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Mandrake the Magician
(1939 Serial)

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Mandrake the Magician (1939):  An entertaining serial and fitting adaptation of the popular comic strip superhero.  Leon Mandrake, world-famous magician, uses his magic to fight the crime ring led by the mysterious Wasp.  The Wasp character proves an interesting foil for Mandrake, as he, too, uses magic tricks.

Warren Hull plays Mandrake and he does a great job.  He's a good-looking guy and a likable actor.  But there's one thing that doesn't ring true visually: where's his mustache?  Mandrake has always been seen with a pencil-thin black mustache.  It's just part of his character, helps add to his suave personality.  But in this serial, Mandrake does not have a mustache.  At least he still wears the magician costume.

Another thing doesn't ring true visually, and it's not the biggest deal, but I imagine a lot of people looking forward to this serial were put off by the fact that Mandrake's faithful assistant Lothar was not the big, black brute with the fez hat as seen in the strip, but a Hawaiian.  I enjoy Al Kikume in his shows, and he does well here, but Lothar really should have looked and acted like he did in the strip.

Also, in the comics, Mandrake has real supernatural powers of magic.  In this serial, he is only a well-accomplished stage magician.  This might disappoint some Mandrake followers.  It actually works for this serial and serves the story.

This live-action adaptation of Mandrake boasts a good story with solid characters and great action sequences.