The Hurricane Express – A 12 Part Series With John Wayne Reviewed

The Hurricane Express Reviewed – Episodes One to Three

I’m going to cover three episodes at a time for the second of the three serials John Wayne appeared in for Mascot in the early 1930s, The Hurrican Express.

As stunt pilot Craig McCoy, John Wayne successfully unmasked the villainous Eagle in his previous serial, which we reviewed, “Shadow of the Eagle”.

Playing yet another pilot, Larry Baker, he takes on a similarly mysterious bad guy who goes by the name of the Wrecker.

This time around it’s more personal seeing as the Wrecker is responsible for the death of Larry’s father so join us as we present the first of four articles detailing all twelve episodes of “The Hurricane Express”.

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The full 12 part series of The Hurricane Express is available

Episode One – The Wrecker

Jim Baker, played by J. Farrell McDonald, a railroad engineer on the Hurricane Express, pulls up alongside his train with his son, Larry, played by John Wayne, in the driver’s seat.

Jim reminisces of a time long ago when he took the Express out on its first run, wistfully hoping that he’ll be at the throttle when the train runs the line for the last time, a sentiment we all know real well is probably going to come true sooner than poor old Jim anticipated.

Father and son Josh each other a bit in comparing their favourite mode of transport, it transpiring that Larry is a pilot for an airline company, son telling father he’ll beat the Express into Springfield by three hours. As usual. 

Larry returns to the airfield just in time to find out, to his delight, that one of his passengers is Gloria Martin, played by Shirley Grey, secretary to the general manager of the L&R Railroad, the company his dad works for.

Their little tete-a-tete is rudely interrupted by Walter Gray, played by Lloyd Whitlock, manager of the airline and Larry’s boss. Grey has obvious designs on Gloria, wanting to know when she’s going to quit the railway company and go work for him.

Larry shows his displeasure by revving the engines on the plane, the wind from the propellor nearly blowing Gray’s hat off.

A no good mysterious stranger sneaks across the tender of a fast-speeding train and knocks out driver Tom Jordan, played by Matthew Betz. The train, which was supposed to pull into a siding at the station of Planville in order to let the Hurricane Express through on the main line, speeds through the station instead.

Up in the air, Gloria happens to look out of the window and realises that there are two trains speeding towards a head-on collision. She raises the alarm with Larry who takes his plane into a steep dive in order to try and land and somehow help avert the inevitable.

Landing close to a set of railway points, Larry manages to ensure the two trains don’t collide head-on, but the Hurricane Express locomotive still hits the last carriage of the other train, killing Jim, Larry’s dead, in the process.

As someone intones over Jim’s body, “he might have saved himself if he’d jumped but Jim Baker wasn’t that kind, he knew it was his life or ours and he gave his”. Stirring stuff.

Blinded by grief Larry tries to strangle Jordan, only to calm down a bit too quickly once Jordan tells him he was struck down from behind, Larry concluding that the crash wasn’t an accident after all.

Wondering aloud who might want to hurt the railroad, Jordan mentions old Stratton, who said he was going to get even for having been sent to jail, and who escaped recently from prison. In which case, says Jim, “that means my father was murdered and I’ll bring that murderer to justice if it takes the rest of my life”.

Whilst this conversation takes place Gloria stands on the sidelines looking distinctly uncomfortable for some reason yet to be revealed.

A man is seen hurriedly opening the door to a cabin out in the wilds, the sound of a telegraph machine clicking away as he enters and lifts up the lid of a wooden box under which the machine resides.

He starts to gloat as he hears the news that the Hurricane Express has crashed, his thoughts suddenly interrupted by the arrival at the cabin of none other than Gloria, who addresses the stranger, old Stratton himself, played by Edmund Breese, as “dad”, making her Gloria Stratton, not Gloria Martin.

She tells him he needs to give himself up and go back to jail where he’s safe, as he is now under suspicion for orchestrating not only the ‘accident’ that killed Larry’s dad but a whole other heap of “mysterious accidents” on the railroad.

