The Monster and the Ape #3
Flames of Fate
Our narrator opens with exciting incomplete sentences! Suddenly! Just then! The wonder metal metalogen! Giant ape!
For those following along at home with the OV Guide version of the serial, this episode should start approximately 49 minutes in. During the three minute recap, we watch again as Ernst manages to evade Ken, who has been following him down the highway, by tapping his brakes a little bit, causing Ken to panic, wig out, go crazy, freak, and hurtle his car off a cliff and crash in a fiery, comet-like blaze below. This is hilarious, of course, but the resolution of the cliffhanger irks me to no end: Ken survives.
As you can see — oh wait, you can’t, nobody can see it — this is the kind of crash Mythbusters has scientifically proven would kill anyone, no exceptions, but Ken walks away with nothing but his tie askew. Folks, it seems Ken has the Toomey gene. We will have to watch and evaluate this important development. Fair warning, though: If Ken starts taking naps during filming, I cannot be responsible for my actions.
But now, back to the ape! Dick Nordik is in some zookeeper duds as he takes the monkey out of Ernst’s van and strolls past shadows of a couple of crew members and the boom mic.
Ladies and gentleapes, I have recapped three bad movie serials in my day, but this is my first official boom mic sighting, and I could not have been more pleased.
My delight did not last for long, however, as this scene lead to what is thus far the most bizarre and nonsensical event in Monster and the Ape history: The putting away of the monkey. Ernst — dear, sweet, mad genius Ernst — stores his trained super ape at the zoo, which seems inefficient somehow, yet here we are. After robbing the museum of their year’s supply of Metalogen-A-Roni, Professor Ernst says the ape must go back to the zoo.
He sends the non-Dick henchman to make sure no cops are hanging out around his house. It’s nighttime as he scopes the place out, but a moment later, as you can see in the boom mic shot, he drops Dick Nordik and the ape off out in the street in daylight. Not only that, it turns out he has dropped them off not at the zoo, but in front of his own home, where it is nighttime again.
Next up is three long, irritating minutes of Nordik leading the ape through various sets: Ernst’s den, the secret room behind the faux fireplace, a cave, the pit o’ sparks room, what appears to be a storage room with scienterrific equipment and extra armchairs, another cave, then, finally, a cage in the zoo. As this goes on, Crash Corrigan hams it up as the ape and appears to be deliberately needling poor Jack Ingram, who may not have been a great actor, but did not deserve this.
When Nordik safely cages the ape and leaves the zoo, we learn he’s an employee there, the guy in charge of the ape, which I suppose if you squint and lean to the left, might explain why no one notices a 7-foot hyperactive gorilla missing for hours at a time.
Good news, everyone: The museum curator switched out the metalogen for common, everyday coal dust! The baddies didn’t get their wonder metal after all! As you can see, this gives Ernst the pouts.
Ken straggles back to Arnold’s lab after crashing off a 250-foot cliff and being trapped in the burning wreckage of a car but not even getting bruised. Then Flash returns! He tells his story of being arrested, and the white folks chuckle politely, clearly having forgotten Flash even existed until he came back and they realized they should have checked on him. But here’s the kicker: Flash gloats that the cops had nothing on him so they had to let him go, which they clearly didn’t want to do. And everyone else seems pleased! Yeah, stickin’ it to The Man!
Flash is a racist character, there’s no two ways around it, but this is still by far the nicest treatment of the stereotypical comedic person of color I’ve seen in a bad B-movie of the era. Prof. Arnold even tells Flash to go home and get some rest after his ordeal. This is confounding, guys. I am confounded.
By the way, Ken is, I’m sad to report, not a scientist as I had originally thought. He works for a company that wants to manufacture Prof. Arnold’s metalogen men (“Buy In Bulk And Save!”) and had only arrived in town to scope out the process. Now, for some reason, and I have to assume it’s because of the manufacturing deal Ken wants to strike, he decides to look for an empty warehouse to lease, which of course means everyone just piles into the Edsel and drives down to some random empty warehouse to check it out, because there’s always a guy sitting in an empty building 24/7 waiting for a sedan full of scientists to arrive.
Unfortunately, Dick Nordik, this time dressed as a street sweeper, is right outside their window and overhears their plans. The baddies install henchmen at the warehouse who lay in wait; one follows the professor and Babs, and tells him he knows Ken has found just the most darling little warehouse down by the river, and can lead them to Ken if they would only be so kind as to give him a ride there. Which they do, because they are not very bright.
At the warehouse, the rest of the henchmen get into another fast-motion fistfight, but Ken gets blackjacked over the head, just like he always does. We cut to…
All three of these dinks tied up in Ernst’s private brick factory! Why is the fate of the world always in the hands of superdinks? We didn’t see anyone get captured or brought here; it was a given that the moment Ken takes a sap to the head again, everyone is tied up and in peril.
Taking a page from the silent films of his youth, Ernst persuades Prof. Arnold to tell him where the metalogen is hidden by putting Babs on a conveyor belt and sending her right into the furnace. If you watch closely, you can see one of the actors holding Carole Mathews so she doesn’t end up touching the furnace; those metal doors must be dangerously hot, and I can guarantee you no one got paid enough to put up with that shit.
Ken escapes and manages to get into another fistfight — the words of dialogue to punches ratio is at least 1:20 by now — but gets knocked unconscious and laid out on the conveyor belt.
Last we see of Ken, he has been carried efficiently into the furnace, doors closing behind him! Will he survive? Why does Ernst own a brick factory? And wasn’t there a robot in this serial?