Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Overlooked Films: Rin-Tin-Tin in "The Lightning Warrior"

This 1931 serial was the last film the original Rin-Tin-Tin made before he kicked the doggie-bucket. I have a copy on a cheapie DVD set, along with The Lone Defender and two later serials pairing Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. with Rex the Wonder Horse. So far I've seen only Chapter 1, and there's plenty of crazy stuff going on. It's almost bad enough to be good.

The wackiest element is that gent on the left in the Chapter 8 poster below. On the poster he looks sort of like The Shadow, but on film he reminds me more of Mickey Mouse's old nemesis The Phantom Blot. As you might expect from a guy wearing that outfit, he spends a lot of time lurking in hallways and peeking in windows. And when giving orders to his henchmen he holds his cape up Bela Lugosi-style over his already masked face. But he also rides around in broad daylight on a white horse and enjoys standing on mountaintops howling like a wolf. His name? He's called The Wolf Man.

But wait. What about Rin-Tin-Tin? He's the star of this pic, isn't he? Well, maybe. He doesn't have much to do in Chapter 1, but he does have the title role (the local Indians call him "The Lightning Warrior") so maybe he's saving up his heroics for later in the picture.

Here's the set up: Arrows are sailing into town, often landing in the chests of prominent citizens. Each arrow carries a scrap of cowhide with a pictograph warning residents to get out of town or die. Looks like the work of Indians, but the local tribe has supposedly been defunct for 20 years.

One of the first to die is a government agent sent to investigate the situation, who just happens to be the owner of Rin-Tin-Tin. Luckily, the agent's brother shows up to assume the hero's role. Unluckily, another early victim is the father of annoying kid, who's sure to be annoying for the rest of the film. He bawls three times in Chapter 1 alone.

What's really happening? Don't know yet, but we know The Wolf Man is in it up to his floppy hat - and, because of that gent pointing his finger on the poster above (and the guys menacing the Blake Shelton lookalike on the last poster below), we know there really are Indians hiding out in the hills. If I can endure more of the muddy picture and scratchy audio, maybe I'll eventually learn the rest.

Look over more Overlooked Films over at Sweet Freedom.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those government agents had a short life expectancy, didn't they? I haven't seen this one.