Hop Harrigan (1946)
Film review #410
Director: Derwin Abrahams
SYNOPSIS: Hop Harrigan, a pilot along with his buddy “Tank” Tinker, are hired to escort a scientist to his secret laboratory hidden in the mountains, where he is working on a powerful new source of energy. Meanwhile, a man known only as the “Chief Pilot” is after the invention for himself to use as a deadly weapon. Hop and his friends are caught up in the schemes of all of these players, and they must stop them before disaster befalls the world…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Hop Harrigan is a 1947 movie serial based on the Hop Harrigan character from the All-American Comics series, as well as the radio plays. Harrigan became quite popular during the course of the second World War, probably due to his heroic piloting antics which would have resonated with the population. However, his population waned after the war ended along with many of the similar characters, with people rather turning their attention to costumed superheroes and the villains being spies rather than soldiers. The serial starts off with Hop performing a mid-air rescue, then returning back to the airfield where he works. he is offered a job by a man named Arnold to fly a scientist named Dr. Tobor to his secret laboratory. Tobor has been working on an invention that runs on a powerful new energy, and has to keep Hop and Tank blindfolded while in the air so they do not see where the lab is. Meanwhile, an unknown person calling himself “The Chief Pilot” is intent on getting a hold of Tobor’s invention for himself, and sends his goons to kidnap him. The plot of the serial as always follows the standard format of each chapter having a different scheme or plot to foil, with it ending on a cliffhanger for the next chapter. I imagine the serial format isn’t the best one to adapt Hop Harrigan in, as he is probably more used to dealing with soldiers and villains rather than engaging in thwarting espionage, but again that’s like a lot of the serials, which used the name of a comic book character and didn’t really adapt anything else about them.
On the heroes side, you have the standard All-American heroics of Hop Harrigan, his sidekick and comic relief “Tank”, who offers some decent interactions with his goofiness playing off against other characters. Gail is the token female character who runs the airfield (though she doesn’t really do much), and her younger brother Jackie, whose book-smarts often clash with Tank’s brute-force approach. Jackie provides a good example of a younger characters which the kids in the audience can relate too, and he has a decent amount to do, which helps in that regard. Other than that though, the heroes are pretty unremarkable. There are quite a few villains in this serial, ranging from the mysterious Chief Pilot, whose identity isn’t revealed until the end (a typical serial trope), and an array of henchman, some of whom are working with the Chief Pilot, and some who are working for Hop’s employer Arnold and secretly working against him. There’s also Dr. Tobor (’Robot’ spelled backwards in case you hadn’t noticed; I’m pretty sure I’ve watched another serial or film which uses the same name, but I can’t remember which), who essentially plays the eccentric scientist who becomes more and more erratic as the serial progresses. He is sought by both heroes and villains, and constantly tricks them and plays them for fools, which shakes up the dynamic. Tobor as the wildcard element helps to give a bit of an original edge to the story, and that is welcome.
If you’re going to watch a Hop Harrigan serial, then no doubt you’ll be expecting plenty of scenes in the sky and plane fights. The serial more or less delivers what it promises with plenty of scenes taking place in the air, and shot reasonably well for the time, but most of the action does take place on the ground, and the plane scenes are just to travel from place to place, or to follow a car from the air.