(Chapters 7-12)


Howdy folkses! Welcome to a rather late start to our twentieth year of crappy-ass movie reviews. Before we celebrate for real by getting sloppy drunk and making out with the interns, we have a bit of stale business left over from early last year to attend to.

It's been a hot and sweaty minute since we last joined hot and sweaty Crash Corrigan in the hot and sweaty depths of low-budget Atlantis (conveniently located in Bronson Canyon, Los Angeles). The reasons for this expansive delay between the first half of our Undersea Kingdom review and the second are far too many and varied to detail here. Suffice to say the damage from the miso fermentation debacle has been completely repaired, the kidnappers have been sufficiently punished and Bertrand the goat ultimately escaped his prickly self-own unharmed...though perhaps he emerged from it just a little bit wiser for his folly.

It was a close shave, but we pulled him through. Literally. By his horns.

For details on the cast of characters and our summation of the story so far, please see our Undersea Kingdom Chapters 1-6 review here, or just dive in blind with Chapters 7-12 below if that's the way you feel about it. It's no skin off our noses if you can't be bothered to educate yourselves. Sheesh. Kids today.

When we last left Crash at the end of Chapter Six, he and his fawning little pre-teen sidekick Billy had just been kablooey'd out of existence by an exploding projectile while crossing a tightrope from bad guy Unga Khan's huge (and hugely phallic) metal tower to some nearby rocks. This seemingly definitive demise of our heroes will be no impediment to their appearing unscathed in Chapter Seven, however, as the producers of Undersea Kingdom absolutely delighted in rewriting history, replacing wholesale each bleak and seemingly incontrovertible cliffhanger with some miraculous and impossible escape-from-all-harm at the beginning of each subsequent segment.

Chapter Seven: The Submarine Trap

As usual, we reset the internal reality of the serial to the point immediately preceeding the fatal crisis, but this time Crash senses that Death is hovering before him and punches the bony bastard right in his rattling ball-sack. At the very instant the missile explodes, cleaving the cable on which he is treading in twain, Crash leaps forward and grabs the forward end of it, so that he and his piggy-backed pal Billy swing towards the cliff face and out of harm's way. Billy lets go of Crash's neck, lands hard on a slope and tumbles down to a flat ledge, and when Crash follows he finds that the boy has been knocked out cold from the fall.

Ditch him, Crash. He's dead weight.

Crash looks through a gap in the hillside and sees the Sacred City in the distance. He picks up Billy and manfully carries on, plodding away to rejoin his anxious allies.

Back in head honcho high priest Sharad's Sacred City throne room, perky newspaper gal Diana is updating him and his retinue on the failed attempt to rescue Billy's dad Professor Norton from Unga Khan's clutches in Chapter Six. Sharad laments that they can send no search party while the dreaded Volkite robots and their sweet, tricked-out Buick Juggernaut tank patrol outside the gates of the city. The Deserter guy from Unga Khan's army, whom Crash spared during ritual mortal combat in Chapter Three, and who then switched to the good guys' side in Chapter Four to devote his life to serving Crash's manly needs, posits that he knows a way to fool the guards and escape the city to rescue crash. He raises an impish eyebrow and gestures to a statue standing across the room.


Best actor in the whole damned movie.

Next thing you know the gate opens and a chariot emerges with a strangely stiff and pale driver at the helm. One of Khan's commanders reminds us that they're not supposed to allow anyone to escape the city, so the entire force, Volkites, Juggernaut, foot soldiers, cavalry and all go speeding away after the chariot, leaving the gates unguarded so that the entire rest of the city's population could  waltz out all at once and head for the hills were they so inclined.

Now we have a furious chase between a group of horsemen and the chariot, where we see Deserter hunkered down behind the statue, holding it in place by its ass.


Mind where you're puttin' them paws, mister. Also, why is the statue wearing chaps?

As the chariot rounds a bend over a precipice Deserter pushes the statue out over the cliff and assumes the reins, leaving the befuddled horse soldiers to stop their pursuit and peer over the edge, only to discover they've been duped.

Back in the mountain pass between Khan's tower and the Sacred City, Crash is still plodding along with Billy in his arms, but the boy finally wakes up and says that aside from the blinding headaches, muscle tremors, flashing lights, slurred speech and blurred vision, he's a-ok to start walking around on his own again.


What's a little traumatic brain injury between friends?

Just then they catch sight of Deserter's chariot and hail him like a New York taxi. Unfortunately one of the tower guards spots them and sends an evil Chariot in pursuit. Now we get a long chase that's basically a repurposed carriage pursuit we've seen in hundreds of pulp westerns, replete with Crash having to leap out onto the one of the horse's backs to retie one of the yokes. It's hard to say given the pace of the driving and the poor quality of the print if Crash performed this stunt himself, but it's worth noting that he really was a stuntman before turning leading man and even trained other actors in physical fitness, so it's entirely plausible that it was actually him.

These mindless, back-and-forth shenanigans take up about a third of the entire episode's run time and rapidly become more tedious than exciting. Eventually Crash and his friends manage to ditch the chariot and make it back to the city on foot, somehow sneaking past the entire force that chased Deserter and his plaster friend in the first place. In fact, we see no evidence that the soldiers and Volkites ever bothered to return to the city after they'd been fooled by the statue ploy, and they're neither shown nor mentioned for the remainder of the episode.