Stratton bemoans the fact that the railroad company suppressed evidence at his trial that would have cleared him but that he is innocent of any involvement with the so-called “accidents” Gloria refers to.

Stratton then tells his daughter that everything depends on her finding the evidence to clear his name whilst she works for the railroad company, which no doubt made her feel so much better.

A bitter Tom Jordan is found guilty of criminal neglect by an inquiry into the train accident and is discharged by the head of the railroad company, Howard Edwards, played by Tully Marshall. Jordan threatens to get his own back one day, telling Edwards that “action speaks louder than words”.

Larry, however, is convinced Jordan was telling the truth about being knocked out, telling Gloria he thinks that Carlson, the station manager at Planville, wasn’t telling all he knew about what happened the day of the accident.

Having been fired by Walter Gray for landing his plane to try and avert the accident that killed his dad, Larry decides he’s going to go to Planville to try and find out for himself who might be behind the mysterious railroad accidents.

After Larry departs, Gloria overhears Edwards confess to his attorney Stevens, played by Conway Tearle, that even if Jordan were innocent the railroad can’t be forced to admit any mistakes relating to the accident.

He tells Stevens that  the airplane company is eating into their profits, prompting Stevens to suggest that maybe Walter Gray might be behind efforts to discredit the L&R railroad company.

Stevens reminds his boss that Gray was not happy after he was fired as Traffic Manager by Edwards himself. Edwards himself suspects that Stratton is behind the mayhem being visited upon the company and tells Stevens he’ll never be happy until Stratton is once again back behind bars.

Gloria puts a phone call through to Edwards concerning the transfer of a gold bullion shipment later that evening by the railroad company.

Just as the call finishes a telegram message, accompanied by the clicks similar to those heard in Stratton’s cabin, then informs Edwards the bullion will not reach its destination, “signed the Wrecker”.

Now realising that Jordan might have been telling the truth, Edwards calls upon the services of railroad employee Detective Mathews, played by Joseph W. Girard, informing him that the detective is to ensure the Wrecker is caught should he try to steal the gold.

Gloria goes down to the station to observe the gold being loaded onto the train. Noticing a very shifty looking character boarding the train she jumps on just as it pulls out of the station.

Somehow or other all the potential suspects relating to the train accidents are on board as well including Walter Gray, Tom Jordan and old Stratton, Gloria’s dad. Meantime Larry arrives at Planville and finds the station master tied up.

He tells Larry to stop the Hurricane Express otherwise it’s going to be wrecked. The telegram machine then suddenly starts up, prompting the bound man to exclaim that the Wrecker is also on the train.

Before Larry can spring into action two armed heavies enter the room, telling him not to move. As they go to tie him up Larry whacks one of the thugs in the face, dives through the window just as the Express thunders by and drives off to catch up with the train.

The bad guys let off a few shots, strangely not too bothered about the effect that might have on the local populace, then take off in pursuit, guns still a-blazin’.

On the train, someone knocks out Bill the ticket inspector whilst Matthews checks that everything is okay in the carriage where the bullion is stored. The fake inspector then wanders through and steals the keys to the carriage in which the gold is stored. 

Further on down the line a couple of other heavies, presumably working for the Wrecker, have managed to place a couple of goods wagons on the track into which the Express is going to crash.

As they discuss the imminent demise of the Hurricane Express, one of them mentions that the Wrecker is still actually on the train, his partner reassuring him not to worry about his boss as the Wrecker won’t be aboard when it crashes.

The ticket inspector, who everybody addresses as Bill even though the real Bill has been knocked out and trussed up, makes his way into the locomotive cab, pulls out a gun and shoots the driver and one of the other engineers in cold blood.

A second engineer puts up a fight but the inspector overwhelms him, only to then be attacked himself from behind as Larry jumps from his car onto the locomotive.

