The Monster and the Ape #11: A Banal Madness

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The Monster and the Ape #11
The Mad Professor

For those of you playing The Monster and the Ape home game, the Spanish-subtitled version can be found here.

Though we are finally on the downslope of this serial when the excitement is ostensibly about to get more, well, exciting, this chapter’s recap is a snooze. Our formerly excited narrator, who is now not just downtrodden but downtrodden squared, as Bill Hicks probably said first before the joke was stolen by Denis Leary, manages one sentence and sends us directly into the fistfight that concluded our last chapter. This time, however, we see some of the terrific film production in action:

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It’s hard to tell from this screen grab, but that black lump at the bottom is a stunt man who is supposed to be hiding underneath the table in the foreground. At least two stunt men can be seen scrambling in and out of the area under the table, switching places with the actors as needed, and even though it’s so obvious as to be distracting, a second take wasn’t done. Because why would it? That would have cost 37¢, far too much money to be spent on something like this.

During the fistfight, you can also briefly catch a glimpse of Ken’s striped boxers as he’s dragged across the floor. It’s a fight scene and you’d think he would wear briefs for… well, you know, but he’s in those baggy boxers that are so useless that he might as well be going commando.

mata11-9You’re welcome for that image, world.

 

As we saw last week, Ken was pommeled by henchmen and left to lay near — not in, just near — the Pit O’ Sparks ™ by the baddies, who were certain that would be enough to kill Ken off. And on a normal day, they’d probably be right; the guy doesn’t seem smart enough to not get his ass burned to a crisp by a cheap fountain firework that doesn’t even make cool sounds as it goes off. Luckily for him, the cops happen by and rescue him.

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The officer is character actor Charles King, who appeared in hundreds of Westerns, quickie silents, shorts, and TV shows in his career. You might remember him as the reporter who gets sick at the execution in the pre-Code fave Picture Snatcher (1932), the alleged comic relief Sir Bors in the serial The Adventures of Sir Galahad, and he’s also a cop in (DUN Dun dunnn) The Phantom Creeps.

Ken starts ordering the cops around again and leaves them behind while he heads back to the lab, and makes arrangements to take the robot back with him. There is a secret door in the lab from which Ernst observes all this, so he knows exactly where M-Bot will be. Also, Ernst still has the controller, so having the robot isn’t really a huge score for Ken.

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Back at the lab, Prof. Arnold mopes and Babs just stands there, neither of them even bothering to try to take the plot away from Sir Smugface. While there, Ken finds Flash with a stack of books he plans to put in his library (very obviously pronounced “libarry,” ugh) once he becomes a famous inventor. Interestingly, when asked about the robot, Flash tells Ken, “The rabbit is in his hutch,” which turns the rabbit-robot mispronunciation into a running gag rather than another joke about how people of color can’t pronounce words properly. But I have to take these moments as accidental; there is no way that the incompetents behind TMatA realized everyone regardless of color was pronouncing “robot” differently and decided to change directions with the joke.

Ken applies to the city for permission to dig in that tunnel, thinking Ernst’s men must have been there looking for metalogen. Ken’s presence keeps the bad guys from digging on their own. This is where we discover why actor Stanley Price all of a sudden showed up as Mead, a new lead henchman, a couple of episodes back:

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To have someone Ken hasn’t seen several times already, who can be disguised by Ernst to infiltrate the dig. Now, despite this episode being called “The Mad Professor,” the recap and this short scene of Ernst playing with his fake moustaches is the only time he even appears. Ernst plasters faux facial hair on Mead and gives him an eyepatch, calls him “Sam Nelson” and sends him on his way.

I should note that I’ve been saying Mead was played by Eddie Parker for a few episodes, mainly because I can’t see this serial well enough to discern the difference between two character actors with the same bland faces, and the IMDb can’t be definitively relied on. Once the actor took off his hat in this chapter, though, I confirmed Mead was Stanley Price, so I’ll be going back to correct that in previous recaps.

Mead as Fake Sam Nelson gets a job from Ken without any trouble at all, and Ken immediately directs Fake Sam to the blasting powder. Now, I am not a professional dinkbrain like Ken, so perhaps I do not know how these things work in the real world, but a guy without references and wearing an eyepatch doesn’t seem like the kind of person you’d want to hire as an explosives expert. Even if he has experience, it’s experience that left him without an eyeball. To no one’s surprise, the newly-hired Fake Sam tries to blow Ken up, misses, and a fistfight ensues.