Sharad's army gives Crash a hearty military welcome, because if you'll recall, he was made their commander back in Chapter Four when he rescued High Priest Sharad from being captured by Unga Khan's blackshirts.


Pomp and Underpants.

Once Crash is back inside the throne room Diana explains that Khan has bewitched Professor Norton into becoming his slave, and that the Professor is using his mail-order science degrees to equip the tower with a battery of powerful rocket, allowing Khan to reach the surface and conquer the upper world. Crash notes that the rockets won't start without priming powder, and declares that there is no priming powder in Atlantis. He seems pretty sure about this, though we've we've seen with our own eyes that Unga Khan has a cannon-like projectile weapon that must use something very like priming powder to hurl its missiles. Also, Professor Norton is a bona-fide rocket scientist who would doubtless know how to make priming powder from base ingredients if there was no pre-mixed powder available.

Billy, despite being woozy and nauseous from his concussion, reminds Crash that there's a whole heap of priming powder stored in the submarine they used to get to Atlantis in Chapter One, and suggests maybe they'd better go and get it before Norton tells Khan it's there.

Meanwhile back at the Tower, Khan's Number Two has been using his Reflecta-Plate remote tv viewer to listen in on their entire conversation.


He'd have watched The Honeymooners instead, but it was nineteen years too early.

Number Two heads down to Norton's lab only to find the Professor is stealing his thunder by already explaining to Khan about needing the priming powder from the submarine to ignite the rockets. Number Two warns that Crash is already on his way to procure it, so they'd better get some of their blackshirt goons out there double quick to intercept him.

Crash and Billy head out to the lagoon where the sub is submerged and find the little control box they'd hid in some moss when they first arrived. Crash makes the sub surface and there's a delightfully cheap 'n' cheesy moment where they reverse the footage of the little model sub diving down and all the bubbles it emitted all go backwards into the rocket exhaust tubes.

The sub pops up and Crash hops in to grab the powder, leaving Billy on guard in case Khan's soldiers show us. Crash pulls out two cannisters and goes ashore with them, warning Billy as he places them in the chariot that they're highly shock-sensitive and will go off like a bomb if they're mishandled, which seems kind of funny since these cannisters were stacked up loose and completely unsecured in a cavernous metal locker inside the sub.


The real Danger is from the idiots who put them in there.

The two heroes spot some blackshirt cavalry in the distance and hide their chariot in a copse of trees. Crash then heads back to the sub for the rest of the primer. He grabs the four that remaining cannisters and sets them on a folding pontoon raft. It should be noted here that in long shots the model sub is way out in the lagoon, a good twenty or thirty feet from shore, but the full-size conning tower prop is within literal leaping distance of the bank.

"Attention to detail."

Crash submerges the sub, reburies the control box and slips into the water, hoping to surreptitiously stash the remaining powder cannisters in the weeds before Khan's men can spot him. Unfortunately, spot him they do. They begin firing arrows at him, several of which lodge themselves in the slats of the raft on either side of the cannisters.

Despite that the archers haven't been able to hit the broad side of an elephant thus far, and that retrieving this rare and absolutely vital priming powder is their primary mission, one of the archers boldly exclaims that he's going to purposely aim for the cannisters and blow up the raft. No word on how he even knows it's so volatile, but he's as good as his word, scoring a direct hit and causing powder, raft and Crash to all go kaboom.


Or kablooey. Whichever you prefer.

I dunno, Pam. That was a mighty big kablooey. Do you think Crash made it or is he just a chunky mass of half-charred, flash-fried fish food currently nourishing the local undersea fauna?

I already know the answer to that, but I'll play dumb for you and pretend I'll be on the edge of my ever-loving seat until I read your take on the next installment.

Chapter Eight: Into the Metal Tower

Oh, Bradley, it's looking really, really bad for Crash. As I start this chapter, I expect to see nothing but some blood and possibly a few pieces of Crash floating around. I can hardly stand to look, but I just have to see what's become of our hero. Billy has managed to reach the water and is lurking behind a bush, also waiting to see.

Poor Billy hears one of Unga Khan's men announce that this is the end of Crash Corrigan, and he's on the verge of tears. Billy, I mean, not the henchman. But I do have some hope, because I notice that despite the explosion, the raft is completely intact. There's not even a scorch mark on it. And sure enough - just as Unga Khan's men leave, who should Billy and I see but Crash Corrigan himself, swimming up to shore. (Crash is soaking wet and rather short of breath here, so I think he really did do all of this stunt himself.) Of course they've lost the precious priming powder, but as Billy points out, they still have some in the chariot. Billy is also afraid that Unga Khan will force Billy's father to make more priming powder.

But of course Crash has everything figured out. He dispatches Billy to drive the chariot and the priming powder back to Sharad's city, because they'll need it for their submarine, while he heads for Unga Khan's stronghold to destroy the rocket motor. Most unfortunately, Unga Khan just happened to be using his Reflecta-Plate and has heard Crash's plan. What to do? He needs that powder!

Fortunately for him, Unga Khan has some more technology we haven't seen since Chapter One.



This, as best I can make out from Unga Khan's words, is a Volplane. It's quite small and it's crewed by a couple of Volkites. It doesn't go very fast, but it's able to catch up with Billy and the chariot, and - is the actor who plays Billy really driving it? I can't tell for sure, since the camera isn't that close, but unless they found a very short stuntman, that really is Billy who's driving it. Although Billy seems to be about eight years old, the actor who played him, Lee Van Atta, was actually thirteen when this movie was made. Still, it seems dangerous to let a thirteen-year-old drive a four-horse chariot, although of course Hollywood in the 1930s wasn't noted for its dedication to safety.