The rogue inspector knocks Larry out then runs back along the top of the train for a rendezvous with a plane complete with a rope ladder hanging from it. It is then revealed ‘Bill’ is actually the Wrecker and has been wearing a rubber mask to make him look like the real ticket inspector.

The Wrecker grabs the rope ladder and alights from the train whilst Larry lies unconscious in the cab. With no one now at the wheel of the locomotive the Hurricane Express speeds towards the wagons placed in its path then hits them head on…

Episode Two – Flying Pirates

… but Larry somehow manages to get it together to pull the brakes on the train and minimising the impact of the crash.

The Wrecker returns in the plane that transported him from the roof of the carriage in order to still have a go at stealing the gold.

A semi-concussed Larry is accused of being the wrecker by Detective Matthews, confusion setting in as the real Bill is produced only to be accused by Larry of being the guy who murdered the train driver and the engineer.

One of the porters, Sam, played by Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toons, then informs everyone that he came across Bill in a train compartment with his head cut off. Bill suggests they all go and investigate. They find the rubber mask in the compartment, Mathews now realising Larry was telling the truth.

During all this commotion Gloria witnesses her dad jumping up into the locomotive after having separated the carriages and driving off with the gold. She runs as fast as her high heels will allow and leaps on to the train just as Larry chances upon the scene.

He also jumps on the train, making his way across the top of the carriages, leaps into the locomotive cabin and gets clonked on the head again, this time by old Stratton. 

Back at the wrecked train Walter Gray is apprehended by Tom Jordan, the detective and others concluding that Gray must be the wrecker seeing as the plane used earlier to spirit the Wrecker away belongs to his airline company.

Gray tells them he landed to see what had happened with the train but Jordan calls him a liar as he saw Gray on the train before the collision. Someone then suggests they follow the stolen train using one of the many automobiles that are used and then abandoned in serials such as this.

Gloria cradles the twice-whacked head of Larry in the locomotive as she argues with her dad to give himself up. Stratton explains that if he hadn’t driven the train off with the carriage containing the gold then it would have been stolen by the Wrecker.

He also has another cunning plan, intending to keep the gold until the railroad company release the evidence that was suppressed at his trial.

Pardon the pun but this is a plan that is obviously going to go off the rails at some point.

Larry regains consciousness and in a matter of seconds he not only finds out that Stratton is Gloria’s dad, he and Gloria and dad find themselves under machine gun fire from the air as the Wrecker’s plane suddenly appears in the sky above them.

Henchman Barney, played by Ernie Adams, administers the bullets from the plane, hitting one of the steam pipes in the locomotive cab and forcing the occupants to jump from the locomotive.

As the train starts to slow down Barney and his boys land and promptly start to nick the gold and load it up on the aircraft.

Larry knocks out the pilot whilst the other henchmen go back to the train for more loot, tells Gloria and Stratton to jump on too then flies the plane away with the gold aboard. Barney lets loose with the machine gun once more, Gloria mistakenly heaving a huge sigh of relief that they’re now out of range.

At that moment one of the bullets hits a fuel line with yet more stunning accuracy from Barney, setting the plane on fire, Larry, Gloria and Stratton dying in a ball of flame as it spirals from out of the sky before smashing into the ground…

Episode Three – The Masked Menace

… only of course nobody dies seeing as whoever edited episode three cut out the bit where Larry and Gloria and her dad parachute out of the plane before it hits the ground.

Conveniently, the aircraft has also crashed too far away for the gang who shot it down to see the occupants jumped before perishing. One of the henchmen suggests using the train to get closer to where the plane crashed so that they can have another go at getting their hands on the gold.

Stratton is also thinking the same thing, telling Larry to get the gold from out of the wrecked plane before the bad guys arrive. Stratton pulls a fast one by making out he hurt his leg jumping from the plane.

This leaves Larry to go and try and find a car to either steal or hire in order to transport the gold whilst Stratton hatches a plan to keep the gold for himself as a bargaining chip with the railroad company that wrongly fired him. Gloria isn’t too happy about this but has to go along with the plan anyway. 

