Undersea Kingdom (1936)
starring Ray "Crash" Corrigan, who started his career playing a
gorilla and ended it playing a space monster, was Republic Pictures'
answer to the success of Universal's Flash Gordon. Set
firmly in that sub-genre of pulp fiction made famous by Edgar Rice
Burroughs, we have the stalwart and
resourceful American hero, the exotic land in some strange location
(in this case, the underwater kingdom of Atlantis), and the society
that for no readily apparent reason combines super-scientific machines
with men on horseback wielding swords.
The robots in this serial are
pretty much there as a bit of stage dressing and take up the slack for
the villain's human henchmen. Labour shortages, I suppose.
When the robots aren't lurching after "Crash" Corrigan with their ray
guns or flying an airship which is as cool looking as it is
ineffective, they're being put to purposes which are just plain daft.
When the villain orders his number two to activate the death ray,
number two throws a switch on his belt that causes a nearby robot to
leap into action and... throw a switch. Would it have killed the
guy to take two steps and throw the switch himself?
If you ever get a chance to see this serial, keep a close eye on
the robots. Is it just me or do they have something of a mincing