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The Perils of Nyoka
(1942 Serial)

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The Perils of Nyoka (1942):  This is an unofficial sequel of sorts to the serial "Jungle Girl" from 1941.  NOT as good as "Jungle Girl", but not bad.  In fact, this serial has a few good things that "Jungle Girl" did not.  For one, you have the awesome physical fighting work of Clayton Moore as the male hero.  Best of all, you have Lorna Gray as the veluptuous, vixenish villainess Vultura!

    Nyoka's last name was Meredith in "Jungle Girl" and in this serial her last name is Gordon.  They did this so they wouldn't have to pay royalties to the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created the character of Nyoka.  He was also the creator of the earlier character Tarzan.  Besides the last name change, they took a number of other "creative liberties" to distance this from Burroughs' book or the previous serial.

    Dave Sharpe was the stuntman who put on a wig and did Nyoka's major stunts.  The action is incredible for a 1942 serial.  The budget was slightly above average, but not much more than other popular serials.  This serial was made for $175,000.  What really made this serial look more elaborate is that there was a lot of great filming and original ideas thanks to the collective imagination of its writers, director, and other crew.

    I prefer the later Nyoka comic books (beginning in 1942) over this movie, but this does have its good points.  Like any movie serial, you always have to pick apart your favorite things about it.  They're basically just little short movies strung together loosely with clever ideas and/or interesting themes.  I'm a little disappointed that this serial wasn't a little more jungle authentic.  Here are some of the things I thought were strikes against this being a really, really good Nyoka movie:

* Where are the black people?  Nyoka always dealt with blacks in the comics.  You mean to tell me she's in Africa and there is not one single black person?  Instead, she is surrounded by a bunch of Arabs (excuse me, "Bedouins").

* Why are all the Arabs white with halfway or nonexistent Arab accents?

* This is supposed to be the African jungle, but it looks suspiciously like California woodland.  Not a whole lot of trees or vines, but there are plenty of large rocks everywhere.  This is just like the sets they used for westerns!

* There is no mention of Nyoka's jungle gift shop or just what is it she does for a living.

* Nyoka, just like every other film heroine of the time, got caught up in studio politics.  Every film heroine always had to have a male counterpart in those days.  Not necessarily a love interest, but just someone to do the heavy action.  The character of Nyoka is supposed to be self-reliant.  She can fight bad guys on her own and is rarely in the company of a man.  In this movie, she is a rather weak fighter and typically the damsel in distress.  In the comics, Nyoka DID spend a lot of time in dreamland and getting tied up, but she almost always got herself out of those situations.  This movie presents her as a typical, non-super woman.  On the plus side, Clayton Moore is AWESOME in his fight scenes!

* There is no really good dialogue.  Everything said is basically just for our benefit to help narrate the story.  It would have been nice to see Nyoka and Larry be chummy or show some animosity...something!  We don't know if they like each other or not.  Just that they're not enemies.  In real life, they wouldn't have to say most of the things they do in this film.  In other words, there wasn't any real chemistry between the characters.  Stuff just happened, and they were either good guys or bad guys.  Lorna Gray as Vultura definitely had the most interesting character because she had quirks.

* What really got on my nerves is all the "Stay back, Nyoka!" and the "Stay here, Nyoka!" we hear in the serial.  I heard that so many times it just made me mad.  But, to Nyoka's credit, she took charge and didn't pay no attention to all that machismo.  This helped make her a little more independent.

    But do not let these facts dissuade you from watching this serial if you are interested.  As I said, this is not a terribly bad show, you just have to take things with a grain of sand.  There are a number of good things about it that will stand out in your memory.  For instance:
    In addition to all things good and not so good, there are a number of things about this serial that I thought was interesting that it made it past the censors.  All 1940s film buffs know that entertainment was pretty straight-laced back then.  In some instances, TOO straight-laced.  But serials could get away with more than feature films because they were more obscure and not as much in the spotlight.  Here are some of the "risky" things I found for a 1942 film:
There are things to watch for in each exciting chapter, as I will detail below:

Chapter 1:  Desert Intrigue-
Chapter 2:  Death's Chariot-
Chapter 3:  Devil's Crucible-
Chapter 4:  Ascending Doom-
Chapter 5:  Fatal Second-
Chapter 6:  Human Sacrifice-
Chapter 7:  Monster's Clutch-
  • Vultura is knocked out once.  This makes a total of two times Nyoka put her lights out!
  • Larry is knocked out once.  This is the first and only time Larry gets knocked out completely.
Chapter 8:  Tuareg Vengeance-
  • Nothing special of mention.
Chapter 9:  Burned Alive-
  • Nyoka is knocked out once.  This makes a total of four times so far that she's been sleeping on the job!
  • Nyoka is tied up one time.  This makes a total of five times so far that she's been tied up.
Chapter 10:  Treacherous Trail-
  • Nyoka is knocked out once.  This makes a total of five times so far that she's gone beddy-bye!
Chapter 11:  Unknown Peril-
  • Nyoka is knocked out once.  This makes a subtotal of six times in this serial she was visited by the sandman.
Chapter 12:  Underground Tornado-
  • Nothing special of mention.
Chapter 13:  Thundering Death-
  • Nothing special of mention.
Chapter 14:  Blazing Barrier-
  • Larry and Red are tied up once.  This is the first and only time either Larry or Red was tied up.
Chapter 15:  Satan's Fury-
  • Vultura is stabbed to death by a spear courtesy of Satan the gorilla.  Right in the back!
  • Satan the gorilla is repeatedly shot and stabbed before he dies.