachet.

Say what you will about Unga Khan, at least he never runs out of hot water.

The Volkites twiddle a few knobs and levers of their own, triggering a deadly earthquake just a few hundred miles up the coast from Annapolis.

This gives Professor Norton the data he needs to pinpoint the precise source of the signals so he can get his anti-earthquake machine there to prevent further disasters. He grabs Crash and some twitchy-looking guy named Joe who's just kind of aimlessly hanging around the lab and they all head off to the docks to hop inside Norton's super-duper pimpmobile of a rocket-powered submarine. Billy wants to go, too but Dad tells him to fuck right off.

"Sorry, I just don't much like you, son."

Diana stops to make a quick call to her editor then meets the others at the dock, where Briny and Salty are already loading up the sub with supplies.

These two blithering maroons are played as mid-functioning, developmentally disabled adults who seem to struggle with basic activities of daily living, or "ADL's" as we say in the social services business. They're frequently outwitted by their saucy pet parrot Sinbad and are prone to falling over a lot, so you have to wonder why they've been selected for a mission of such vital importance. It almost seems as though nobody at the Naval Academy buys into Norton's bullshit stories about finding Atlantis.

This hasn't aged well.

Twitchy Joe, meanwhile is getting cold feet because he thinks the sub can't handle the kinds of depths they'll be required to subject it to in order to follow the earthquake signal to Atlantis, but Crash tells him to suck it up and be a manly man's man just like him.

They all climb into the sub, cast off from the dock and dive beneath the waves.

I got one of these free in a box of Cap'n Crunch cereal when I was six.

The more they dive the more twitchy Joe becomes, hammily whining that if they go any deeper the sub will be crushed like an egg. Norton and Crash tell him to calm the hell down, but because the by-laws of adventure serials require that our heroes must go no longer than ten minutes of screen-time without the threat of mortal danger he instead has a full-on psychotic breakdown. He locks himself in the control room and puts the sub into a steep, rapid dive straight for the bottom.

Crash tries to cut the door open with an oxygen torch that happens to be connected up just outside the door, but he only gets about halfway through the top hinge before Joe cuts off the gas supply from inside the control room.

Sure, he's a homicidal-suicidal maniac, but at least he's a cheerful homicidal-suicidal maniac.

Just when it seems all hope if lost for our intrepid crew, stowaway Billy pokes his head out of a footlocker that's serendipitously placed right next to the oxygen valve and covertly turns the supply back on. When Twitchy Joe sees the sparks of the torch coming through the frame again he seems befuddled, but he gathers what's left of his wits enough to shut the thing off again. He watches as Billy peeks out and tries to turn it on again and pounces on the poor kid, who screams for Crash to save him.

At the sound of Billy's terrified boy-voice, Crash suddenly gains the adrenaline-fueled super-strength of a mother rhinocerous protecting her young. He manages to get his fingers into the gap he burned out above the hinge and wrenches the entire door out of its frame with his bare hands! He rushes in, knocks Twitchy Joe's lights out, stabilizes the sub and save the day.

"That door was pretty flimsy...maybe Joe's right about this tub!"

No sooner is the crisis over than Norton's earthquake machine starts clicking and sparking, and he realizes another quake attack is about to commence. They lock in on the signal location and Norton sets the thing to block it.

Back in Unga Khan's place a spinning widget on the disintegrator starts making some funny noises then bursts in a puff of smoke. Number Two suspects it's outside interference rather than a technical problem on their end, so he and Khan head over to the monitor and home right in on Norton's sub.

They use some kind of magnetic tractor beam to bring it down through a tunnel and into a swampy inlet at the edge of Atlantis, and Khan orders Number Two to twiddle his little belt buckle knob and send out a bunch of troops to round up the strangers from the upper world.

"And put the other knob back in your pants, mister...I won't be needing that until later."

The rest of the crew are surprised to see land through the periscope, but Norton quickly realizes all of this malarkey has has fully confirmed his batshit theory about Atlantis.

They decide they'd better explore the place so they make landfall and head out, leaving the Briny and Salty to recapture the errant Sinbad who's loudly mocking their efforts from a tree limb just beyond their reach.

Only the best and brightest.

Before they leave the waterside Norton submerges the sub using a little control box which he then hides by burying it in some thick moss at the base of a tree. Joe is all better now and goes with them too, his psychosis ostensibly cured by the therapeutic power of Crash Corrigan's Freudian fist.

So our intrepid crew light out into the interior and poke around the rocky terrain of Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park for awhile when suddenly a bunch of Unga Khan's cavalry appear. Crash tells the others to wait bejind a boulder while he scopes out whether these are friendlies or hostiles, and he immediately discovers they're the latter when they start fucking with him.

He punches two of them right off their horses and climbs up a nearby rock face, forcing them all to dismount in order to pursue him.

As soon as they're busy climbing the hill he leaps to a convenient vine and swings onto one of the horses. He rides off, driving the entire harras of them away, and leaving the poor dumb evil minions stranded.

Back in his tower Unga Khan is steaming mad. He orders Number Two to send out "The Juggernaut," which turns out to be that funky tank-looking thing we saw earlier.

It's probably an old Buick tricked out with plywood and silver paint.

Our hero has meanwhile rejoined the others and sent the horses galloping away into the wilderness, which seems like a pretty short-sighted move to me as they have no idea how big of an area they'll be traversing and some good, strong horses might have proven pretty damn useful to them, but who am I to question the manful perfection that is Crash Corrigan? I'm nobody, that's who, unworthy even to gently pat dry his massive pectoral muscles and thick, powerful thighs after a steamy sauna bath at the YMCA in central LA.

Still, the Juggernaut shows up now and the Volkites emerge from it, weapons in claw, and without horses to carry them swiftly to safety it appears Crash and company have no chance of escape.

Robot money shot...$47 well-spent.

Joe goes all twitchy again and panics, pulling out a gun and firing off a few shots at the robots. When his bullets have no effect he shouts "They're not human!" and bolts for the rocks, but he doesn't get far. One of the Volkites zaps him with a lightning beam from its bop gun and sends him to bit-part heaven.

Twitchy Joe goes bye bye.