Anyway, Billy (possibly with the help of a stuntman) does make it back to Sharad's city, powder and all. The Volkites and the Volplane simply turn around and go home once Billy's inside the citadel, which is a bit of an anticlimax. Billy assures Sharad and Diana that Crash is going back to Unga Khan's tower, and all will be well. However, we're only about a quarter of the way through this chapter, so I anticipate more action ahead.

Indeed, Crash is spotted by some of Unga Khan's horsemen before he reaches the tower. (I just have to point out here that when Crash emerged from the water, his helmet was missing, but now he's wearing it again.) Crash takes refuge in a conveniently-located hole in the side of a hill, but one of the troops spots Crash's footprints. Three of the horsemen head inside the hole, which turns out to be not a natural formation but part of Unga Khan's fortifications. The tunnel is tall enough for the men to walk through upright, and there are bars blocking the tunnel farther down. What will Crash do? I was expecting him to pick the lock or something, but he has something more direct in mind: he bends the bars far enough so he can go through, then bends them back again!


What a man!

He gets them in place just as Unga Khan's three henchmen show up, and we see that three ordinary men aren't strong enough to bend the bars that Crash can bend unaided. How fortunate the Navy is to have someone like Crash!

The head henchman reasonably enough tells the other two to stay there so Crash can't get out that way, while he makes his way to the other end of the tunnel. The scene then shifts to Unga Khan and Professor Norton. Unga Khan is demonstrating yet another never-before-seen weapon to Professor Norton. This one is a complicated device that, according to Unga Khan, will cause mass destruction once he gets it and the tower to the upper world. However, Unga Khan's bragging is interrupted by one of his men, who comes in with the sad tidings that Billy and the priming powder have made it safely to Sharad's city. Unga Khan is naturally most upset, but Professor Norton comforts him with the statement that he can make Unga Khan all the priming powder he needs. This, it seems, is news to Unga Khan, and he's quite angry that Professor Norton didn't tell him this before, but he orders the professor to get to the lab and hop to it.

Yikes! Is all hope lost for the upper world? I think not, because just now Crash emerges from a manhole set into the floor someplace inside Unga Khan's stronghold. Crash seems to love that helmet of his. He's carrying it as he emerges from the manhole, so he must have had to take it off to get through the tunnel and up through the manhole, but once out, he puts it right back on. The manhole is next to the stable, and as usual a bunch of Unga Khan's men are hanging out there. I'm not quite sure what's supposed to be happening here. Crash grabs a passing soldier and wrestles him into unconsciousness, and at first I thought Crash did this so he could get the man's uniform, but instead he leaves the man in a horse stall and releases the horse. Once the other guards are chasing the horse, Crash emerges from the stall and goes looking for the Professor's lab, leaving the man tied up in the stall. I really don't know why Crash had to go through all of that instead of waiting until nobody was around and letting a horse out, but we'll just have to trust that Crash knows what he's doing.

Crash finds the Professor's lab with no trouble, but the Professor doesn't remember who Crash is. The Professor informs Crash curtly that he has no time to talk, he's got work to do. The Professor does condescend to tell Crash that he's finished the engines for Unga Khan's tower, and now he's making priming powder. Crash responds by smashing all of the Professor's process equipment, an action that unfortunately is loud enough to attract the attention of some of Unga Khan's men. Five of them show up, and Crash is actually winning against all of them when the Professor picks up a heavy object and hits Crash over the head with it (Crash's precious helmet has again fallen off during the melee.)


I wish I had a lab like this

We'll have to wait to see if Crash has sustained permanent brain damage from the blow, because the scene shifts back to Salty and Briny, who've been promoted from breaking rocks to mucking out horse stalls. Their faithful parrot has followed them. Salty and Briny don't seem to be pleased with their new assignment, and they're concocting an escape plan, which basically consists of Briny distracting the guard while Salty sneaks up behind the guard and hits him over the head. Unfortunately there is a mix-up and Salty ends up knocking Briny out instead.

Definitely the brains of the bunch

We now return to the main characters. Crash is standing in front of Unga Khan, hands tied behind his back but apparently uninjured, and with his helmet back on. You'll recall that Crash destroyed all the apparatus the Professor needed to make the priming powder, so now Unga Khan is planning to obtain the priming powder now in Sharad's city. His plan involves conveying Crash to the city, and the rest of his plan is shortly revealed: Crash has been tied to the front of the Volkite tank, and unless the priming powder is handed over, the tank driver will ram the tank through the gates, mashing Crash in the process. Crash of course refuses to ask for the priming powder and tells the driver to go head and ram. This the driver does, and we see the tank hit the gate in a shower of dust and flying pieces of wood. Diana, who has been watching along with Billy and Sharad, screams and covers her eyes.

Crash is not having a good day, but at least he's got his helmet

Bradley, I really don't see how Crash could possibly have survived this. My eyes are filling with tears, please carry on. I need some time to recover.
Chapter Nine: Death in the Air

Fear not, Pam, my dear, tender-hearted friend. Nothing we see in Undersea Kingdom is real, but only waking dreams and flickering wisps of mist and light, ever-clouding our perceptions with false memories and sensual confusion. We can trust neither the evidence of our eyes nor the good will of the faithless writers, whose fidelity to truth, decency and basic narrative continuity is as fleeting and hollow as Maya's own illusions.

