4 April 2007 | bkoganbing
Call Out The Jungle Cavalry
Tim Tyler's Luck is based on a popular comic strip of the day. The strip concerned the adventures of an orphan kid named Tim Tyler who traveled around the world and had all kinds of situations that would be popular in the pulp fiction genre.
For this serial however, Tim acquires a long lost father in the person of Professor James Tyler played by Al Shean. Al's in a place called gorilla canyon studying the primates. But it turns out that the place ain't just a hang out for gorillas, right next door is the fabled legendary elephant's graveyard.
Shean's lost in the jungle and young Tim played by Frankie Thomas is off to Africa to find him. On the steamship up river, Thomas meets Frances Robinson who's looking for the John Dillinger of Africa, a gentleman named Spider Webb (I kid you not) played by Norman Willis. Of course wouldn't you know it, Spider's gang attacks the steamship and Robinson and Thomas escape. That starts a nice round of adventure going for twelve chapters.
Frankie Thomas usually played these nice all American kid types in such films as One Foot in Heaven and Boy's Town. He's got the same character down for the comic strip Tim Tyler. No doubt with his instincts for survival, Tim's spent some time in the Boy Scouts. He certainly has a way with animals, during the course of the twelve chapters Tim acquires animal friends and help from a black panther, chimpanzee, and an elephant.
The primate part may come naturally as Al Shean has learned to talk gorilla. Speaks it quite well, at one point he persuades a dangerous gorilla to drop his son who he's carrying off to God knows what fate. It's kind of hard to take Shean seriously as a scientist though, he's still the vaudeville comedian doing his shtick.
One of many misconceptions about Africa given to America by it's cinema. Gorillas are hardly the dangerous animals that are shown here, aggressively attacking man. They actually are quite shy creatures and will only attack if provoked.
Of course that's nothing compared to the Ivory Patrol. I'm still trying to figure out what part of sub Sahara Africa had this outfit which bears a striking resemblance to the United States Cavalry in many a western. They're constantly riding around and until the very end, never quite catch up with Spider Webb and his whole mob.
So we've got good guys taken from westerns and a bad guy taken from gangster flicks for a jungle movie. Funny thing everyone here has no accent at all, no one sounds like they're from any colonizing European power. The sets in fact could be what Universal studios used for its westerns part of the time.
Oh, and before I forget Al Shean also is a mechanic, he invents some kind of armored vehicle called a jungle cruiser. Looks very much like a modified early tank from World War I. Even more like one of those futuristic vehicles found in Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Universal put everything they could into Tim Tyler's Luck.
It's interesting to watch everyone here. Everyone of the adults in the film knows this all nonsense and indulges in a scenery chewing contest. Naturally someone like Al Shean has an advantage here because of years in vaudeville. But Frankie Thomas, God bless him, plays the whole thing absolutely straight.
That in itself might have qualified him for an Academy Award.