King of the Kongo (MASCOT, 1929) †DIR: Richard Thorpe. SCR: Harry Sinclair Drago (screenplay), Wyndham Gittens (screenplay). Photo: Ernest Laszlo, Ray Ries.  CAST: Jacqueline Logan (Diana Martin), Walter Miller (Larry Trent), Richard Tucker (Chief of the Secret Service), Boris Karloff (Scarface Macklin), Larry Steers (Jack Drake), Harry Todd (Commodore), Richard Neill (Prisoner), Lafe McKee (Trader John), J.P. Lockney (Priest), William P. Burt (Mooney), J. Gordon Russell (Derelict), Robert Frazer (Native chief), Ruth Davis (Poppy), Joe Bonomo (Gorilla)

 

Presented with its original soundtrack for the first time since 1929!


Young Diana Martin travels to a ruined temple called Nuhalla in a search for her long-lost father.† The temple contains a lost treasure, which is being sought by thugs, led by Scarface Macklin (Boris Karloff).† The thugs are being tracked by a Secret Service Man, Larry Trent (Walter Miller.)† Can Diana find her father before the thugs kill everyone?†† What do the dinosaurs and the gorilla have to do with anything?† Itís all action and little logic in this 10Ėchapter serial.

 

After Joe Kennedy merged Pathť† with other studios, serial star Walter Miller was left without a contract.† Pretty Jacqueline Logan was also freelancing and without work.† This allowed entrepreneurial producer Nat Levine to scoop both of them up and make the first sound serial, King of the Kongo.

 

Much has been written about this serial, and some of it is debatable.† The idea that it was available in anything but a sound version is not borne out by contemporary reviews, all of which tout the sound.†† Some sources also claim that there was extensive location work, especially since we see footage of Angkor Wat as the ruined temple (although what a Cambodian temple is doing in the Kongo is beyond explanation).

 

Upon examination, it appears that perhaps a silent unit did some location work.† The bulk of it looks like it was done in LA, even down to the Selig Zoo, which supplied the wild animals.† Each reel contains one talking sequence, with the rest being silent, and these sequences are always set in controlled locations that are clearly on a soundstage.†

 

This is all cheeseball stuff of the highest order, but then what Mascot serial isnít?† It is a delight to see it and hear it, finally, with Lee Zahlerís music, complete with gorilla sound effects and gunshots.† The surviving 16mm in Eric Graysonís collection was from a worn nitrate, which caused synchronization problems.† Ron Hutchinson supplied the sound discs, and David Wood did audio cleanup and part of the synchronization work.

 

Chapter 5, so far, is the only chapter with complete sound, but there is hope to retrieve more in the upcoming months.† One day, if weíre lucky, weíll be able to watch this historic serial with all the sound intact.† Then, at last, it will make as much sense as it ever did.† That probably isnít saying much.

(Eric Grayson)