Her nature is inscrutable. She exists not, even as we observe her mischief.

Chapter Nine begins with the juggernaut about to ram the gate, just as we saw at the end of Chapter Eight, but this time Billy shouts to one of the guards to open it. In place of the smoke and splinters we saw as our hero got mashed into thick, lumpy Crashbatter, we get the anticlimactic spectacle of the gates swinging open and the tank rolling in to a stop, only to be immediately surrounded by Sacred City guards. The captain of the Blackshirts, Hacker, hops out holding one of the Volkite energy rifles and sends his driver into the palace to grab the priming powder from Sharad, telling the assembled soldiers that if his pal isn't back with the good in five minutes flat, he'll start blasting away at everyone in sight.

"While you're at it grab me a Shasta. I'm parched."

Diana, along with Sharad and his bodyguards, has withdrawn into his office, but Billy is watching Hacker do his dastardly deed from the balcony. He climbs out onto the parapet, scurries around to the front wall and hops down to the ground outside the gate, then carefully sneaks in behind the Juggernaught, slips inside and reaches through the driver's observation window with a knife and starts cutting the ropes binding Crash's hands.

Fun Fact: Child actor Lee Van Atta later became an International News Services reporter and interviewed Admiral Richard E. Byrd aboard the flagship of his fourth and final expedition to Antarctica.

Once loose, Crash makes short work of subduing Hacker and confiscating his weapon, and thus armed he has no trouble taking out the driver and retrieving the powder. Diane and Billy remind Crash that the Professor is still at Unga's tower and still held fast within his hypnotic thrall. They fear he will simply make more of the priming powder for his new master and all their efforts will come to naught.

Crash ostentatiously oils his pectorals to remind them all just how fucking fabulous and manly he is, then reveals his intention to use the juggernaut to retrieve the Professor and foil Khan's plans once and for all.

Back at the tower Khan is grilling the Professor about how long it will be before his rocket motors are ready to lift them all up to the surface, already. The Professor replies that all he needs is the priming powder and they can blow this undersea popsicle stand post haste should his lordship desire it.

Just then they hear the tell-tale whirr of the juggernaut approaching, and believing the precious powder has arrived, Khan sends the Professor back down to the lower levels to make his final preparations.

When the juggernaut enters the cave some guards ask Hacker to give them the cannisters of powder through the observation window. When they leave to deliver them, Crash and Billy march their prisoner out of the tank at gunpoint. Billy keeps him covered while Crash heads off to find Professor Norton.

Norton has meanwhile just discovered that the "priming powder" he's just been handed is actually just plain old sand.


"Well we can't snort this, can we?"

The Professor's guard stomps off to confront Hacker and maybe cut his balls off for trying to cheat the cartel, but Crash clobbers him and heads over to convince the Professor to come back to the Sacred City with him. Naturally the bewildered scientist refuses. He gets pretty ornery about it to, and eventually Crash has to punch his lights out and carry him.

I guess they hadn't yet coined the term "elder abuse."

Meanwhile the guard Crash clobbered wakes up and heads to the nearest TV transmitter station to warn Khan that the enemy is within the gates. Khan orders his Number Two to use the diddly knobs on his belt box to make the juggernaut drive off on its own and orders the exits all blocked, so that when Crash gets back to Billy they have to ditch Hacker and pile into the elevator.

Up, up, up they go, peeking out at each floor looking for a safe place to hide, but seeing only guards, Volkites and Khan himself. Finally, they make it all the way up to the top level where the Volplane is hangered. The hop in and prepare to fly to freedom.


The Professor's hat was conveniently left for him in the cockpit.

As they take off in the volplane and escape, one of the pursuing guards heads down to tell Khan what's happened. He explicitly mentions that Professor Norton is in the plane, but Khan, blind with rage, completely blanks out on the fact that he needs the old coot to make more powder, to operate the rocket motors, to navigate the movement of the tower for him, and to oversee virtually every aspect of his plan to conquer the Earth. Instead ofninsisting the Professor be recovered, he orders Number Two to fire a Volplane-seeking missile, which after a hectic air chase does, indeed, hit and destroy the volplane.

Volplane go boom.

No longer content only to alter observable reality between the end of one episode and the beginning of the next, the producers of Undersea Kingdom now take the next inexorable step into discontinuity and illogic by doing it between shots, as we now observe the very plane we just clearly saw blasted to bits fully intact and crashing into a tree.

Be you ever wary of Maya's charms.

Despite all the bait-and-switch smoke-and-mirrors, this was probably the most entertaining episode of the serial so far. The pace was uncharacteristically brisk, there were real, believable stakes for our heroes and even a bit of genuine plot advancement. Believe it or not, Pam, I'm actually quite eager to find out what happens next! Perchance might you oblige me?
Chapter Ten: Atlantis Destroyed

Glad to, Bradley. I can't wait to find out myself what's going to happen next. Not to give anything away, but as the title of Chapter 10 is "Atlantis Destroyed," it's not looking too good.

