THE PERILS OF NYOKA. Aka Nyoka and the Tigermen. Republic Pictures, 1942. 15-part serial. Kay Aldridge, Clayton Moore, Lorna Gray, Charles Middleton, William Benedict, Forbes Murray, George Pembroke, Tristram Coffin, Robert Strange. Director: William Witney.


   The plot is simple enough. In exchange for helping a small group of scientists and archaeologists find the long lost Tablets of Hippocrates, rumored to provide the location of a hidden treasure of gold and jewels, Nyoka Gordon requests their help in finding her father, equally long lost in the same area of northern Africa as the Tablets.

   Some observations follow, pretty much as they come to me.


    ? Kay Aldridge plays Nyoka as a fresh-faced debutante straight out of finishing school with a formal accent that is hard to describe, but in essence it sounds something like this: “I need your help in finding my fah-tha.”

    ● But no ordinary debutante is she. Living in Africa as her home, she has probably never even gone to a ball, or dressed formally. Shirt and shorts are her everyday attire. It is she, of course, who gets into a serious scrape at the end of every chapter.

    ● By “serious” I mean deadly. Going over a cliff in a chariot, lying on a sacrificial altar while a swinging blade gets closer and closer, being blown out of a wind tunnel built into the side of a cliff, and picking herself up and dusting herself off for the next step of the adventure.


    ● The cliffhanger endings — and resolutions — are very well done. I thought the wind tunnel gag was questionable, but I never went back to check it out. The rest? Very smooth indeed.

    ● Playing Vultura, the ruler of the natives who also would like her hands on the treasure, is Lorna Gray. Mostly she wear long slit skirts, but whenever the slit widens we see more of her legs, long and beautiful, than we do of Nyoka’s.

    ● It was my friend Jim Goodrich who suggested that I watch this serial. The primary reason was to see Lorna Gray. He remembers that as a 15-year-old (or so) all of his fellow buddies came out of the theater with their tongues hanging out after seeing Lorna Gray as Vultura.

    ● I am paraphrasing Jim’s actual words. His description was much more vivid. And accurate. And more couth, too.


    ● Both Nyoka and Vultura are more than willing to mix it up personally with the members of the other side, and with each other, providing for many highlights on ESPN later, if ESPN had been around in 1942.

    ● Nyoka in particular has no compunction against slugging away with her fists at the men with flowing robes who are in her way. Nor leaping nor climbing nor jumping. A real heroine.

    ● Mentioning flowing (Arab) robes reminds me that there is little other way to grasp the fact that the story is taking place in Africa. Otherwise the hills where all the action takes place look very much like the hills where many a B-western was shot. (As far as actual locations, IMDB says they included the Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley and the Iverson Ranch in Los Angeles.)


    ● Guys in long flowing robes have a big handicap fighting hand-to-hand against guys who don’t.

    ● In the early going I thought the star of the movie was the guy in the ape suit. He disappeared for a while, then had a big role again at the end.

    ● I watched an episode a night for 12 chapters, missed a night, then made up for it by watching the last three in on big gulp. Couldn’t resist.


    ● When Nyoka’s father is found, he has been the chief of the Tuaregs for some time with no memory of a previous life. To bring his memory back, Dr. Larry Grayson (Clayton Moore) has to take 10 minutes off from helping Nyoka get in and out of her perils to operate on him, in order to relieve the pressure of his skull against his brain. While a huge fight is going on in the next cave.

    ● Professor Gordon has what might be called an instant recovery from this rather makeshift bout of brain surgery. He is up and about immediately, with no bandages around his head to indicate anything was ever amiss. And he almost goes out the wind tunnel with Nyoka for all his resilient strength and recuperative ability.


    ● I saw Jay Silverheels in the list of miscellaneous cast members. This was before he joined up with Clayton Moore as that other pair of characters that you may remember them as.

    ● I may have seen this serial myself, not in 1942, but in 1952, when it was re-released. I would have been ten. I’m not sure, but the guy in the ape suit certainly looked familiar. And by the way, that alternate title? Not a single tiger in this movie. It has almost everything else, but no tigers.