Neal C. Reynolds | Indianapolis, Indiana | 06/03/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Smilin' Jack was a leading comic strip hero during the 40's and 50's, and Tom Brown does a very good job in bringing him to life. The time frame is the year 1941, beginning before the U. S. officially entered the war, and including the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is quite a bit of stock war movie footage here, which is not detriment. It helps tell the story.This serial could be offensive to those of Japanese or German heritage, because being made during World War II, both races are depicted as inherently evil. That's unfortunate, but it is part of war. Although there are lots of Japanese characters portrayed, there were of course no Japanese actors...they were all in camps (euphanism for prison) at the time.Among the grand old names of B movies in this serial are Sidney Toler giving a Charley Chan characterization to a Chinese general, Turhan Bey as one of the two principal villains, Keye Luke, Phillip Ahn, and Jay Novello. One distinguishing element in this serial is the preface to each chapter, quite different from the standard synopsis.All in all, this is a fast moving and quite enjoyable serial which, once you have the major serials in your collection, will be a welcome adition."
Espionage in Pre World War II China
Joseph Adamo | Bergen County, NJ | 11/28/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the better Universal serials. Ranks high with Flash Gordon (1936) and Tim Tyler's Luck(c.1938) for the best serials made at Universal. Selection of Tom Brown to play Zach Moseley's Smilin' Jack was great casting. Brown plays Jack to perfection. As one who read the comic strip during the 40's and 50's I pictured Jack as closely as possible to Brown's portrayal. Jack is in China trying to prevent an Axis agent Fraulein Von Teufel from taking over the island of Mandon. With the help of two friends, Janet and Tommy, Jack is able to destroy the Axis plans. The highlight of this serial is the ending to Chapter 12. To prove that he is an honorable person, Jack has to walk barefoot over a bed of hot coals. He is taught by a Chinese friend how to do this without harm. This serial is full of action and adventure. There is also a mystery as Jack tries to find out who Frauline Von Teufel is. Look for Sidney Tolar (Charlie Chan) playing a Chinese general."
Surprisingly good Universal serial from the forties
George N. Fabian | Mountainside, USA | 06/29/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is that rarity of rarities--a good Universal serial from the forties. Along with Gang Busters (also 1942) this is Universal's best serial effort from the 1940-46 years. Minimal use of stock footage, an inventive screenplay, a music background that relates to the action going on are some of the assets. An interesting cast also helps particularly Rose Hobart as an icy cold ruthless German agent and the ultra suave Turhan Bey as her Japanese counterpart."
Smilin' Jack is old style high adventure.
J. Kitchens | Buffalo, NY USA | 07/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This serial movie, both disks, volumes 1 and 2, are absolutely entertaining and well worth watching. Smilin' Jack Martin is a barn storming, old style action aviator whose love of flying is only surpassed by his love of adventure. In 'The Adventures of Smilin' Jack', Jack Martin encounters a centuries old secret that could help defeat the Japanese takeover of China. The secret is a hidden mountain path connecting China and India that would allow the resupply of China from India. Jack's adversary in the race to discover the secret passage over the mountains is the ruthless Fraulein Von Teufel, a Nazi spymaster from Hitler's war machine. The secret pass would provide a safe trade route for the Chinese, but the ancient people that protect it are not willing to give up their secret so easily. To defeat Smilin' Jack, the bloodthirsty Fraulein Von Teufel dispatches her Black Samurai to murder him and seize the passage. The Black Samurai are trained killers, dedicated to their cause and relentless in their attacks, using tricks, torture, and cunning in their attempts to kill Jack and his plans for opening the secret route. Despite its dated and politically incorrect use of caucasians to play the parts of many asian characters, notably the performance by Sidney Toler (of Charlie Chan fame), this is an adventure with continuous action and a cliffhanger that caps every 22-24 minute episode of this thirteen chapter serial. "
Jack Almost Prevents Pearl Harbor
Scott Lothrop | Tampa, FL, USA | 01/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was from Zack Mosley's popular comic strip, one of many tuned into a serial, and long thought to be lost. Jack Martin is a daredevil pilot who gets involved in Far Eastern intrigue just before Pearl Harbor. As played by Tom Brown (1913-1990) Jack no longer has his pencil-thin moustache and seems younger, but Brown does a commendable job here.
This is a very good cast. Perhaps the most interesting casting is Sidney Toler and the great Keye Luke ("Secret Agent X-9," 1945), who played Charlie Chan and his number One Son in numerous movies. Toler was concurrently playing Chan while appearing in this film as General Kai Ling. Luke plays Captain Wing, who assists the general and bails Smilin' Jack out of many predicaments. Marjorie Lord, later known for her role on TV's "Make Room For Daddy," also helps Jack in his endeavors as Janet Thompson.
Rose Hobart is excellent at playing the evil Fraulein von Teufel off against her alter ego Rose Franklin, whom no one suspects. Just as convincing is her agent Kageyama, played by the ultra suave Turhan Bey. The sniping between the German and the Japanese agent is rather humorous. Cyril Delavant almost steals the show as Mah Ling, the Chinese provincial governor whom both sides are trying to entice into revealing a vital wartime secret. He even plays a double role with a small segment as a Japanese agent who will pretend to be him. Mah Ling's loyal servent Wu Tan is played by long-time Asian actor Philip Ahn, and his role grows in importance as the plot progresses.
The plot seems to be more intelligent and well thought-out than is the case with many serials. There are some great and unexpected twists and turns, getting one more emotionally involved than normal with a serial. There's some pretty good archival footage taken early in WWII. I also like Universal's method of prefacing each chapter with one or two new scenes which let us know what's happening before repeating the ending that led up to the cliffhanger, instead of using a written summary as Republic did or an annoying narrator as Columbia did.
Universal's great director Ford Beebe was the producer of this one. Directors Ray Taylor and Lewis Collins had a chance with this to learn how to put together a good WWII spy flick, which may be why their "Secret Agent X-9" (1945) was so good. And like that one, it has the look and feel of a feature movie rather than just a serial. About all that separates this from the best Republic serials is more fights and better cliffhangers."