Thursday, December 22, 2022
Perils of Nyoka (1942 serial)
The character of Nyoka the Jungle Girl had first appeared in another very good Republic serial made a year earlier, Jungle Girl. In that serial Nyoka was played by Frances Gifford but for Perils of Nyoka she was replaced by Kay Aldridge.
The opening episode presents us with everything we could possibly hope for in a serial. There’s an exotic setting, there’s a quest for a lost treasure, there’s a crucial papyrus which tells where the treasure is to be found, there’s a beautiful glamorous evil queen (the Arab Queen Vultura) and there’s a guy in a gorilla suit. And then we meet the heroine and she’s cute and feisty.
The prize in this case is not just treasure, but medical secrets from the ancient world which could rid humanity of some of its most feared diseases. So we have the bad guys motivated by old-fashioned greed while the good guys are motivated by the desire to benefit the whole of humanity.
Finding the location of these secrets naturally involves endless complications. You have to get hold of that ancient papyrus. You have to find an inscription but the inscription is no good without the papyrus.
Or maybe there is one other person who could translate the papyrus - the missing scholar’s daughter. That daughter is of course Nyoka.
There’s plenty of potential for betrayals - some of the good guys might not be good guys after all. And the bad guys might well be prepared to double-cross each other.
As you would expect Nyoka manages to get herself captured a number of times, and threatened with torture and death. She spends quite a bit of time tied up or imprisoned. Nyoka however is by no means a helpless heroine. She can put up a pretty good fight when she needs to. She’s very handy with a gun and if she doesn’t have a gun she’ll still fight like a tigress. She’s the the type of heroine who is likely to faint when faced with danger.
And of course she has Fang to help her. Fang is her dog. Fang is brave and loyal and super-intelligent.
Speaking of cute animals there’s also an adorable pet monkey. Everyone likes cute animals so this serial has them.
Kay Aldridge as Nyoka is the perfect heroine. She’s as cute as a button, she’s smart, she’s brave, she’s sexy (in a wholesome good girl way), she’s likeable, she’s feisty but she’s also totally feminine.
Lorna Gray as Vultura is the perfect villainess. She’s cunning and ruthless and cruel and she’s sexy (in an unwholesome bad girl way).
Charles Middleton (better known as Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials) as Cassib makes a fine henchman for Vultura.
There’s non-stop action and the action scenes are expertly staged.
For those who like that sort of thing there’s the opportunity to see the beautiful heroine tied up. She gets tied up a lot.
With a sexy good girl pitted against a sexy bad girl you might be wondering if you’re going to get to see a decent cat-fight between the two of them. Well have no fears. You will get your cat-fight.
In some serials you will get one or sometimes even two episodes almost entirely made up of clips from earlier episodes. It was a good way to save money but these recap episodes are always boring and irritating. Thankfully there’s none of that nonsense in Perils of Nyoka. There are also no episodes that can be dismissed as mere filler episodes. Every episode advances the plot and has its share of suspense and excitement.
Perils of Nyoka has been released on Blu-Ray by Grapevine Video. When you see the opening credits sequence you get that awful sinking feeling that this is going to be another cruddy unrestored release but don’t panic. It’s only that brief opening credits sequence that has problems. Apart from that the transfer is quite lovely. Image quality is very sharp, contrast is excellent and there’s no print damage. It looks like somebody has actually spent the money for a high quality restoration. Either that or somebody has somehow managed to find the original negative in pristine condition and the odds against that are pretty high.
Perils of Nyoka is a top-grade serial and it’s consistently entertaining. It contains absolutely everything you could want in a serial and all the ingredients are blended perfectly. Very highly recommended.
Other great William Witney-directed Republic serials I’ve reviewed - Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939) and Spy Smasher (1942). The latter may be the finest serial ever made.