Barney and the other henchmen are in the process of trying to restart the locomotive when they’re interrupted by the arrival of Detective Matthews and a railroad security guard.

As Matthews and his colleague reach the train the gang sneak out of the locomotive and steal the detective’s car. Meanwhile, Larry pays for a hire car and drives back to where the plane crashed, only to find Stratton and Gloria have disappeared with the gold.

The Wrecker’s gang turn up moments later just as Larry finds a couple of bars that have fallen from one of the boxes of gold. He overpowers Sandy, one of the gangsters holding a gun on him, and drives off in the hire car, the gang following as usual in hot pursuit.

Meanwhile, Stratton and Gloria have made it to the nearest town, his daughter then leaving on a train to carry out whatever plan father and daughter have hatched between themselves in the meantime.

In order to elude the gang chasing him, Larry comes up with the brilliant idea of driving his car along the nearby railway tracks, leaving the rails just before an oncoming train crashes into his vehicle, the bad guys only just managing to avoid a nasty death by jumping from their own car in the nick of time.

Larry disappears as the conductor of the train that nearly killed Barney and the boys insists the gang get on the train so that the incident can be reported in the next town.

What’s the betting it’s the very train Gloria has just boarded?

Yep, it’s the very train Gloria has just boarded. What a surprise. Barney recognises her, exclaiming ‘She knows where the gold is.

We’ve to get ahold of her. She’ll tell”.

He instructs one of the gang to get off at the next stop and ring another of the thousands of heavies that appear to be working for the Wrecker and make sure there’s a car waiting for them at the end of the line.

Gloria steps off the train when it reaches its final destination and takes the first taxi to pull up, unaware it’s being driven by one of the Wrecker’s men. The gang jump into their car and follow her, Larry conveniently turning up at that exact moment. 

Larry follows closely and watches as the gang pull up outside an abandoned building in the middle of nowhere.

Barney and his cronies enter a room in which a kidnapped Gloria is being guarded by the bogus taxi driver. Barney asks where the Wrecker is and in walks Walter Gray, a surprised Gloria exclaiming “So you’re the Wrecker!”.

Gray remains mysteriously silent as Barney demands Gloria tell them where Larry has hidden the gold. Using one of the gold bars in his pocket as a ‘gun’, Larry enters the room full of six men and tells Gloria to go and call the police.

He then approaches Gray, determined to punish him for killing Larry’s dad but Barney gets the drop on Larry instead and knocks the gun from his hand. 

As an outnumbered Larry takes on the gang Gloria tries to drive away but is stopped by the bogus taxi guy with the classic line “What’s the rush sister?”. Gray runs from the room as Larry starts to get the better of the others. Larry then runs after Gray, the other thugs catching up with Larry and giving him a good going over.

‘Gray’ then removes another one of those masks straight out of “Mission Impossible”, proving that Gray is therefore not the Wrecker. The gang then push Larry into the path of a speeding locomotive which may or may not put an end to our hero as his body is scattered to the four winds from the impact of four hundred tons of speeding iron smashing into flesh and bone.

I’m not betting on it though, seeing as we’re only up to the end of chapter three.

Coming soon; another thrilling ride on “The Hurricane Express”...

The Hurricane Express – Episodes Four to Six

In the grand old tradition of recapping the action from the previous episode, here’s the story so far:

“Mysterious attacks on the L&R railroad are the work of an unknown enemy who calls himself ‘The Wrecker’.  Larry Baker, son of a railroad engineer who was killed in a train crash caused by the Wrecker, believes he has cornered his father’s murderer in a hangout where the Wrecker’s agent had imprisoned Gloria Martin, the railroad manager’s private secretary.’

Episode Four – Buried Alive

In the time-honoured tradition of inserting footage missing from the climax to the previous episode, we see Gloria asking for help from two anonymous railway workers who then arrive just in time to see Larry falling to his death in front of a speeding locomotive.