So, the Volplane is currently on the ground. Back at Unga Khan's stronghold, Unga Khan is busy gloating. However, he is gloating too soon. He apparently didn't know that Professor Norton was also in the Volplane, and he's quite upset when his chief henchman reports that Crash and Billy took the Professor with them when they escaped. Unga Khan hurries to the Reflecta-Plate to see what's going on.

I'm happy to report that although the Volplane is very much the worse for wear, Crash, Billy, and Professor Norton seem to be fine. Billy and Professor Norton even have their hats, and Crash has managed to hang onto his helmet.


The survivors

Unfortunately the crash didn't restore Professor Norton to his old self, and he insisted that he has to get back to Unga Khan. Crash and Billy respond by grasping him firmly and heading off to Sharad's city. Unga Khan, who is still watching on the Reflecta-Plate, orders his henchmen to capture the trio, and the chariots, along with their poor overworked horses, are ordered to set off.

The SPCA didn't have much power in Hollywood in 1936

The chariots catch up to our heroes in short order, and Crash comes up with a brilliant plan to elude them, which is to hide in some bushes. But Professor Norton is looking shifty, and when Crash looks away for a second, the Professor pulls free, runs up to the chariots, and begs to be taken back to Unga Khan. Crash comes up with another brilliant plan, which is to jump into the chariot that's carrying Professor Norton, throw out the two guards who are in it, and drive off with Professor Norton. I'm in awe of Crash's imagination.

After a brief pause to pick up Billy, they're back on their way to Sharad's city. But the other chariot soon realizes what happened, and it's off in hot pursuit, at full gallop over rough paths, as usual. Those poor horses. By the time Crash gets to the city gates, the other chariot is only about fifteen feet behind them, but due I guess to Crash's superb chariot-driving skills, he manages to get the chariot inside in time for guards to close the heavy slow-moving gates before the other chariot can get in.

Unga Khan is not taking this lying down, and he immediately orders his troops to besiege Sharad's city. He's throwing everything he's got at the city: cavalry, siege equipment, and the Juggernaut. We see a large force pouring out of the cave entrance, much larger than any we've seen before, but I strongly suspect that in real life, there were only a few that were circling around and coming out multiple times.

As Unga Khan's troops head to Sharad's city, Crash is in Sharad's office trying to reason with Professor Norton, but it's hopeless. Professor Norton doesn't even know who Billy is. Then again, Professor Norton has never shown much fatherly interest in Billy, even when he was in his right mind. Meanwhile, Sharad's troops rush to the city's defense.


Interesting architecture

Crash finally gives up on Professor Norton and goes out to command Sharad's troops. Troops are deployed and walls are manned, and just in time. (Deploying the troops seems to involve a lot of men running randomly around.) Unga Khan's men arrive, carrying lots of scaling ladders. Sharad's troops prepare for battle by carrying kettles of boiling oil up on the ramparts. You may have forgotten, but there are flamethrowers in the walls of Sharad's city, and these are fired up, literally.

This is how the flamethrowers work

And now the Juggernaut arrives. It pulls up to the city gate, and it rams through it. Some of Unga Khan's men jump out. More of Unga Khan's men swarm in through the gate, and it's looking dicey for the city. This time there don't seem to be any Volkites in the Juggernaut. I wonder why? But back to the action. Sharad's men and Unga Khan's men are fighting it out with swords. The skill of the fighters varies drastically, with some barely able to hold onto their weapons, and the directions for the action seem to have been along the lines of "Everybody do your own thing, just don't hurt anybody." Nobody seems to be armed with anything other than a sword.

Fighting men of valor

Once Sharad hears that the gate has been forced, he, Billy, and Diana rush off to do - something, or maybe they're planning to hide. Whatever Sharad's plan is, the immediate result is that Professor Norton has been left alone. Still under the influence of the chamber, he manages to make his way to the wall and climb down a scaling ladder. He's nearly killed by one of Unga Khan's troops, but just in time he begs to be taken to his master, and the soldier recognizes him. The soldier leads him to a waiting chariot, and he's taken back to Unga Khan.

Unga Khan has seen this through the Reflecta-Plate, and now that his tame scientist is safe, he orders the city destroyed. The Volkites release another Volplane that, once it reaches the city, starts dropping bombs. Its aim is good, and buildings start to collapse all over the city. It appears that Crash, Sharad, Billy, and Diana are all hit by falling buildings. The title of the next episode is "Flaming Death," and I fear for all of them.

Bradley, is it all over for our main characters? Is the rest of the serial merely burying the dead? Please say it's not so.

Chapter Eleven: Flaming Death

Well, they're not all dead Pam, but some of them sure ain't looking too perky. In fact, the Blackshirts' rout is so complete that they declare victory and gallop back to the tower, leaving the Sacred City in ruins.

Crash, meanwhile, has ended up in a pile of rubble just inside what's left of Sharad's throne room, covered with blood, sweat and plaster dust but otherwise intact. His used-to-be-a-blackshirt busom pal/wrestling partner/possible lover is okay, too, but it looks like the entire population of the city has been wiped out, which is a surprisingly bleak turn of events for what's supposed to be kid-friendly matinee fare.

Crash starts digging around in the debris and finds Billy, who's a little sore but plucky as always, and with the little scamp's help they manage to find Diana. When they pull her from the detritus she's out cold, but aside from a little bit of head trauma she's okay, too. It's all very nice for our heroes, but poor Sharad has been killed in the collapse, and shall wear his Chef Boyardee hat no more.


