Beware Der Schvartz Hanker!!!
Laughing Gravy | Sacramento, CA United States | 12/31/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"VCI continues its impressive lineup of DVD serial releases with THE ADVENTURES OF THE FLYING CADETS (1943), a 13-episode Universal chapterplay.
Four young flying students are accused of the murder of a commanding officer; he was actually done in by a mysterious Nazi saboteur known as the Black Hangman. To clear their good names (and they're called Danny, Jinx, Scrapper, and Zombie, four good names if I've ever heard them), the four Air Cadets track the Nazis across land, sea, and air, eventually unmasking the Hangman and forcing a showdown at a secret African helium mine.
Universal released a new serial starring the Dead End Kids/Little Tough Guys once a year from 1940 through 1942. I suspect FLYING CADETS was written for the DEK/LTGs, but it ended up utilizing the services of only Bobby Jordan, who hadn't appeared with his Dead End Kids mates in any of the earlier serials. The other three cadets are the familiar Johnny Downs and Billy Benedict and the unfamiliar Ward Wood; the supporting cast includes Eduardo Ciannelli, Robert Armstrong, the lovely Jennifer Holt, and the ever-popular Regis Toomey.
Like most of the later Universal serials, you'll find plenty of stock footage; a Greek chorus of minor characters who begin each chapter by talking about what's going on (was this cheaper than the beloved "scrawl" that began BUCK ROGERS and earlier Universal chapterplays?); and a little too much plot to be healthy in a serial. It's also surprising that we, the audience out there in movieland, are let in on the identity of the Black Hangman very early in the game, although that may have been because there's no mistaking who it is under that mask. It's fun to watch the scheming Axis Huns double-cross themselves on an ongoing basis; there's no honor amongst Nazis, it seems. I also liked the way Ciannelli blusters about the Cadets: "Those idiots! Those dummkopffs! They've outsmarted us again!" The biggest laugh, however, is reserved for those times in which the Nazis refer to the Black Hangman as "Der Shvartz Hanker", which, gosh darn it, is just hilarious, you'll have to trust me. Oh, and there's also a peppy "Air Cadets" theme song that plays over the opening Cadet credits, so be forewarned. It'll stick to your brain the way peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth.
THE ADVENTURES OF THE FLYING CADETS is officially a rather pedestrian serial (the participation of the other Dead End Kids/Little Tough Guys would've helped immeasurably), but the DVD is very good and contains a slew o' really fun serial trailers. Recommended.