Crash and the gang head for a crevice in the rocks, but the Volkites open fire with a barrage of their explosive beams and he realizes they'll need to split up if they're to stand a chance. He decides that he and Billy will climb up the rocks and draw the robots' fire letting Norton and Diana get a head start and hopefully escape. Why he feels the need to expose a ten year-old to this additional peril is not explained, but up they both go until they reach the top, dodging explosions from the Volkites' rays until they're finally out of range of their weapons.

Back in the tower Unga Khan orders Number Two to use "The Invisible Ray Gun," which does little more than make little jets of smoke rise from the crevices in the rock, but maybe he's just softening them up. He next orders the miraculously repaired disintegrator to be switched on, causing sparks and flame to burst from the ground and the rock face around Crash and Billy to crumble.

"Look Billy! You can see the Hollywood sign from here!"

Now the vile Khan unleashes his dastardly piece de resistance, a big-ass boss gun that fires incendiary projectiles that look like deadly Tylenol capsules with little tiny fins on them.

Lucky they're on the north side of the tower or they'd have to rotate the whole building.

Impact after punishing impact blasts away at the mountain until there's just a sliver of it left, upon which our heroes are clutching at each other for dear life. An instant before one final strike we see them fall backwards off their perch, presumably to their ignominious deaths!

Super scary stuff, Pam! How in the heck do you think our heroes are gonna get themselves out of this seemingly hopeless predicament?

Chapter Two: The Undersea City

Bradley, I'm afraid there's just no way Crash and Billy can escape this. They are surely goners, and Crash should be ashamed of himself for bringing Billy up on the rocks instead of sending him along with the others. The Disintegrator is an awesome weapon, and it seems to have set the rocks around Crash and Billy on fire, and Crash and Billy are so high above the ground, there's no way they can jump to safety. Besides, we saw them fall at the end of the first episode, don't you remember?

All seems lost, when Crash looks behind him and sees that there's a ledge covered with a lot of soft sand only about eight feet down! He and Billy let themselves down to it, and are able to scramble down to another pile of sand on the ground. Wasn't that lucky! The fall at the end of the first episode must have been an optical illusion. (Keep in mind that the audience was mostly small children, and remember that there would have been a time lapse between viewing the first and the second episode, which is probably why the writers felt comfortable playing fast and loose with continuity.)

After their miraculous escape, Crash and Billy somehow manage to find Dr. Norton and Diana, and they all run off into the rocks where the robots can't follow them. I have to say I'm seriously impressed with the way Diana can run over the rough ground in her skirt and high heels. Either the Disintegrator ran out of juice or Unga Khan can somehow see that Crash and Billy are no longer on the rocks, because we don't hear it firing now. And through a gap in the rocks, the four see a welcome sight - the capital city of Atlantis!


I fully expected them to keep on going into the city, but Dr. Norton shows some unexpected common sense and says that they'd better go back to the submarine before they meet any more of the inhabitants of Atlantis, who so far seem to be very unfriendly. But it's been more than a minute since there was any action, and for a serial aimed at small children, that's too long. The four are spotted by some horsemen, and not unexpectedly, the riders catch up to the four on foot very quickly.

Are the riders good guys or bad guys? Right now it's hard to say, but since one rider orders another to report to Sharad, at least they haven't come from the known-to-be-hostile Unga Khan. Billy and Crash are loaded onto one chariot and Diana and Dr. Norton are put onto another, and the chariots and the mounted troops set off to Sharad's city. And now we see that Unga Khan did know that Crash and Billy weren't on the rock anymore. We saw in Chapter i that he owns a device that appears to be capable of showing what's happening at any place on Atlantis, or at least any place where the plot requires Unga Khan to find out what's going on. The device not only sees actions, it can hear what's going on, too. It strongly resembles a TV set. Just as an aside, TV sets really did exist in 1936, although they were still experimental and most people had probably never seen one in real life.

The henchman who was monitoring the TV set tells Unga Khan that the four are being taken to the "secret city," and Unga Khan sends his troops out to recapture them. Unga Khan's headquarters must be very close to the rocky area, because it takes his troops maybe a minute to reach Sharad's men. The two chariots carrying the four are sent off to the city, while Sharad's men and Unga Khan's men proceed to have a mounted battle with swords.

While they're scrapping (and they managed to make it to an open area to fight in, instead of trying to fight it out on the narrow trails inside the rocks), Crash manages to untie the ropes around his wrists, whereupon he attacks the chariot driver. This, mind you, while the horses are galloping full tilt along a narrow rocky trail that is quite steep in places. Little Billy bravely grabs the reins and is able to not only control four galloping horses but hold the reins with one hand while he whips them to greater speed with the other. I was wondering why they didn't head back to port when they found Billy on board or at least make him stay with Briny and Salty aboard the sub, but now I know. Billy is superhuman!

Hurray for Billy!

Perhaps wisely, Crash and Billy bail out of the chariot after they've thrown the driver out, although I can't tell whether they intended to jump out or not. As you'll remember, the second chariot carrying Diana and Dr. Norton was right behind them, so Crash and Billy may not have gained any advantage, but just then Unga Khan's tank the Juggernaut appears on the scene. For some reason it's making a sound that resembles a locomotive's whistle. The Volkites emerge and vaporize the remaining chariot driver, and they lumber closer and closer to Diana and Dr. Norton. Are Diana and Dr. Norton also going to be vaporized? No, it seems that Unga Khan still wants them alive, and the Volkites herd them back to the Juggernaut.

Crash and Billy have sneaked up close enough to see what's going on, and Crash orders Billy to go back to the sub while he follows Diana and Dr. Norton, since it's too dangerous for Billy to come along. Although I'm glad somebody's finally beginning to have some concern for Billy's safety, it seems to me that sending a little boy through hostile territory alone is not a good idea either. I was also wondering how Billy could find the sub without even a map or a compass to help, but then I realized that any little boy who knows how to drive a four-horse chariot probably knows how to find his way through a wilderness area without any trouble. What sort of education has this kid had, anyway?

Billy's fate remains in question. The Juggernaut not only sounds like a speeding locomotive, it can travel as fast as a speeding locomotive, and it outpaces Crash immediately, but he keeps on running after it anyway. I must point out that the Juggernaut seems to be too small to carry Diana, Dr. Norton, the Volkites, and whatever crew is operating it, but in view of the other technology that Unga Khan has, there's probably some way they can all be fitted in. Instead of giving up and escorting Billy back to the sub, Crash keeps on going after the Juggernaut.

