24 January 2020 | StuOz
The Start Of Something Really Good
Wild animals, a mysterious city and flying batmen in Darkest Africa.
Firstly, I don't think the very limited number of IMDb reviews suggest a lack of interest in his production, but rather a lack of worldwide screenings - nobody has seen it! I started getting into old time B&W serials in about 1997 but only found Darkest Africa in January 2020.
With the odd exception (Things To Come, the Buck Rogers serial, etc), I am not too big on 1930s science fiction. Frankly, I find this material just so hard to connect with as it is just so old looking and sounding. But, to my surprise, I had a ball with Darkest Africa!
Fantasy or science fiction? Call it what you will. I guess the batmen could be called science fiction.
This is the first Republic serial ever made and the true stars get no credit - the Lydecker brothers! For the next 34 years, the Lydecker pair would do outstanding flying effects (in real blue sky daylight) in serials and Irwin Allen TV like Voyage to the bottom of the Sea and Lost In Space! (only Howard worked for Irwin Allen). Granted, the Lydeckers did do work before 1936, but Darkest Africa is the start of something really good.
Outside of the effects, the casting is not too bad at all. The actors don't behave in that traditional 30s way (if you know what I mean by that?) and this serial could pass as something made ten or 15 years later. Some of the wild animal Vs human footage might look a bit too creepy to kids of this century?
The only negative about the serial as a whole, once we get to chapter eight some of the spark was beginning to go. At this point everything was repeating itself too often and I found myself looking at my watch a few times. But eight chapters is a LOT of footage, a lot of good footage! So Darkest Africa does indeed stand as a mighty important turning point in screen fantasy (or sci-fi) history! Enjoy!