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The best part is Mead’s obvious “ssshhhhiit” as Ken drags him off to the cops. It’s at 14:48 if you want to hear it for yourself. The audio on my version is better than the YT version, but it’s still unquestionably in the take, and it sounds like Price realized what he was saying in mid-word and tried to pull the punch, so to speak.

Let’s just think about this for a second: The studio was so disinterested, the director so lazy, the budget so small and the censors so unwilling to even watch this cinematic disaster that profanity completely unknown to film in 1945 got through, and no one even noticed. Best I can tell, no one has noticed since then, either. I’m assuming everyone dismisses it as more of a grunt than an actual word, but I hear the “t” in it, and I don’t think it’s just because I’m a foul-mouthed broad.

Mead promises Ken info in exchange for leniency, but Ken’s pretty pissed off, what with a bunch of workers lying unconscious thanks to Mead and all. But when he promises to give up Ernst’s location, Ken softens, and Mead leads Ken into the secret tunnels of Ernst’s home… and right to a trapdoor on top of a water pit.

mata11-7It puts the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it’s told.

 

Last we see, Ken is glugging underwater, unable to climb out of the pit. Gasp. Oh my gosh. Will he survive.

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Tune in next week when maybe someone besides Ken has something to do.

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9 Comments

  1. I love moments where actors sneak that sort of thing past the radar. There’s one in the Three Stooges comedy What’s the Matador? where Curly Howard lets loose with a “goddamit” in one scene…and then there’s infamous sneeze from Bela Lugosi in the East Side Kids comedy Ghosts on the Loose that results in an exclamation similar to one that came from Fake Sam/Mead.

    I would also like to say that I would love to live in a place with a trapdoor leading to a water pit.

    • Yeah, that trapdoor/water pit thing could come in mighty handy for dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses or relatives who’ve overstayed their welcome.

    • I clearly need to watch more live-action comedy shorts. There are quite a few examples in animation, and the occasional naughty word in a pre-Code (or, say, Frank McHugh flipping someone off, or Clara Bow letting fly in an era where everyone could read lips), but the “whoops accidental” examples you gave sound funnier.

  2. Ok, you finally shamed me into watching this and the previous chapter. (May I say how honored I am to have apparently inspired the title for last week’s post?)

    Anyway, hooo dawgies, what a train wreck! No, that’s probably not the right term. Train wrecks — of the metaphorical variety — are often perversely entertaining. But this is anti-entertainment, which instantly annihilates all fun it comes in contact with.

    At least Ken got dropped in a tub of funky water, and I doubt very much it was heated. (Unless some of the crew whizzed in it, a possibility which cannot be ignored at this point.) Small repayment for his infuriating smug-itude, I know, but in this life you’ve got to take your satisfaction where you find it.

    However, I do feel we should all applaud Mead’s plucky attitude toward finding employment.

    Although it’s kind of puzzling why — when “[he] never had any trouble getting a job, if [he] wanted one” — he hadn’t aimed any higher than his current position as incompetent henchman to a snide prick like Prof. Ernst. Judging by Ken’s total disinterest in checking out “Sam Nelson’s” qualifications for handling high explosives, not only must there have been a critical shortage of skilled labor in 1945, but evidently people took a lot more on trust.

    So why didn’t Mead set his sights on a really plum position as a stockbroker, or a brain surgeon? I suppose a cynic might suspect it was because there wasn’t all that much competition for a slot in the Ernst organization.

    Happy New Year! Be sure to take plenty of vitamins and get lots of rest before you tackle the next exciting chapter.

    • Mead’s “if I’d wanted to” sounded a little petulant, like he was about to say, “but of course, I never WANT to,” and it gave me a little chuckle. Price is really trying to act here, and it’s adorable.

      You know, your comment made me realize that there’s no explanation as to why Ken isn’t off at war. Maybe he’s already come back or something. The others are all too old or criminals, but Ken… well, let’s just say he REALLY needs to get drafted. Soon.

  3. So the professor isn’t so much mad as supercilious; the ape is awol; and the “monster” is about as useful as that flashlight that’s been gathering dust in my glove compartment for two years. Except for the excitement over Ken’s underwear, this may the absolute nadir of all these chapters. I’m starting to find myself ignoring the onscreen “action” and trying to follow the subtitles.

    I’m still loving these write-ups, subject matter be damned. (Yeah, that’s a straight line. Your serve…)

    • Thanks James! I know, if it hadn’t been for accidental profanity and underwear, this episode probably would have killed me. But the stripey underwear, that was too much.

  4. “It puts the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it’s told.” I’m still laughing my derriere off! That’s my nomination for best caption!

    • I never pass up a chance to quote SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, even if it’s inappropriate and I get asked to leave the party early.

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