So as Crash is running futilely after the Juggernaut, it's time for some comic relief, and we return to Briny and Salty back at the sub. They've decided that they've earned a nap, and they're snoring away as their parrot roosts above them and a Volkite lumbers toward them. Their parrot helpfully tells them to wake up, and eventually they do - to see the Volkite looming above them and pointing what is unmistakably a weapon at them. This wakes them up completely, and in short order Salty, Briny, and the parrot are marched off at gunpoint. Salty recommends using music to soothe the savage beast, and Briny pulls out a harmonica and starts playing. It doesn't seem to do any good.

I wonder if the parrot will be of some help

But back to Crash, who has unbelievably managed to trail the Juggernaut, and has somehow kept up with it to arrive just as the Juggernaut enter a cave. Equally unbelievably, his dark-blue uniform shows not so much as a spot of dust despite the fact he's been climbing over rocks and a few minutes ago fell out of a chariot and rolled around on a dirt road. He's a real credit to the Navy! Inside the cave, several Volkites are moving around, and Diana and Dr. Norton are removed from the Juggernaut and escorted into a room where Unga Khan is sitting on a throne. Dr. Norton's hands are tied but Diana's are not. Sexism!

The throne room of Unga Khan

To my surprise, Unga Khan refers to Dr. Norton as a guest and orders that his hands be untied immediately. Do the pair think it's suspicious that Unga Khan is now so friendly when not long ago his troops were chasing them? Maybe, but Unga Khan hastens to reassure them that his troops weren't chasing them to capture them, they were only trying to rescue them from Sharad's troops. In fact, he believes that Crash and Billy have also been captured by Sharad's men, and he unselfishly offers to rescue the pair.

Unga Khan tells Dr. Norton and Diana that they're the first people from the upper world who've made it to Atlantis, and then asks them how they managed to do this. Is he making polite conversation, or does he have an ulterior motive? Dr. Norton modestly informs Unga Khan that they came by means of "a super submarine propelled by rocket motors" which he invented himself. Unga Khan looks astonished by this, as well he ought. Dr. Norton goes on to say that his rocket motors are so gosh-darn powerful they could raise Unga Khan's tower to the upper world! Unga Khan appears to be quite interested in Dr. Norton's rocket motors. But Dr. Norton isn't the only one here with awesome technical skills. Unga Khan counters with a claim that he's harnessed the power of the atom with "machinery" in his tower, and once he's on the surface, he'll either conquer or destroy it. Furthermore, if Dr. Norton won't cooperate, he has ways of changing Dr. Norton's mind. I begin to suspect that Unga Khan is a bad guy.

While Dr. Norton is bragging, Crash is climbing over more rocks, approaching Unga Khan's tower, which as it happens looks quite a bit like a rocket ship. There were a lot of Volkites in the cave, which I suppose is why Crash didn't follow the Juggernaut inside. He reaches a point where the rocks are too steep for even him to climb down. What to do? Fortunately there's a cable of unknown purpose reaching from the tower to the rocks. Of course the super-athletic Crash is a master of tightrope-walking, as I'm sure most Navy officers of the time were, and it's no trouble for him to walk on the cable and enter a conveniently-located tower window, which is fortunately open.

The pride of the Navy

I will say here that although the actor doesn't actually make the entire walk, it does appear that he really did take a few steps on the taut cable, which was at least a little bit above the ground. Once inside, it takes Crash only a few seconds to wrestle two of Unga Khan's men into unconsciousness. After they're out, he helps himself to one of the guards' uniforms.

Meanwhile, Unga Khan is showing Dr. Norton the way he plans to change Dr. Norton's mind about helping him. He orders Dr. Norton to be put into a small chamber and orders the "transformation" to be started. The Volkites obediently manipulate some controls, lights flash, and Dr. Norton looks terrified and is probably sorry he bragged so much. As smoke rises and obscures Dr. Norton, Crash pops into the room from an elevator, togged out in the guard's uniform and no doubt glad to be out of his own surely-by-now filthy Navy uniform. It seems that Crash did hang onto his pistol, with which he gets the drop on Unga Khan and a guard who's beside him, and Crash orders Diana to let Dr. Norton out of the chamber. She complies, but unfortunately another guard comes into the room just then, and it's another two-on-one fight for Crash. Plucky Diana grabs up Crash's pistol from where it fell on the floor, and while she holds Unga Khan at bay, Crash displays some impressive wrestling moves and finally knocks out the guards. As he, Diana, and Dr. Norton try to escape, a Volkite blocks the door, and it seems that the elevator went back down once Crash left it, so they can't escape that way. Crash throws a chair at the Volkite and knocks it down, but while he's distracted, the remaining guard picks up a weapon and shoots it at Crash. The impact knocks Crash into the elevator shaft. The chapter closes with Crash plummeting down into darkness.

Oh noes! (That blob is indeed Crash.)

Well, this is surely the end of Crash. Bradley, please, tell us what happens next.

Chapter Three: Arena of Death

Well, Pam, it's like this...

In a sane world where the folks making this were honest with their audience about what had just happened right before their eyes, Crash most assuredly would have met his end, and he would currently be a splattered blob of badly soiled linen and chunky man-marmite at the bottom of the elevator shaft. We plainly saw him trip and fall in, and we plainly saw him plummet hundreds of feet into the stygian darkness could anyone possibly survive that?

Through the magic of intentional bullshit, that's how.

After a brief text-and-tableau recap of the story so far, we get a replay of the footage leading up to the elevator incident, but when it reaches the point where we clearly saw Crash fall at the end of the last installment we now see him climb carefully into the shaft and gingerly lower himself down the cable.

I had no idea we were watching Rashomon.

I can accept that the fall we saw from a distance at the end of Chapter One might just possibly jibe with the soft landing we saw at the beginning of chapter two...if I squint a little and don't think about it too much...but this is brazen cinematic gaslighting.