Luckily for Larry, however, he falls perfectly between the middle of the rails as the train traverses over him. Gloria, rather callously if we’re being honest here, tells the two workers she’s late for her job so they’re left to take Larry to the hospital.

However, he comes round, stumbles back to his car and drives away like the lantern-jawed hero that he is.

At L&R headquarters, company chief Howard Edwards complains to attorney Stevens the fact that the newspapers have got hold of the story about the latest train wreck and the theft of the gold.

Detective Matthews then turns up with Walter Gray, having arrested him on suspicion that he is the Wrecker.

Larry then arrives and tells Edwards he knows that Gray is the Wrecker on account of seeing him before Larry got thrown in front of the train. Gray denies everything, telling Edwards he saw Larry on the express car when Gloria’s dad took off with the carriage that contained the gold.

Larry starts to explain but just at that moment Gloria appears and silently implores him not to let on it was old Stratton who actually took off with the gold. Matthews then arrests Larry on suspicion of him being the Wrecker instead.

Matthews frisks Larry and finds the gold bar he used as a ‘gun’, which effectively confirms Larry’s guilt. Just at that moment old Stratton rings and asks to be put through to Edwards.

He tells Edwards he has the gold. Matthews instructs one of his men to escort Larry to another office, warning him not to let Larry get away. We all know how that’s going to pan out, don’t we? Meanwhile, Stratton tells Edwards he took the gold in exchange for the evidence he knows the railroad have that would exonerate him. Matthews suggests the railroad boss plays along in order to set a trap and so that they can arrest Stratton. 

Sequestered in another office under guard, Larry happens to look out of the window just as two of the Wrecker’s cronies, including Barney, the maniac with the machine gun, read a morse code message thrown out of a nearby window informing them about the location where Edwards is going to meet up with Stratton.

Larry punches the man guarding him then leaps out of the window after Barney. When news reaches the group gathered in the office that Larry has escaped, Edwards and Matthews helpfully walk into the outer room so that Gloria can overhear about the trap that’s been set for her father.

Larry takes off in pursuit of Barney and one of his boys, Barney turning the tables by pulling over out of sight and then tailing Larry instead.

Barney’s car crashes so the driver is sent off to find a jack to get the car out of a ditch. Having witnessed the crash Larry waits in hiding for one of the bad guys to show up, punching out Barney’s companion and then taking the morse code note from the unconscious thug’s pocket.

Larry translates the contents of the note as follows:

“Stratton has the gold. I’m off to get it. The railroad detectives are planning to trap him. Stop them at Forsythe Station. The Wrecker”

Old Stratton watches from afar as Edwards leaves the train at their appointed rendezvous. At the same time, Larry arrives and gives Detective Matthews the note from the Wrecker. Elsewhere, Edwards is surprised by Stratton who appears from the undergrowth.

Holding a gun on him Stratton asks Edwards if he has brought the papers that will prove Stratton’s innocence. Edwards then hands the documents to Stratton who confirms it’s the actual evidence he was looking for, Stratton commenting at the same time that the voice of his old boss has changed somewhat over the years.

Uh oh.

Gloria then turns up to warn her father that he’s being set up. ‘Edwards’ then produces a gun and tells Stratton to get out of the car, Gloria realising at the same time that ‘Edwards’ is not actually the real deal.

The masked Wrecker, for it is he, then demands Stratton hands back the documents he gave him but Stratton refuses until the Wrecker threatens to shoot his daughter. He then forces Stratton to take him to where he’s hidden the gold in a mine shaft. As the three of them enter the mine Larry and the detectives show up.

Gloria calls out to them, the Wrecker then pushing her against a rock and knocking her unconscious before retreating further into the mine tunnel where he then turns and shoots at a box of dynamite.

Larry and his companions enter the mine just in time to be blown to smithereens by the blast…

Episode Five – Danger Lights

… but in reality, the sound of the Wrecker’s gun going off means Larry and his companions dive for cover just outside the mine shaft instead.

