Film Serial Review: Undersea Kingdom (1936)

Release Date: May 30th, 1936 (first chapter)
Directed by: B. Reeves Eason, Joseph Kane
Written by: Tracy Knight, John Rathmell, Maurice Geraghty, Oliver Drake
Music by: Harry Grey
Cast: Ray “Crash” Corrigan, Lois Wilde, Monte Blue, William Farnum

Republic Pictures, 226 Minutes total (12 episodes), 100 Minutes (TV)

Review:

Undersea Kingdom, on its surface, should be pretty cool. However, it is an underwhelming dud. It was featured sparingly on Mystery Science Theater 3000 when they needed some shorts. But that program never played the serial in its entirety.

This was made in response to Universal’s hit serial Flash Gordon, but it pales in comparison and certainly isn’t as remembered. Honestly, other than popping up a few times on MST3K, this serial is forgettable.

In this epic, there is a suspicious earthquake. A professor leads an expedition in a super submarine to what is believed to be the location of Atlantis. The heroes arrive at the mystical continent and find themselves in a civil war between Sharad, who leads the White Robes, and Unga Khan, who leads the Black Robes. It is obvious who the bad guys are because this was the 1930s and shit was simpler back then. Unga Khan has a superweapon, the Disintegrator, which he plans to use to destroy the world with earthquakes unless he is made the ruler of Earth.

“Crash” was added to Ray Corrigan’s name in an effort to sound close to “Flash”. Frankly, this attempt at a ripoff was pretty damn blatant about it. He would continue to use this name in other serials he filmed after this one.

The only cool thing about this serial is Unga Khan’s Volkites. They were metallic warriors that looked like very primitive versions of the classic Cybermen from Doctor Who. Granted, they look more like Cybermen trying to wear Dalek armor over their heads and torsos.

Undersea Kingdom is kind of fun but that fun runs out quickly, as the serial is bogged down with retreading familiar territory and for utilizing tropes that were probably already played out in 1936.

I like stories about Atlantis and I love classic serials like this. Unfortunately, the two weren’t a perfect marriage or even a good one.

So does this deserve to be run through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer? It certainly does! The results read, “Type 2 Stool: Sausage-shaped but lumpy.”

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