I reject the typical apologist tack that these serials were intended for children and would not have been watched sequentially in one sitting as we might do today. That might be a valid argument as far as the first cliffhanger is concerned, but most children aren't stupid enough to fall for it here. They would surely have remembered Crash falling down an elevator shaft and would probably have been worrying about it night and day for the entire anxious week they'd have spent awaiting the next installment...I mean, assuming they gave a shit. Considering how bad this stuff is that's by no means a given, but still, this bullshit bait-and-switch is just blatant revisionist fuckery, and I'm not having it, Pam!

Whew! Now that I've gotten that out of my system...Crash climbs down the shaft to the cave at the base of the tower and overhears some of the guards he'd fled from in the previous episode talking about Billy being taken to "the Sacred City." They also mention how he had eluded them and they bafflingly refer to him as "the lieutenant." How a bunch of goons from Atlantis came to know Crash's Naval rank is left unexplored.

As they chat, Khan's Number Two calls down on the funky retro TV thing and tells them "The body of Crash Corrigan lies at the bottom of the elevator shaft."

"Get your mops and buckets, boys...I want that shaft so clean you could eat your dinner off it!"

When they pull open the elevator doors Crash leaps out and beats the snot out of them. Four more guards bum rush him, but he picks up one guy and throws him at the others, knocking them all to the ground in a heap of jagged limbs and dark henchman hearts. He runs to the stables, grabs a horse and escapes, pursed by another division of Unga's cavalry.

Unga Khan takes the news of Crash's escape pretty well, all things considered. Crash is superfluous to his plans now, and even if "the lieutenant" should reach the Sacred City and join up with Sharad they'll still be no match for his own superior forces. Now he has a new scheme, to learn the secret of Norton's super underwater rocket power so he can raise his tower lair to the surface and lay siege to the upper world. I'm not gonna go into all of the practical, scientific and physical reasons why this plan is absolutely bonkers. My strength is waning and there's still much more of this juvenile absurdity to come.

Naturally, Professor Norton refuses to cooperate, but Khan is confident he will change his a very literal sense, as we shall see. He orders Number Two to prepare "the transforming ray," then turns and stares into the middle distance, lost in his evil, overtly theatrical thoughts.

"Do I want a burrito or a chimichanga? They're so similar I sometimes get them confused."

Meanwhile Crash makes it to the outskirts of the city, sidles his horse up to a city wall and stands on the saddle so he can climb to the top of it. His pursuers leave off and head back to the tower.

Crash steps boldly down some stairs and into the courtyard with his hand up in the ceremonial gesture of the people of the Sacred City, which is puzzling because this is the first time he's been there. We've seen some ministers and attendants make this gesture to Sharad in previous scenes, but Crash has not. He just knows these things because he's read the script, I suppose, glutton for punishment that he is.

Speaking of Sharad, Crash name-drops the venerable high priest now, telling the assembled soldiers he needs to see his worshipfulness ASAP. I am pleased to report that this is not another of the seemingly endless continuity errors. Crash had actually overheard Khan's guards give some lengthy and mighty helpful exposition about Sharad when he was hiding inside the elevator shaft perfectly safe and sound rather than being dead at the bottom of it.

Unfortunately, Crash is still wearing that pesky stolen bad-guy uniform, so the soldiers initially believe he's one of Khan's men. Even more unfortunately one of them claims to have seen Crash kill a chariot driver back in episode two, which once again is something that doesn't square with what actually occurred. All we saw was a brief struggle that ended with Crash and Billy falling out the back of the chariot. The second charioteer got fried by the Volkites and another guard (presumably the guy now accusing Crash of murder) escaped just before the Volkites captured Professor Norton and Diana, but unless the first chariot went directly over a cliff as soon as it was offscreen that first driver shouldn't have had anything wrong with him a heating pad and a tube of Ben Gay couldn't fix. In any case the second chariot was too far behind the first for this mystery soldier to have seen with any clarity what happened anyway.

Nonetheless this pesky fellow has just made his public accusation and put Crash in an impossible quandary. Our hero therefore bolts from the cluster of angry citizens at the base of the stairs and uses a handy spear to pole-vault onto a nearby balcony. In the process he accidentally knocks down a small statue, which breaks on the ground below.

He's a highly athletic bull in a china shop.

This is even more bad news for our hero because the statue was one of the Atlanteans' sacred idols, the destruction of which they consider "an insult to Poseidon," and an unholy act against their patron god. I'm thinking maybe they oughtn't have left the thing setting out unprotected on the edge of a balcony next to a fifteen-foor drop. Call me persnickety, but I always like to keep the sacred relics of my people under lock and key.

Inside the palace Billy is telling Sharad all about Crash and Professor and their mission to stop the earthquakes. A guard comes in to say they've captured Crash and thrown him in the dungeon. Billy protests that his big beefy pal did nothing wrong, but the guard insists that he killed the charioteer and must pay the price. Sharad declares that under Atlantean law a life must be taken for a life. He orders that Crash and three captured blackshirt soldiers will fight to the death, with the last man standing to be granted his freedom.

Billy insists that if it's a fair fight Crash will surely win, and he seems cheerfully unconcerned by the fact that his hero will have to commit a triple homicide to make that happen...which is technically three lives for a life, but who's counting?

"I don't make the rules, son...oh, wait a minute I do make the rules."

Meanwhile back at Khan's tower the "transforming ray" is ready to do some transformin'. Khan assures Diana that the Professor will not be harmed, but that the ray will merely bend his will and make him amenable to building the powerful rockets he needs to propel his tower to the surface. He promises to restore the Professor's mind when his work is complete. I wouldn't trust him, personally. For some reason I just don't this guy is on the up-and-up.

So the professor is in a little chamber behind a glass door and when Khan gives the order the room begins to fill with thick white smoke, which sure doesn't seem to be a "ray," but perhaps some sort of mind-altering gas. "Ray" was quite the buzzword around this time, apparently and Khan's got all sorts of them about the place. Hell, even our hero is a "Ray."

Anyway the little room fills with smoke and the Professor struggles to escape, banging on the glass with his open palms and providing one of the most effectively creepy visuals in the entire serial.

I'll bet this had 'em soiling their dungarees back in 1936.

When the smoke recedes and the Professor steps out into the main room he's all blank-faced and dead-eyed like an old-school zombie. Khan waves a hand in front of his face then gets up in his grill to give him a piercing stare and a list of instructions. The old scientist dutifully replies "Yes, master," then shuffles off to do his work.