Also, Stratton had picked up his knocked out daughter and hidden behind a rock just before the dynamite exploded, something the film editor forgot to include in the climax to the previous episode. Again.

Larry breaks his way out through the blockage to the mine entrance. He then – finally – discovers that Gloria is Stratton’s daughter.

She convinces him to let her father escape before Matthews and the other detective arrive and arrest Stratton, who is determined to keep the gold as a bargaining tool against the railroad company. As father and daughter emerge from the mine via a different route and drive off, the Wrecker, still disguised as railroad boss Edwards, follows close behind.

Larry exits the mine shaft at the front just as the Wrecker drives past. He then jumps in his car and follows the Wrecker.

Realising he is being followed, the Wrecker stops chasing Gloria and her father and leads Larry in a different direction.

Heading to a pre-arranged rendezvous point to meet his henchman Barney, the Wrecker is thwarted by a freight train blocking his path at a railway crossing. This gives Larry time to catch up and try to apprehend the Wrecker but Barney and his fellow crony intervene and start to duff Larry up big time.

During the fight the Wrecker jumps aboard the nearby train, Larry overwhelming the two bad guys and then driving off in pursuit of the Wrecker.

He beats the freight train to the next station, Planville, and forces the station manager Carlton, who Larry suspects of being in cahoots with the Wrecker, to stop the train instead of letting it just pass through.

Once the train stops at the station Larry instructs the engineer to arrange a search for the Wrecker. As he runs along the top of the freight cars Larry thinks he sees the Wrecker sneaking away and jumps on him, only to find it’s Tom Jordan instead.

Jordan explains he’s looking for the Wrecker as well to hold him to account for making him lose his job at the L&R. Just at that moment one of the men searching for the Wrecker announces he’s just found a rubber mask in the very carriage that Larry caught Jordan alighting from. Larry then accuses Jordan of being the Wrecker, Larry is then forced to apologise to Carlton for questioning his innocence.

An argument breaks out between Carlton and Jordan, prompting a flashback sequence of the crash that killed Larry’s dad, an incident that the L&R had blamed on Jordan. Jordan is then hauled off under arrest and locked in a room inside the main station building.

As Larry waits for the Hurricane Express to arrive he and Carlton hear the sound of another train approaching in the distance. Running outside, Larry catches sight of an out-of-control boxcar whizzing along the tracks into the path of the –  you’ve guessed it – the Hurricane Express.

He jumps on a conveniently parked motorbike and drives off to try and stop the boxcar colliding with the train. Carlton runs back to his office and retrieves a gun but before he can intervene and stop Larry he is attacked by Jordan who has managed to break out of his locked room.

As Larry overtakes the speeding boxcar in order to change the points ahead so that the oncoming train can swerve into a siding, he espies a trussed up Edwards lying on the carriage floor. Riding on ahead he successfully foils another train wreck and then continues chasing the boxcar, leaping from his bike and helping to untie Edwards.

Suddenly the carriage topples from the rails and plummets down a steep mountainside, both men suffering grievously as their bodies smash onto the rocks below…

Episode Six – Airport Mystery

… but yet again someone excised from the end of the previous episode the bit where Larry and Edwards actually jump from the boxcar just before it leaves the rails.

Both of them then embark on a whole lot of exposition regarding who the Wrecker might be, Larry eventually telling Edwards that he’s got the Wrecker aka Tom Jordan locked up back at the station.

Just as they reach Planville they catch sight of one of Walter Gray’s planes flying nearby. Larry rushes into the station office and finds both Carlton and Jordan missing. Edwards maintains Gray is someone who would benefit from the demise of the L&R so Larry drives off to the airport whilst Edwards hangs around to wait for someone to come over and replace Carlton.

At the airport Gray oversees the movement of an unconscious Carlton from the plane to a car, telling his chauffeur “you know where to take him”. 

