In our last adventure, Larry had captured the villainous Returi warrior Orto (we’re just learning his name now) and was heading out on a boat to find Cass and Rand, However, they show up and start shooting, causing the boat to capsize. Orto swims for shore but Larry vanishes beneath the water. He’s been holding his breath for a week! Let’s see how things shake out in our final chapter, House of Doom.
Of course, Cass and Rand don’t break with tradition and just assume Larry is dead. However, he’s just hiding out of sight behind the capsized boat. Larry then swims to safety after the villains leave. Then, back at Dr. Morgan’s lab, the evil doctor instructs Cass and Rand to go start pulling as many diamonds out of the mine as they can. Meanwhile, Larry and Jean meet with a couple of pith helmet-wearing British chaps and they all decide to head for the mine to find the bad guys.
Along the way, our heroes encounter the Returi and the bullets and arrows start flying. The Brits hold the natives at bay while Larry and Jean circle around to close in from behind. Once captured, the Returi’s are hauled off by the Brits, while Larry and Jean head for the mine. There, they encounter Cass and Rand and more shooting ensues. Of course, there’s still plenty of dynamite laying around, so the villains start hurling that, as well. However, Cass and Rand end up meeting their end when Larry shoots one of them before they can throw the dynamite. Cass and Rand blow themselves up.
Larry and Jean then examine the scene and realize that Cass and Rand were after diamonds. They spot a bottle of acid for testing the stones and that leads them to Dr. Morgan, one of the only people in the region who would have such materials. When they show up at Morgan’s he plays nice, at first, but he then threatens Larry and Jean with a flask of “quick-acting poisonous gas.” Morgan gets our heroes to lay down their guns, but Jean finds the right moment to throw a bowl at Morgan’s head. This gives Larry the chance to go in for the attack. A big fistfight breaks out with scrawny Morgan somehow getting the best of beefy Larry at times. At one of these moments, Morgan makes a dash for the door, but Jean sticks out her leg and trips him. He knocks over the flask of “quick-acting poisonous gas” and fumes fill the room. Larry and Jean make a break for it, but Morgan never gets up.
This is a pretty solid final entry, largely due to the fact that it is pretty much wall-to-wall shooting and fighting. You’ve got to go out with a bang, after all, so we get a fight with the Returis, a shootout with Cass and Rand, and a fight with, of all people, Dr. Morgan. Now, the fight with Morgan is one of the goofier moments of the whole series. I mean, Morgan has spent the whole run sitting behind his desk dishing out instructions to Cass and Rand. I would never in a million years think him capable of trading punches with Larry, but here we are. There is one moment in the fight where Morgan is holding down Larry with one hand and then reaches over to the table with the other to grab a bottle to club him with. I don’t buy it for a second. Morgan’s arms are freakin’ toothpicks. No way he’s got the strength to hold Larry down like that.
One of the strangest things about this episode is the two British chaps who randomly show up to help Larry and Jean. Actually, I’m assuming they’re both Brits, but only one of them actually speaks. If they appeared in a previous episode, I sure don’t remember it, so it’s odd that suddenly they are here in the final chapter. They are you’re stereotypical stuffy guys on safari. They’ve got the matching outfits, complete with pith helmets, and they deliver simple lines like “Very well, to the mine it is,” with a wonderful pompous sounding accent. We even get a “right-o” as Larry instructs them to take the prisoners back to the village.
Of course, everything is wrapped up very neatly at the end. The commissioner shows up for one last information dump, explaining that Dr. Morgan’s growth hormones were actually quite brilliant, but he became too consumed with greed. He also explains that the crawfish he turned into “claw monsters” only live a few days, so any that are left over will soon be dead, anyway. He also explains how it doesn’t work on warm-blooded animals, so we won’t be having any monster chimps or meerkats roaming the Kongo. Too bad, they might have been awesome in another series.
All in all, Panther Girl of the Kongo was a lot of fun. It’s uneven at times, but that’s to be expected when spreading the action out over twelve chapters. Sadly, though, this film brought us even closer to the end of Republic’s string of serials. Only one more, King of the Carnival, would be produced before they ended their run of 66 long-form adventures.
Now, we may have reached the end of this serial, but another one is on the way. Join us next week as we begin the 1948 Columbia Pictures serial, Superman. This is the first live-action appearance of this iconic character. It stars Kirk Allyn as Clark Kent/Superman, Noel Neill as Lois Lane, Pierre Watkin as Perry White, and Tommy Bond (aka Butch from the Our Gang shorts) as Jimmy Olsen. Join us as we go through all fifteen chapters, starting next week!