The Green Archer (1940)

The_Green_Archer_(1940)‘Looks like Bellamy’s prisoner is fresh from the fight… now we’re sure of it! Will Elaine escape? Operator….Operator! So, it’s the butler again….watch him closely! Don’t miss ‘The Dagger That Failed’ next week’s exciting chapter of….’ 

 

After framing his brother and having him killed, a criminal boss begins using the family castle as the headquarters for his jewel robbery gang, but his activities arouse the suspicions of a hotshot insurance investigator. There’s also a family legend that tells of a mysterious ‘Green Archer’ who appears in times of trouble to fight for justice. The kingpin doesn’t take that seriously, of course, but then the arrows start to fly…

Movie serials aren’t noted for their plausible plots or realistic scenarios, but occasionally they got very silly indeed. Basically, this is a very standard crime adventure based on an Edgar Wallace story, but dressed up with some very ridiculous trappings. For a start we have the masked Archer himself, gallivanting about on the side of the angels in a Robin Hood costume he’s stolen from a local pantomime. lt’s an unusual twist on ‘guess the true identity of the villain’ although the final unmasking of the Archer should surprise no-one. Chief bad guy James Craven struts around inside his cardboard castle (the bricks are painted on!) throwing delicious tantrums and sarcastically berating his incompetent goons. Quite often with a knowing twinkle in his eye. In fact, no-one here looks like they’re taking matters very seriously. Even the voiceovers about next week’s chapter are delivered with all the subtlety of silent melodrama.

It’s a shame that the obvious clichés of the genre had to be respected, because it’s the repetitive gunplay, fisticuffs and cliffhangers that drag this down over the 15 chapters. Unusually, what we want is more of the character interactions, particularly between Craven and his gang. Rather brilliantly, he decides to dress one of his men in a ‘Green Archer’ costume (luckily a spare was handy!) and this leads to endless misunderstandings with the stupidest member of the gang, who also sports a ridiculous English accent and brilliantly calls Craven; ‘The ‘Guv’nor’!

The_Green_Archer_(1940)

‘Cor blimey, guv’nor, stone the crows like….

There are other vaguely Pythonesque touches; the gang play tiddlywinks between jobs (it keeps them fit apparently!) and the elderly butler practises archery in the garden because he just might be ‘The Green Archer’! Also on the plus side, Victor Jory makes for a dynamic hero, but others in the cast fare less well; particularly Iris Meredith as the generic heroine and Fred Kelsey in the thankless role of the dumb police detective. And boy, is he dumb!

Parody is always lurking in the wings of this cardboard castle, but sadly never quite makes it to centre stage. What remains is a strange mixture of knowing silliness and straight serial action.

Enjoyable for fans of the format but to be taken with even big pinches of salt than usual!

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