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"While it is true that there are better serials, this one is a fine sampling of early Republic chapter-plays. Professor Norton has discovered the lost city of Atlantis, and learns that it is the source of mysterious deadly earthquakes. Naval hero Ray "Crash" Corrigan and his reporter girlfriend Diana join Norton in his rocket powered submarine to investigate the mystery at the bottom of the sea.Along for the ride is young Billy, Norton's son, who idolizes the dashing and heroic Crash.When they arrive in the undersea city, Norton and Diana are quickly captured by Unga Khan, evil ruler of Atlantis. Khan uses his Transforming Ray to weaken Norton's mind and make him Khan's slave! His plan is to have Norton build rockets powerful enough to lift his war tower to the surface of the sea, so Khan can capture the world with his atom guns. Corrigan eventually earns the trust of the Atlaneans in the Sacred City, and tries to rescue Norton and his sweetheart.The co-director of the serial, 'Breezy' Reeves Eason, served as second unit director on the silent epic "Ben-Hur" (1925), most notibly on the famous chariot sequence. No wonder this serial is full of chariot chases and races!Lon Chaney plays one of Unga Khan's henchmen, as Captain of the Black Robes. Smiley Burnette is along as unecessary and annoying comedy relief. The youngster who plays Billy also played Junior in some of the Dick Tracy movies.There is some silliness with the costumes; Sharad, the leader of the Sacred City, looks like a low-rent Bishop, and Crash's helmet looks like it came from a hood ornament. Crash's costume is kind of silly-looking, too, with fish-scale shorts. The bad guys wear lightning bolts on their heads, which actually look pretty good for soldiers in an atom-powered army.The Volkites are the coolest thing about the serial. They are the original walking trash can robots, similar to the ones that appear in the Captain Proton segments of Star Trek Voyager.The real question is why Unga Khan has all of the technology, while the Sacred City has none. And why does Khan attack with horses and archers, when he has technology like the Volkites, atom guns, and aircraft. And let's not even ask why a domed city under the sea can have day and night.The Roan print is great, as usual. They include lobby art and the serial's history with production notes. The interactive menus are nice, too. Each chapter is shown in a "reflecting plate" (what the bad guys call their TV communicator screens)."
Atlantis or Bust!
todd logan | 10/19/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A worthy competitor to Universal's "Flash Gordon", which
preceded it in theatres by about two months, "Undersea
Kingdom" begins with strange earthquakes on the ocean floor that
draw the attention of kindly but doddering old Professor
Norton. Norton finds a statue down there and immediately decides that
the long-lost continent of Atlantis is to blame for the trouble. He
puts together an expedition that consists of himself, a naval officer
named "Crash" Corrigan portrayed, interestingly enough, by
"Crash" Corrigan in a role he was evidently born to play, and a
handsome crew of sailors, misfits, stowaways and ...a liberated
lady-type reporter. Well, to make 12 episodes short, Atlantis is
indeed to blame for the seaquakes, as the nefarious Unga Khan seeks to
overthrow Sharad, High Priest of the Sacred City. Or something. They
all look alike and the only real way to tell the difference between
any of them is that (a) they all wear different silly hats, and (b)
one of `em looks just like Lon Chaney, Jr. In fact, it IS Lon
Chaney, Jr., who, the narrative would've told us if it had been
pertinent, was hiding out at the bottom of the ocean because there's
no full moon down there. Although, believe it or not, there's clouds
and dust and horses. Don't ask. Unga Khan is ready for the outside
interlopers, however. He unleashes a plethora of perilous devices to
entrap/enslave/murder our heroes (depending on the chapter), including
a giant magnet to capture the submarine, an army of Volkites,
mechanical men who resemble port-o-potties with legs, and a death-ray
gun that looks like a vacuum cleaner and probably is. Best of all is a
particularly nasty-looking tank, to which Crash finds himself chained
and helpless as the machine is about to ram the wall of the Sacred
City. In the chapterplay's best moment, Crash stoically shouts, "Go
ahead and ram!" rather than divulge whatever bit of information
Khan is after... I kind of fell asleep in that chapter. Well, lots
more really exciting stuff happens, although I can't remember what
just now. Suffice to say that virtue triumphs in the end. As it always
does. Except in politics. The supporting cast is fine, particularly
Monte Blue as Khan and C. Montague Shaw as Norton. As mentioned, the
silly hats are delightful; really, no kidding, you are going to come
away from this serial remembering the hats which adorn virtually every
head. Unless you were admiring all the really muscular guys wearing
short skirts, but that's none of my business. Oh, and the shoes are
really stylish and snazzy, too.