We don't actually see the body, so we have to take Billy's word for it.

Crash's Pal comes hobbling in with the bad news that Professor Norton has gone back to the Tower and rejoined the enemy. Diana wants to light out to get him right away, but Crash suggests they should go to the submarine first and ready it for a quick escape.

Back at the tower that hapless Blackshirt Commander is telling Khan that all of his enemies, Crash and company included, are dead and buried beneath the ruins. I love how this guy never bothers to confirm anything in the field, but is always super-anxious to have some self-serving good news to report to his boss.


He's campaigning for "Employee of the Month."

Khan is super-anxious, too, veritably chomping at the bit to send his tower to the upper world and start doing some tyrannical dominating where it's not quite so damp. For a guy in such a big hurry, though, he never seems to let Professor Norton do his job for more than five minutes without pestering him for a status report, and so he sends the Commander to the Professor's lab to fetch him.

While he's waiting for Norton, Khan and his Number One switch on the TV and are watch some stock footage of folks scurrying around on a busy street in New York. Number One nervously comments that the upper world seems to have a "limitless" number of people, but Khan is confident that his army of six robots and maybe thirty guys in form-fitting short-shorts can make all two billion of them (ca. 1936) yield and become his personal slaves.


You can't say he doesn't have ambition.

Finally, Norton shows up and reports that they could be up on the surface in just a couple of hours if his lordship desires, but he can't say exactly where in the ocean the tower will emerge because his maps and charts are still back in the submarine. Now Khan has to have somebody shlep back to the bay, just like they did with the priming powder in Chapter Seven, because it's yet another plot device so nice they decided to use it twice.

The Commander, Norton, and a couple of Volkites hop into a juggernaut and drive back to the spot where the sub control box is hidden. Norton guides the sub to the shore, and with a ready assurance that he'll only be a moment away, he climbs in to retrieve his charts. Once they've got them the Commander spots an approaching chariot in the distance and somehow knows that it's Crash and his pals even though just a few minutes ago he was completely certain that Crash and everyone else in the Sacred City were dead.

Norton suggests they sneak away and take the control box with them, which would, I suppose, disable the sub or something? I don't see how that makes any sense. When Crash was piloting the sub in Chapter One, he was using the controls that are actually inside of it. Maybe the control box supersedes the manual controls for some reason? Maybe I'm over-thinking this?


Yes. I am.

As it turns out it's a moot point anyway, because the Commander, whose track record hasn't been exactly stellar so far, thinks he's got a better idea. He summons the Volkites from the Juggernaut, and they climb inside to sit in ambush for when Crash and friends get there.

And get there, they do, just as Professor and Commander are slinking away unseen through the underbrush. Crash sees the sub floating there with its hatch open and gets suspicious. He distinctly remembers leaving it closed up and submerged when he was there last, so he decides to enter through the service hatch rather than the main hatch in case someone is waiting inside.

Sure enough, Crash sneaks in and sees the Volkites. When the two clumsy robots start to march towards him, though, one of them runs into a table with some equipment on it, which happens to have a hard protrusion just at the level of the little round light the robots have on their midriffs in place of belly buttons. Crash watches as the lens gets smashed and the Volkite droops over inert, its arms hanging loose by its sides.

Through this fortuitous happenstance, Crash learns how to disable the other Volkite. He picks up a gun that happens to be lying around and shoots out its light, rendering it as limp and useless as its dumbass partner who self-owned on the table.


Seems like a serious design flaw to me.

Crash calls Billy to join him in the sub and the two start pulling out all the electro-mechanical guts from the two robots...

In the tower, Norton has the charts spread out on a table in Khan's control room, and he shows him the best, most commanding vantage from which they should emerge from the ocean.

They all pop over to the monitor to watch a test-firing of the rocket engines, which blast directly into the lab and the caves. The test is successful and Khan recalls all the soldiers and Volkites to the tower, announcing that as soon as his minions are assembled they're going up.

Initially there seems to be a little kerfuffle with a couple of the Volkites, who haven't responded to the return order, but suddenly the two errant 'bots mosey in. They immediately raise their guns at Number One and Khan himself. As anyone with two brain cells to rub together would have already guessed, these are really Crash and his sexy former Blackshirt Pal pretending to be Volkites

I'm totally building a Volkite for Halloween this year.

Khan orders Number one to use his crotch box and order the other Volkites to rescue them, but Volkite Sexy Pal grabs it from him. Crash demands that Norton be returned to his senses, and being as he has a gun in his face, Khan complies. Back in the chamber Professor Norton goes, and because Crash doesn't trust Khan any more than the audience can trust this serial's cliffhangers, he orders the cranky old tyrant into the booth as well.

In short order Number One has twiddled his knobs and the Professor is himself again. Crash and Sexy Pal lock Khan and Number One in the chamber then smash the Volkite control box. Crash loudly announces his intention to go down to the basement and dismantle the rockets, but scarcely have they left the room before the doofus Commander stumbles in and lets the bad guys out.

Down in the cave Crash and company reach the rockets, but before they can begin their sabotage Khan orders the rockets to be test fired again. Crash, Sexy Pal and the Professor are enveloped in smoke, sparks and flames!


I smell toast. Do you smell toast?