Diana is outraged and impotently offers "If only Crash Corrigan were here!" but Khan dismisses her with a chuckle. He says her pal Crash is in no position to help anyone. He diddles the knobs on his TV monitor and shows her that Crash is currently languishing in a dungeon in the Sacred City.

Now we cut to said dungeon where it's time for the big battle royale, where four men will enter the ring and only one will emerge alive. Sharad steps from his throne room onto the same balcony where crash knocked over the idol. He raises his hands to announce the bout and a paltry smattering of half-enthused citizens gathers below.

I've seen bigger crowds throwing eggs at Matt Gaetz.

The guards bring out Crash and the three Blackshirts, now all shirtless, into the titular AArena of Death" where they will Greco-Roman wrestle their way to either freedom or an ignominious demise. Now would be a good time to note that there's no actual arena and (spoiler alert) no one actually dies.

It's more of a "Mudpatch of Discomfort".

The fight begins and it's essentially a rehash of the wrestling scene from Chapter One but with four guys instead of two. The crowd, such as it is, seems to be enjoying the spectacle, and Billy is there, too, having climbed to a vantage point above the crowd where he can observe all the hot four-way man-on-man action unimpeded. With these big, sweaty men duking it out for his pleasure below him he gets plenty over-heated, jumping up and down, shouting and pumping his fists like a 'roid-raging raver as his emerging puberty suddenly bursts forth uncontrolled upon an unsuspecting undersea world.

It's not so much "awkward stirrings" as "volcanic eruptions."

Crash throws the first two guys out of the ring and they land together against the wheel of a chariot. As he continues his ruthless pummeling of the third guy these two conspire to feign unconsciousness until an appropriate opportunity presents itself, then they will steal the chariot and escape.

Naturally Crash wins the match, leaving the final opponent in an exhausted heap at his feet, but that's not enough for these bloodthirsty barbarians with whom he will soon throw in his lot. Sharad steps down from his balcony and hands Crash the "Sacred Sword of Victory," ordering that he should now dispatch his three opponents and leave the mud patch a free man, fully absolved of any past transgressions against their city.

Now we just know Crash is too good and kind and upstanding and perfect a matinee idol to actually kill anybody, but what he does here instead just reeks of surface dweller entitlement. Instead of simply refusing to kill for his captors' entertainment as the great Captain Kirk once did with the Gorn (an act of mercy that he may have at least been able to use to talk his way into a full pardon) he decides to show his utter disrespect for the Atlanteans' culture and traditions by breaking the sword over his knee.

Crash Corrigan: 2, Sacred Objects: 0

Naturally this pisses everyone right the hell off and lands him right back in hot water. As the outraged crowd bays for Crash's blood, Sharad backs away and into the waiting arms of the two defeated Shirtless Blackshirts, who decide that not only will they make their escape, they might as well grab and deliver the High Priest to Khan as well.

Crash spots the Chariot speeding away towards the gate, which just happens to be hanging open despite the ever-present danger of attack, and, although he's struggling against the combined forces of at least fifteen men he manages to grab a rope that flies past him, hanging from the back of the vehicle. He ends up being pulled along the ground behind it like Indiana Jones, if Indiana Jones liked to to do his derring in nothing but skimpy short shorts and a smile.

That's gonna leave a mark.

So the chariot careens away into the distance, pulling the nearly-naked Crash will-nilly across perilously sharp rocks and hard, bumpy ground...and that's our thrilling Chapter Three cliffhanger.

So, pray, tell us Pam: will Crash be torn asunder, leaving a long, bloody line of ragged flesh and scattered entrails across Bronson Canyon like any other mere shirtless mortal would, or does he get another one of his laughably impossible mulligans? I think I already know the answer but please indulge me.

Chapter Four: Revenge of the Volkites

Bradley, it's looking very bad for Crash. I don't see how he can possibly escape death along that rocky road. But wait! He's pulling himself up the rope, and yes! He reaches the back of the chariot and climbs in! The awesome Crash has done it again!

One of the Shirtless Blackshirts was pulled out of the chariot just before it headed for the gate, so Crash has only one man to fight. Sharad either falls out or jumps out of the chariot, leaving Crash and the remaining Shirtless Blackshirt to fight it out in a chariot with nobody holding the reins of four horses who are running full speed over the same rough terrain we saw earlier. Of course Crash manages to overcome the Shirtless Blackshirt in short order and throws him out of the chariot, then takes the reins and heads back to pick up Sharad. But Sharad is barely in the chariot when several of Unga Khan's horsemen ride up and spot them.

It's another chase, but at least this time Sharad holds the reins while Crash jumps out of the chariot onto the back of the lead rider. The lead rider is thrown off the horse in less time than it takes to tell, and Crash heads back to tackle the others. The riders don't hold still long enough for me to count them, but there are at least seven or eight of them. Crash punches one rider and knocks him off his horse, then we cut to Sharad driving the chariot back to his city. Then Crash...breaks off from the rest of the riders and rides off to follow the chariot? I'm not sure exactly what happened here. Something may have been cut out, or maybe the same force that enabled Crash to lower himself into the elevator shaft when we had just seen him fall was at work here. Crash is an awesome guy, after all, and I'm sure knows what he's doing here..

Anyway, Sharad and the chariot make it back to the city in one piece, which is pretty astonishing considering how rough the land they were traversing was. Just as an aside, I wonder how many horses were injured or killed while this serial was filmed, with so many of them galloping at breakneck speed over rocky, and in some places very steep, ground? But to get back to the action, Bobby spots Crash from the city wall, and when Sharad hears that Crash is being pursued by Unga Khan's horsemen, he orders his troops to go out and rescue Crash.

You may recall that one of the Shirtless Blackshirts was left behind when the chariot drove off with Sharad. This man jumps on the wall and with loyalty winning out over common sense, he urges his fellow Blackshirts to hurry up and catch Crash. It's anybody's guess as to why he wasn't locked up someplace after he fell out of the chariot. The man's reward for this act of stupidity is to be grabbed by his legs and held upside down over the wall, thus enabling Crash to climb up him until he (Crash) gets over the wall.

Talk about using what you've got

The rest of the Blackshirt horsemen give up and go back to the cave, where they use their television to report to Unga Khan.