Swords, Submarines and Silly Hats
todd logan | Salem, Oregon | 02/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Undersea Kingdom" is an all-time classic, and one of the most consistantly enjoyable serials ever made. Ray "Crash" Corrigan plays his athletic self, joining a little party of explorers who travel by submarine hundreds of leagues beneath the sea to find the source of mysterious seismic waves causing earthquakes on the surface. The waves come from the lost Atlantis, which, contrary to popular opinion, sunk so slowly that the inhabitants had plenty of time to construct a giant glass dome over the submerged continent. It is this scientific genius that allows them to threaten the surface, as well as to invent television, robots, and armoured cars. However, for the most part, they ride horses, fight with swords, and wear tunics topped by some of the silliest looking hats ever seen on film. B. Reeves Eason was the primary director for "Undersea Kingdom," and it bears many similarities to his earlier "Phantom Empire" (for Mascot) and "Darkest Africa." As in these earlier serials, "Undersea Kingdom" features a power struggle within the leadership of a distant and xenophobic city, in which the balance of power is affected by the entry of a small party of Americans led by a movie star playing himself. Here, the wise priests are beleagured by the rebellion of the odious Unga Khan (yes, they had Khans in ancient Greece). Like all of Eason's serials, there is lots of comedy mixed in with the thrills (Eason is remembered as an action guru, but his sense of character and slapstick were equally noteable). Other members of the party include a female reporter, the stowaway child of the submarine's developer, and the always problematic presence of Smiley Burnette, here even dumber than usual. But Republic gave their second production a real working budget: the sets are marvels of intricate hodge-podge, the costumes are florid and frilly, and the effects are noteable, albeit more for their conception than their execution. There are several great cliffhangers. "Flash Gordon" is the best-remembered serial of 1936, but in its own way, "Undersea Kingdom" is as enjoyable to watch today. It's funnier, it's more melodramatic, and Crash Corrigan (who also starred in Republic's "The Painted Stallion" and zillions of B-Westerns) compares favorably with Buster Crabbe in a similar role. The print is beautiful and clear as a bell. In short, Undersea Kingdom has oodles of everything which a serial fan in this modern age could wish for; if you don't like this, you're not a serial fan: go rent a musical. 1936 may have been the best serial year ever: "Undersea Kingdom" is a big part of the reason."
Stephen M. Leiker | Somerset, Ca United States | 06/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the second Republic serial ever (after Darkest Africa with Clyde Beatty) and if you like serials you'll appreciate this hokum-it's what serials are all about. You've GOT to cook up a batch of popcorn and have some M&M's and coke and pretend you're in you're local moviehouse in 1936 with all the other kids and looking forward to "Things To Come" which was probably the featured attraction. Crash Corrigan must have incredible B.O. with all that half-neked wrastlin'. Lon Chaney Jr. is fun to watch so young. All these guys keep pouring out this tunnel and ride their horses down the SAME trail, that's how you know the chase is on. We've got a guy with a dial-o-disaster on his chest plate and a rocket launcher that can't possibly be accurate. But all is in fun. Femme fatale has minimum screen time as does comedy relief duo. Two discs DVD, sound and picture are ok, the Roan Group copy is the best out there."
A Blast From the Movie Serial Past
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 07/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Undersea Kingdom" was one of Republic's first serials and it's still a lot of fun. Though an underwater version of Universal's "Flash Gordon," this 1936 chapterplay moves at a brisk pace. Ray "Crash" Corrigan is an engaging action hero, even when he has to utter lines such as "Go ahead and ram!" It's also nice to see Lon Chaney Jr. as a slimy villain in one of his early films. "Undersea Kingdom" may seem a bit hokey by today's standards, but it's the kind of nostalgic escapism that's impossible to resist."