So there you have it, Pam. Another impossible cliffhanger situation for our insipid...uh, intrepid heroes that will doubtless be retconned in the first three minutes of the final chapter. Would you care to indulge us one last time?
Chapter Twelve: Ascent to the Upperworld

Glad to, Bradley, although if they've been caught in exhaust from a rocket, there won't be much left of them. It may be up to Diana and Billy to save us.!  It turns out that Crash and the Professor find a conveniently-located hole in the floor and drop to a lower level, where they're safe from the exhaust.  Unfortunately, Crash's Atlantean buddy didn't manage to get away from the rocket exhaust and is probably literally toast.


I think he's a goner

Meanwhile, Crash extricates himself from his Volkite suit, while the Professor reveals that Unga Khan's rocket isn't just bad news for the upper world, it's also bad news for Atlantis. The rocket-powered tower is going to break through the top of the giant rock cavern that's protecting Atlantis from the surrounding ocean, and Atlantis will be flooded. Crash and the Professor head to the top of the tower to stop Unga Khan before the rocket engines have powered up enough to lift the tower. Not a word more is spoken about the loss of Crash's faithful friend.

Now that I think about it, I don't think Unga Khan's plan is going to work. It seems more likely that the tower will be smashed when it hits the roof of the giant cavern. Still, if I were in Atlantis, I'd feel that it's a good idea to stop the rocket anyway, just in case the cavern roof is more fragile than expected. Also, as the next scene shows, Unga Khan plants to use his Disintegrator Ray to help the rocket through the cavern. But has he forgotten about Crash and the Professor?

Too bad for him if he did. Crash and the Professor, unknown to Unga Khan and his minions, are getting some help from Billy and Diana, who are back at the submarine. The Professor is evidently an awesome submarine designer, since he's designed a submarine that can be operated by a small child single-handed.  Billy sees that the tower has been launched and tells Diana that they need to submerge the submarine before the sea swamps them. Billy then proceeds to turn a couple of handles and pull a couple of levers, and the submarine promptly submerges.

I was wondering if they were going to abandon Salty and Briny to a watery death, but very much to my surprise, Salty, Briny, and the parrot are now aboard the submarine. Salty and Briny are usefully occupied by knitting something, and they seem commendably unbothered by all they've been through. There's been nothing at all to show how they got from Unga Khan's stable back to the submarine, but here they are now.


Just what was their purpose in this movie, anyway?

Billy's plan is to wait for the ocean to fill Atlantis, then to get the submarine out of the hole the tower made in the roof of the cavern. Very shortly (unrealistically shortly, like in just over a minute) Atlantis is filled with water, and Billy and the rest of the gang are headed for the surface.

As we just saw, Crash and the Professor weren't able to stop Unga Khan's tower from breaking through to the surface after all. They're greatly outnumbered by Unga Khan's men, and to make matters worse, Crash has lost his helmet. Now what? Fortunately, Crash recalls the Reflecta-Plate. He and the Professor sneak into Unga Khan's throne room, and the Professor somehow manages to operate the device and tune in on the nearest naval base. Not only that, but at Crash's order, he tunes into the wireless room of the base.

Crash informs the wireless operator that he and Professor Norton are currently trapped in a metal tower being forced to the surface of the ocean by a madman who intends to conquer the world and destroy it. He and Professor Norton then hear Unga Khan approaching, and they hide.

The U.S. Navy had some stellar sailors in 1936. The wireless operator seems not at all astonished to hear Crash's message about the imminent doom of the Earth at the hands of a maniac that is the ruler of a kingdom under the sea. This can't be something the operator's ever heard before, but we'll have to wait to find out how he reacts. For now, Unga Khan is testing his weapon against a surface ship. The weapon works just fine, and it blows the ship to smithereens.

However, while Crash waits for help to arrive, he fills in his spare time by beating up Unga Khan and one of Unga Khan's henchmen. That finished, he calls the naval station again with the current coordinates of Unga Khan's tower, although I really don't know how he knows them. Unfortunately, while he's talking, some of Unga Khan's men show up with drawn swords, and they capture Crash and the Professor. However, help is on the way. The Navy clearly reposes great confidence in Crash, as instead of laughing at his wild story, they dispatch several ships to the coordinates he gave them.


State-of-the art communications system in 1936

While all this has been going on, the ever-plucky and accomplished Billy has not only brought the submarine to the surface, he brought it up within a few hundred feet of Unga Khan’s tower. To my surprise, instead of rushing to help Crash, Billy submerges the sub.

One of Unga Khan’s men informs him that Crash has called for help and the U.S. Navy is on the way. Confident in the strength of his weapons, Unga Khan is unbothered by the news, and he orders “the invisible wall of atom rays” to be projected around his tower.

Now I’m getting worried. How can the Navy break through an invisible wall of atom rays? In fact, at first it seems that it can’t. However, Unga Khan’s men foolishly left the tied-up Crash and the Professor right next to each other, and the Professor surreptitiously unties Crash’s hands. While Unga Khan is busy gloating, Crash drops the Professor through an opening in the floor that leads to the room where the machinery that generates the atom rays is located. Because Unga Khan and his men are apparently too chicken to jump down themselves, Crash and the Professor have time to turn off the atom rays (and somehow know exactly how to turn off the enormous complicated machinery). This of course means the Navy’s shells are getting through to the tower, and Unga Khan and his men promptly prepare to abandon the tower. So do Crash and the Professor, who run to the Volplane. Unga Khan has the same idea, and he pulls a gun on Crash and the Professor and orders them out. Just in the nick of time, another shell hits, and the impact knocks Unga Khan over. Crash and the Professor take off, and no sooner than they are away from the tower, another shell hits, and the tower collapses, presumably with Unga Khan still inside.