Back at Unga Khan's lab, the befuddled Professor has just completed a small model of Unga Khan's tower with prototypes of rocket motors attached. Diana is chewing out the Professor and saying that if Unga Khan gets his tower to the upper world, he'll destroy civilization! No sooner has she said that when none other than Unga Khan himself walks into the lab. Unga Khan does a lot of gloating, but he does mention that he can restore the Professor's mind if he wants to. We also learn that the Blackshirt up which Crash climbed wasn't urging on his comrades, he was telling Crash to hurry up, and he let himself be used as a climbing aid willingly. He was one of the men whom Crash refused to kill in the arena, and out of gratitude he's decided to throw in his lot with Sharad. Unga Khan assumes that the traitor has told Sharad about Unga Khan's plan to take over the upper world and orders his troops to attack Sharad's city before Sharad can attack him.

The Blackshirts obediently set out from the cave, and this time they're in an ordered formation and I can count them. A group consisting of one lead horseman, 24 other horsemen, three chariots each having two men inside them, and one Volkite tank is off to conquer Sharad's city. This seems a rather inadequate force, especially since Sharad not only has Crash on his side, but out of gratitude for rescuing him has put Crash in command of the city's forces. At such a solemn juncture it's probably frivolous of me to point out that Sharad's pontifical headgear strongly resembles a bejeweled chef's hat. However, I just can't resist.

The Queen of England should take note

Crash musters his troops, and it appears that Unga Khan wasn't being rash when he ordered the force we saw earlier to attach Sharad's city, since we now see that Sharad has about the same number of troops as Unga Khan. (This serial was made on a very small budget.) There is much riding around by Unga Khan's troops and running around by Sharad's troops, which must have been a major attraction for the little boys who made up much of the audience. Both Sharad's troops and Unga Khan's troops are unburdened by excess clothing, which may have been an attraction for older males. Seriously, there are so many close-ups of the barely-clad Crash in particular that I think somebody was trying to appeal to those of a sexual orientation that was unmentionable in 1936 but certainly existed.

I rest my case

Unga Khan's forces finally reach Sharad's city. Crash has positioned archers atop the city walls, and Unga Khan's men are using ladders in an attempt to get over. Crash deploys "flamethrowers" - they aren't portable, but they can shoot jets of flame out of holes in the wall. As you might guess, Unga Khan's men position their scaling ladders between the holes in the wall, but it appears that Crash and his boys are holding off Unga Khan's troops, until the Juggernaut decides to appear. It's hard to make out, but it looks as though the Juggernaut backs off after a couple of blasts from a flamethrower. Despite the title of this chapter, it appears that the Volkites may have to wait a while for their revenge. Then disaster strikes. Crash and another man overbalance as they try to push down a scaling ladder, and they both fall to the ground. The episode concludes with a shot of riders galloping their horses over the two men, and it certainly looks bad for them, but just then the title of the next chapter appears onscreen. Since it's "Prisoners of Atlantis," I suspect that Crash and his buddy will survive to appear in it. (Also, I happen to know that horses don't like to step on large things on the ground and will avoid them if possible.)

Bradley, can you tell us what happens next?

Chapter Five: Prisoners of Atlantis

I can, indeed tell you what happens next, Pam...and much to the chagrin of our few remaining readers I will. First off, it seems your knowledge of horses and their idiosyncrasies has served you well, as they do indeed step right over and around Crash and his pal, leaving them somewhat begrimed but completely unhurt. As soon as the cavalry run off, the two comrades poke their heads up to have a look around and confer about their current situation.

Crash's pal turns out to be the former Blackshirt whom he'd spared in the arena in Chapter Three and who had switched loyalties out of gratitude in Chapter Four, but we'll shortly find this backstory to have been just another of Undersea Kingdom's ever-shifting, chimeric illusions. It turns out the guy was in fact a deserter from Khan's army, already a fugitive when he reached the Sacred City, whom I suppose they arrested instead of providing sanctuary. Killing Crash and capturing this errant fellow for a court martial, we're now told are the two main objectives of this current raid. It's yet another example of how clumsily constructed the serial is, how the various plot points and character relationships are in a constant state of narrative flux. After having set up the story in the first couple of chapters it seems like they just started making shit up as they went along.

As Crash and the Deserter brush themselves off and try to decide what to do next they see a fancy chariot emerge from the darkness. Deserter informs Crash that this is Hacker, the commander of Unga Khan's army. Crash, ever the crafty operator, decides they should both lie back down and pretend to be unconscious. Despite that it's pitch dark, his chariot is at least twenty yards away and Crash has his face turned to the ground, Hacker immediately recognizes both men and informs his driver that these are the two guys he's been sent out to either capture or kill.

"I'd recognize those nipples and buttocks anywhere!"

Of course, as soon as the commander hops down and walks over to examine them they get up and ambush him, and soon both Hacker and his Driver are unconscious and our two protagonists are removing their clothing to change uniforms with them, because that old swapping duds trope worked out just swimmingly for Crash when he used it back in Chapter One.

No sooner have Crash and Deserter assumed their temporary identities than one of the field commanders rides up asking "Hacker" for orders. Crash, with his back turned to the fellow, shouts in his best evil army commander voice that they should sound the retreat and go home, and just like that the siege ends and Khan's army packs up to head back to the tower.

As the defenders of the Sacred City stand around befuddled by this unexpected windfall young Billy comes scampering up the ramparts looking for Crash. The officer in charge doesn't know what happened to him during the melee and says he'll question the men, but this isn't good enough for the impetuous little scamp. He slides down one of the ladders to the ground outside the walls of the city, hops behind a bush and overhears Crash tell Deserter that they're going to follow the army back to Khan's tower and try to rescue Diana and the Professor. You'd think Deserter, having gone AWOL from the place once already and having risking his life in the process wouldn't be too keen to return, but Crash speaks with such masculine thrust and authority that the poor fellow goes all weak in his knees and yields to his new special friend's every desire.

Must be more of that secret gay appeal Pam was talking about earlier.

Crash and Deserter gallop off to Khan's tower and Billy decides he's just got to go there, too. He secretes himself in a giant wicker basket on the back of a supply cart and hitches a ride all the way into the caves beneath the tower.

"Lucky they had a basket in my size!"

