SERIES – Ace Drummond
DIRECTORS – Ford Beebe, Cliff Smith
WRITERS – Wyndham Gittens, Norman S. Hall, Ray Trampe
Might as well try making up for my lack of Ace Drummond reviews by doing two within days of each other, so let’s get crackin’!
Chapter Four – The Radio Riddle
- Now that this really IS Ch. 4, I can post this legitimately!
Our previous chapter, The Doorway of Doom, was large on action and low on story. I ruminated on how most series have to have at least a few episodes like this; it makes the more narrative-centric chapters seem a little more interesting, even if you don’t realize it. And that’s what Chapter Four is – fully concentrating on advancing the story as a whole.
Hero Ace Drummond was last scene about to become Tibetan Pancake, trapped in a room with a moving wall bearing down on him! His pal Jerry the Mechanic is busy tussling with monks outside the door, so Ace ends up simply propping a large gong between the two walls, thus saving his own life (I think it would’ve been more dramatic if he’d placed the gong between the moving wall and the locked door itself, and as Jerry and the monks outside are monkey-piling, the door would suddenly smash open! Oh well.).
Ace is freed, but not from the accusations that he murdered the evil Dragon’s henchman that he’d chased into the monestary, only to find shot dead and become framed for (there’s grammar in there somewhere). Only the wise Lama believes and trusts Ace and Jerry, who discover that the murder weapon is initialled (!) for Henry Kee, one of the airfield employees who became a secret Dragon suspect as of Chapter 3. It becomes pretty apparent that Kai-Chek, the Lama’s right-hand man, is probably a secret Dragon agent too. Also, while trapped in the crushing-room, Ace received a taunting message from the Dragon himself, via the strange spinning-fan-thingy that the Dragon has communicated with in varying locations throughout the series. Ace is allowed to take the object with him for investigation.
What we end up learning with this episode is that these “fan” things are actually Tibetan “prayer wheels”, or at least that’s what they refer to them as. Actual prayer wheels are generally just cylinders, with mantras printed on them. Bhuddists pray with them as a means of visualizing and therefor enhancing the powers and effects of their prayers, largely for the sake of effecting good and bad karma. Whether or not any “prayer wheels” like those we see in the Ace Drummond series ever exist, I don’t know. Apparently even just an animated .GIF of a prayer wheel is supposed to be at least a little effective. But let’s move on…
Ace is finally able to crack the prayer wheel’s code, the technological details kept wonderfully vague. Somehow a secret radio frequency will trigger the wheel, allowing for incoming and outgoing transmissions. Even just having the frequency activated will allow one to listen to others communicating on the wavelength, and as such Ace is able to snoop in on the Dragon’s orders to his henchmen (one of whom we learn is the Bai-Tal airfield’s radio operator himself, no less). Ace and Jerry soon head back to the excavation site operated by the mysterious Germans, as Henry Kee claims he’d sold his initialled gun to one of them.
I’ve been waiting for young Billy (I estimate him to be around 12 years old) to step up to the plate in wholly unrealistic and irritating ways, and he finally does just that. After overhearing the Dragon’s plot to kill Ace en route to the Germans, Billy pilots the motorbike-with-sidecar, even offroading with it and thus negating the coolness of Ace having done so just one episode ago. There’s even a few fractions of repeated speeding-car-perspective camera shots from Chapter 3, but it’s edited and blended in fine enough. Billy saves the day by backfiring the bike’s tailpipe and getting Ace’s attention. An interesting-yet-sad sequence sees the Dragon henchmen further chasing Ace anyway, and as Ace expertly speed-drifts around a sharp cliffside turn, the henchmen claim they can do it to and of course fail, meeting a rather violent end (“Thrice doomed is he who dies with evil in his heart”, says the Lama).
We conclude Chapter 4 with the most intelligent plot development and storytelling of the series thus far, as Ace questions the Germans. Lead German Dr. Bauer keeps his assistant from shooting Ace, as “he may not have come here alone”. He even allows Ace to discover their imprisoned Dr. Trainor, as they’d hidden their identities from Trainor the whole time. Trainor reveals the biggest plot device of the series so far, as he had previously discovered a mountain’s worth of jade, worth a fortune. Allowing the international airfield to succeed would allow foreign interference to keep the Dragon from having the jade all to himself. This week’s cliffhanger has Dragon henchmen airbombing Ace and Trainor as they speed back to the airport, and they actually succeed in blowing up Ace’s car! Could it be…???
Despite some snippets of cut audio/picture at the beginning (not a digital glitch but actual lost footage), The Radio Riddle was actually very strong in most regards. With the exception of having another car-and-motorbike chase in two straight episodes, the action and dialogue was paced quite nicely. The photography was fairly choice as well, particularly when Ace questioned the Germans. I particularly enjoyed how the “is-he-or-isn’t-he” way they handled Kai-Chek. Is he a secret Dragon agent, or is he just anti-foreigner and closed-minded towards criminology? Ultimately he’s revealed as a villain, but they easily could’ve given him a none-too-sublte sneering closeup the moment we met him and blown it right away.
At four episodes into a series of thirteen, I’m really curious / concerned as to where we go from here. It really doesn’t seem we’re that far away from closing in on the mysterious Dragon, but more than that I worry that, without a serious change / addition in location(s) we’re just going to be stuck going back and forth between the Bai-Tal airfield, the monestary, and Dr. Bauer’s site. But hopefully we’ll at least be given the Dragon’s secret location to work with soon enough.
So tune in soon enough for… Chapter 5, Bullets of Sand (I like the title already, dibs on naming a song or band after it!)
RATING – Four Tibetan Monk Moshpits out of Five
STINGER – 12:12, car tires screeching on… sand?