Bang goes Unga Khan

Sometime later, back on dry land, we see the Professor back in his laboratory, taking a Volkite apart. I’m not sure where that came from, and I’m beginning to wonder what happened to Billy, Diana, and the sub. However, in walk Crash and Diana, hand-in-hand. Crash is back in his Navy uniform. They’re looking very friendly, and sure enough, Crash puts his arm around Diana as Diana requests the Professor to come along as a witness to their marriage. Just then up pops the Volkite, and my question about Billy is answered when a high-pitched voice pipes up to announce his presence inside the robot. Billy, for once without his cap, is invited to the ceremony, and with that, the movie fades out.


Happily ever after - well, at least until December 7, 1941

Alert readers may have noticed that Briny and Salty’s whereabouts are still unknown, but perhaps they’ve already been sent out to another assignment. Who knows what happened to the parrot, and who knows how Crash and Diana fell in love so suddenly, as alert readers may have also noticed that Crash and Diana have actually spent very little time together during the movie and never seemed at all affectionate before this. I note that Crash, Diana, the Professor, and Billy have all been left untraumatized by the dire peril they’ve been in almost nonstop for twelve chapters, but that’s par for the course in this type of serial. They’re also completely unaffected by the drowning of Atlantis and the loss of all the information this unknown civilization contained. Just think of all of Unga Khan’s devices and how useful they’d be to the surface people. And not one of the four seems to spare a thought for the tremendous loss of life in Atlantis. Crash had even been friends with the Deserter, but it appears that once the Deserter went down, Crash forgot all about him.

This last chapter showed signs of being thrown together in a hurry. I’ve mentioned that the movie didn’t bother to show how Salty and Briny showed up aboard the submarine. That shot may have been shoehorned in at the last minute when the chapter was almost over when somebody realized that Salty and Briny were too big a loose end to be left untied. Crash’s inspiration about using the Reflecta-Plate may also have been a last-minute thought about how to end the serial. We’ve seen that the Reflecta-Plate could be used to communicate with the surface even when Unga Khan’s tower was still in Atlantis, and Crash was fully aware of this. He must have known the coordinates of Atlantis, since he guided the sub there, and all he would have had to do is sneak in, use the Reflecta-Plate to notify the Navy of Atlantis’ whereabouts, tell them what Unga Khan was planning, and have them stand by waiting for this tower to pop out of the ocean. I lost track of the number of times Crash was prowling around in Unga Khan’s tower, but it was more than once.

This one’s probably not worth watching, unless you want to ogle men in minidresses and the scantily-clad Crash Corrigan. Nobody seemed to have had much fun making this movie, and there was none of the exuberance of The Phantom Empire. I’ve been pointing out how badly the horses were treated throughout, and this was explained when I noticed that the director was B. Reeves Eason. A look at Wikipedia shows that during his career as a director he was notorious for his cavalier attitude to safety, and that many horses were killed and badly injured in movies he directed.

Any last thoughts, Bradley?

Why, yes, Pam. As a matter of fact I do have some last thoughts. When do I not?

I agree wholeheartedly with your lukewarm assessment of the serial as a whole. To put it kindly, Undersea Kingdom sits firmly in the lower reaches of the lower tier of serials I've seen, and I've seen more than I care to remember. What struck me most about the final few chapters is how bleak and nihilistic they became. Aside from our cardboard cadre of courageous commuters (plus some some nameless Navy folk we met in chapters one and twelve), every single character we've met throughout the entire production is dead. I acknowledge that Unga Khan had already been engaged in a savage campaign of conquest against the Sacred City when Crash and company arrived, but I would argue that the catalytic influence of the upper-worlders led to far more dire consequences for the denizens of the Lost Continent than any ephemeral political regime would have wrought. In fact, our nominal heroes' interference led to nothing less than the annihilation of their culture and the extinction of their entire race. Dictators come and go. Death is more or less permanent.

If everything about the movie weren't so clumsy and haphazard I'd almost be tempted to credit the writers with inserting a subtextual argument regarding Western colonialism. Then gain, with all the flag-waving, jingoistic brouhaha surrounding All-Americian He-Man Crash and his the prowess of the U.S. Navy, I'd also have to call them out for appearing to be in favor of it. Manifest destiny is an ugly thing, however, so let's just stick with the "seat of their pants" theory, lest we make things even more nasty than they already are.

I also agree, Pam, with your assessment that the last few chapters were particularly rushed and incompetent, even by the abyssal standards set by the preceding chapters. The last three segments absolutely reek of a behind-schedule production rapidly running short on time and money, with accountants and studio heads clamoring in the background to cut every corner and wrap things the fuck up so they can abuse the horses someplace else.

With a product this sloppy introducing him to the world it's hardly surprising Crash Corrigan fell well short of superstardom. He did moderately well in low-budget westerns for a few years but withdrew steadily into bit parts and supporting roles. Despite a successful presence behind the scenes as owner/operator of a popular ranch used as a setting for hundreds of westerns, he never came close to becoming the household name Republic Studios had hoped when they cast him in Undersea Kingdom.

Plus he still had his gorilla suits.

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Pam Burda & Bradley Lyndon in February, 2023.

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