Crash has arrived there, too, and continues to pretend to be Hacker with all the soldiers he and his pal meet, utilizing the brilliant strategy of only speaking to them while he's facing the opposite direction. He even manages to report to Khan on the videophone by standing to one side of its camera instead of talking directly into it. Khan wants to know why he called off the attack, and Crash/Hacker tells him he'd already gotten the two guys he sent him out to get, so he figured he'd call it a day and head back for a nice Turkish bath and a hot oil rubdown. Sure, he probably could have labored the point and maybe taken full control of the Sacred City, but orders is orders, right boss?

This seems to satisfy the melodramatic arch-villain, who's in any case relieved to have his allegedly erstwhile nemesis from the upper world out of the way so he can execute his evil plans unmolested.

As Crash and Deserter sneak off to Hacker's quarters to lie low and maybe engage in a little sweet, 1930's-style man-on-man action, the rest of the army returns with their equipment and supplies. At the first opportunity Billy sneaks out of the basket and starts snooping around. Through an unbelievable stroke of luck the very first person he sees is Diana, who's roaming freely and heading into the lab where the hypnotized Professor is working. When they arrive, Billy runs over to greet his father, but the old fellow ignores him completely and continues his work.

"Just like home."

As Diana explains about Khan's Transforming Machine and how he's forcing the Professor to build rockets to take the tower to the surface, the old scientist notices that some chemical compound he's been given is not what he asked for. When he stomps off in a hissy fit to go complain about it, Billy decides that this is their big chance to destroy all the work he's done on the project so far, so he and Diana grab a couple of bits of pipe and start whacking away at the little model of the tower, because destroying a 1/20th scale balsa wood miniature built strictly as a visual aid is sure to set the entire project back so irrevocably that Unga Khan will have no choice but to abandon his invasion plans and give up his quest for world domination.

Or maybe they just like breaking stuff.

Just then Khan's Number Two knocks on the lab door, having been sent down by the boss to check on the Professor's progress. Diana sends Billy into a corner to hide then boldly opens the door. She tries to keep him from entering the room, but he pushes past her and finds the broken model on the table. She defends her actions by proclaiming that the Professor would never consent to this work if he knew what he was doing, but Number Two menacingly suggests that she'll feel differently once she's been subjected to the Transforming Machine herself. He escorts her away to the throne room, leaving Billy free to scamper off in search of Crash.

After a close call with one of the walking hot water heaters he's spotted by a guard. He runs over to the nearest door and sneaks in, and by yet another unbelievable stroke of luck it happens to be the very room where Crash and Deserter are hiding. Billy tells them about the guard who's coming after him and they position themselves for an ambush.

"Phewee! After all that sweaty lovin' I could probably take him out with my B.O.!"

As the guard enters Crash and Deserter grab him and drag him towards the bed, presumably to have their manly way with him. Meanwhile the real Hacker has dragged himself back to the entrance to the cave at the base of the tower and informs the guard on duty that Crash has infiltrated their ranks!

Back in Hacker's room, Kinky Crash and the Dirty Deserter have hog-tied the captured guard to the bed and concocted a logic-free, brute force plan to storm the throne room and rescue Diana. As they poke their heads out the door, however they see two more soldiers heading their way and correctly surmise that their ruse has been discovered. Although the room is large, open and mostly bare these two burly men and a little boy all manage to find unassailable hiding places, so that when the soldiers run in, they're able to sneak out and lock the door from the outside. These hiding places are in fact so secret even the audience doesn't get to see them. The three protagonists just run past the camera as soon as the soldiers step out of frame and scurry out into the hallway.

Two more soldiers confront them now and they have a four-man smackdown as Billy air-punches and grimaces on the sidelines exactly like he did during the wrestling matches in Chapter One and Chapter Three.

His contributions are impossible to understate.

Naturally Crash and Deserter overpower their opponents, because we still have three minutes until the cliff hanger. Crash orders his companions to tie the two guys up while he heads up to the throne room.

Meanwhile, under the influence of Khan's mind control, the Professor has ratted out his own son's presence in the tower. When Diana refuses to cooperate and provide information on Billy's current whereabouts, something about which she couldn't possibly have and useful information anyway, Khan orders that she be placed into the Transforming Machine.

Crash is still working his way up the many staircases, but after being spotted by a couple of Volkites he heads for a window and begins climbing up the outside of the structure. By the time he reaches the throne room Diana is already in the machine and about to be gassed into glassy-eyed compliance.

There is a scuffle with Khan and Number Two, during which the latter's control belt falls to the floor. Just as it seems that Crash has gained the upper hand and will be able to save Diana another guard enters the fray and whacks him over the head with a metal helmet.

As Crash falls unconscious his hand brushes against the belt, pulling down the lever that activates the machine. Diana is enveloped by the mesmerizing vapors, and the final image of the episode is of her hands pressed helplessly against the glass of the chamber.

Much like the Professor in Chapter Three.

I'll be honest with you, Pam, this chapter was pretty darn boring, and the "action" is getting mighty repetitive. We're not even halfway through the serial and it seems as though the writers were either running out of ideas or they just didn't care...and if they didn't care why should we?

Also...aren't there any women in Atlantis? Is that why there's so much homoeroticism? Inquiring minds want to know.

Chapter Six: The Juggernaut Strikes

You're right, Bradley. So far we haven't seen any women in Atlantis. I wonder why not? But if Mars needs women, I guess Atlantis can, too. Maybe all will be revealed as this serial progresses.

As you may recall, we left Diana in the Transforming Machine, beating helplessly against the glass as the chamber fills with gas, so thick that all you can see are her hands. We left Crash lying on the floor unconscious. We resume with Crash heading toward the room with the Transforming Machine. Billy is also heading that way when he spots an immobile Volkite and helps himself to the Volkite's weapon .

The little thief

Crash reaches the room and is knocked unconscious, just as he was in the last episode, but this time Billy shows up before the chamber fills with gas, gets the drop on Unga Khan and his men, and orders them to turn off the machine and let Diana out. Billy fires off a shot to let them know he means business, and if it were anybody else, I'd point out that it's amazing he knows how to fire the unfamiliar weapon, but this is Billy, after all. We've already seen that Billy can do anything.

Plucky little Billy sends Diana off to get help from Sharad while he holds Unga Khan and his men at gunpoint.

A perfectly suitable job for a child

Since Unga Khan's stronghold is crawling with his men, this seems like a tall order for Diana, but fortunately she runs into Deserter immediately. He takes her downstairs to where he and Crash had left the two guards tied up, and he pounds on the door to the stable, yelling for help. When the men in the stable rush in, they spot the two guards who are still tied up, and they all run into the room to help. Deserter slams the door shut and locks it, and after he subdues another guard who shows up, he and Diana help themselves to a couple of horses and head for Sharad's city. You know, I think I've seen this particular trick about - oh, I'd say at least a thousand times. I've watched a lot of bad movies.

But stereotyped escape or not, Diana and Deserter are galloping off to Sharad's city. However, it would be too boring if that was all there was to their escape, so, in standard serial fashion, the guards manage to escape from the room, grab some horses and some of their comrades, and set off in hot pursuit. Note: the number of pursuers varies from scene to scene, and although they're nowhere close to Diana and Deserter, they feel it necessary to brandish their swords while they ride.

I was wondering why the chase was left to riders on horseback when Unga Khan has the Juggernaut available, but Unga Khan must have been reading my mind. Just when Diana and Deserter are taking a brief pause, the Juggernaut zooms in. Several armed Volkites get out, armed with their novel weapons, which fire bolts of energy, not bullets. However, as we've seen, the Volkites walk very slowly, and Diana and Deserter have no trouble getting away. Inexplicably the Volkites just let them go, instead of getting back into the Juggernaut and chasing them down. Unga Khan's riders have also apparently thrown in the towel and are heading home.

You've probably forgotten about Briny and Salty, but the scriptwriter didn't, and it's time for a spot of comic relief. To be sure, Briny and Salty appear to be in a bad spot.

Breaking rocks out there on the chain gang, to be precise

But it's not as bad as it seems, because they've been given explosives to use as they see fit to break up the rocks, and also they still have their parrot, who is certainly the brains of the trio. Let us not ask why prisoners are allowed to use explosives, or if they have them, why they are still prisoners. In this case, it appears that Briny and Salty are still prisoners because they aren't too bright. They light the explosives, forgetting that they're wearing a ball and chain so they can't get very far away. They then sit down next to the explosives to discuss their problem, while the fuse is still burning. Luckily for them, a guard comes in, and in a scene worthy of the Coyote and the Roadrunner, the guard sits down right next to the explosives, which duly explode, knocking him out and breaking Briny's and Salty's chains. Don't worry, nothing messy is shown.

Meanwhile, the riders show up at the stable, and one of them uses the Reflecta-Plate (the television-like device we saw earlier) to report the bad news to Unga Khan. The chase must not have lasted very long, because when the guard tunes into Unga Khan's throne room, Billy is still holding the Volkite weapon on Unga Khan and his men, and Crash is just regaining consciousness. The guard orders more guards to go to the throne room, but it seems that the Reflecta-Plate is a two-way device. Crash is tying up Unga Khan and his men while Billy, who of course knows how to operate the Reflecta-Plate even though we've never seen him use it, tunes into the stable where he sees a bunch of guards getting into the elevator.

Crash tells Billy to get his father out of the throne room while he gets ready for the guards. Professor Norton is still under Unga Khan's spell and doesn't go quietly, but Billy manages to pull him out of the room. Only four guards show up in the throne room to rescue their sovereign lord, which may indicate either that Unga Khan is none too popular with his subjects, or that the budget for this chapter was small. Anyway, Crash has no trouble disarming them and ordering them back into the elevator, then jamming the door so they can't open it. That being done, Crash goes after Billy and the Professor.

But just then, they spot several Volkites shuffling along the corridor. Crash just knows that the "atom gun" Billy took from one of the Volkites won't work on the Volkites because they aren't human. However, the Professor suggests they hide in a nearby room until the Volkites pass, which they do. But once they're in, the Professor darts out and locks the door, then runs back to Unga Khan.

To get back to Diana and Deserter, they've finally reached Sharad's city after galloping their poor horses non-stop. Diana informs Sharad that Professor Norton is being forced to build rocket motors to take the tower, which as you may recall looks very much like a rocket, into the upper world, which he of course will then conquer. Sharad is planning to attack Unga Khan, when unfortunately someone rushes in and tells him that Unga Khan's troops are even now outside Sharad's city. A view outside shows that Unga Khan's force consists of six riders, the Juggernaut, and two Volkites, each carrying an atom gun. Sharad announces sadly that "No human force can combat the atom guns," and he's clearly ready to surrender.


Back at Unga Khan's palace, the bemused Professor Norton is untying Unga Khan while Crash finally remembers that he's got the atom gun and tries to blast the hinges off the door, only to find that the atom gun is empty. Darn the luck! (And why would he think the gun can destroy the hinges when he just said it wouldn't do anything to the Volkites?) But all is not lost. Remember that Crash is an accomplished tightrope walker, and when he looks out the window, he sees that there just happens to be another cable leading from the window to a pile of nearby rocks. Saved! Billy does point out that he, unlike Crash, can't walk a tightrope, but Crash has an answer for that: He'll walk the cable while carrying Billy piggyback. Billy doesn't have any objections to this plan, unlike me, and he climbs willingly onto Crash's back.

That looks safe

As with Crash's previous tightrope walk, it appears that for his first few steps, he really is walking along a cable suspended above the ground, but after a few faltering steps, the camera cuts away to Unga Khan's throne room, where the now-free Unga Khan orders that the "projector" be used to blow up Crash and Billy. What is the projector? It's a sort of cannon that fires a large shell at the cable Crash and Billy are walking on. It takes two shots, but finally the cable breaks, and down go Crash and Billy. Unga Khan gloats that this is the last of Corrigan. I'm going, "Ho-hum" and wondering how the next chapter is going to cheat and change things so that Crash and Billy will easily survive what now seems like certain death.

Can you tell us how they manage to survive, Bradley?


Well, I'm not entirely sure that I want them to, Pam but I suppose I can. For now, though let's give the folks at home a little break to digest what they've read so far and give ourselves a chance to work on something else for awhile. When we're ready to face Crash and Company again I'll meet you back here for Chapters the meantime I've got to go feed the interns. You know how they are when they're hungry.

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Pam Burda & Bradley Lyndon in February 2022.

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