The chauffeur pulls up at a crossing, giving a now revived Carlton the chance to sneak away from the vehicle. He then hides in the bushes and retrieves a mask from his pocket which he proceeds to place on his face.

Larry gets to the airport just in time to overhear Gray and Tom Jordan discussing how they’re going to take care of Larry, seeing as he keeps interfering in their plans. One of the pilots catches Larry snooping outside Gray’s office, causing Jordan to flee and Gray to run outside and confront his former employee.

Larry pushes him aside with the statement “I came here to get Jordan and you’re not gonna stop me”. Gray has Larry apprehended by a couple of thugs who escort Larry from the office and throw him in a locked shed just as the idiot driver who lost Jordan arrives and gives Gray the bad news, although for some reason this doesn’t perturb him all that much.

Detective Mathews and his colleague turn up at Planville station to inform Edwards that they found Gloria’s coat out in the desert.

Matthews suggests she is mixed up with old Stratton somehow or the other and had probably warned Stratton about the plan to trap him earlier that day. He suggests to Edwards that rather than confront Gloria they should tail her in the hope she will eventually lead them to Stratton.

Back at the L&R office Edwards and Matthews play along with the plan, noticing as Gloria leaves the room that a document has been caught in the safe door, confirming their suspicions. Matthews suggests that Edwards ask Gloria to work her shift at night so that she can be more easily watched. 

The Wrecker, visible only as a shadow on the wall, informs Barney and the boys that Larry Baker is locked up in a storehouse at the airport and that “he knows too much”.

Taking their cue they shoot off to the airport and engage in a scuffle with Larry who manages to avoid being captured. Larry sneaks over to Gray’s office and then, pretending to be Jordan, rings him and arranges a rendezvous.

Gray jumps into the back of his car, not realising Larry has knocked out and replaced the idiot driver who lost Carlton earlier. Moments later Barney discovers the trussed-up chauffeur who tells him Larry has driven off with Gray to the railroad office.

At the station, Larry trails Gray and overhears him and Jordan discussing following Gloria so they can lead them to Stratton. Jordan declares they’ll have to move quick as the detectives are planning to trail her themselves that night, although how Jordan knows this has somehow been lost in the mix.

Larry goes off to the office expecting to find Gloria but discovers Edwards instead, who tells Larry that Gloria doesn’t work there at night.

Larry is immediately suspicious as he’s just seen her car outside, those suspicions heightened even more when he hears someone knocking from inside a cupboard in the office. He pulls open the door and discovers Gloria, who tells him the man in the office is the Wrecker wearing the mask of Mister Edwards.

The Wrecker bangs Larry over the head with a chair and escapes through an open window, our hero giving chase just as Barney and his thugs arrive to try and finish off what they’d started with Larry back at the airport store room.

A fight ensues in one of the locomotive work sheds, Barney accidentally hitting a switch that starts to lower the huge carcass of a locomotive from the ceiling.

Larry is then knocked unconscious and falls into a work pit in the floor, the heavy metal object following him down into the pit and crushing the life from Larry as, one by one, every bone in his body is shattered into a million pieces. 

Join us for part three of ‘The Hurricane Express”. Be warned though. It won’t be pretty, considering Larry has probably been crushed to the point there’s now more of his insides on the outside than on the inside.

The full 12 part series of The Hurricane Express is available

The Hurricane Express Episodes Seven to Nine

Let’s recap, shall we?

“A mysterious criminal known as the Wrecker has wrecked the Hurricane Express and caused the death of the engineer. Larry Baker, who vowed to bring his father’s murderer to justice, has reason to believe that the Wrecker is Walter Gray, head of the airline transport company.

Larry has just escaped from agents of the Wrecker who have orders to prevent him from interfering with the plans of the mastermind”

Episode Seven – Sealed Lips

Luckily, just before Larry ends up as chopped liver, Gloria arrives in the nick of time and drags his unconscious body out of the way just before the descending locomotive was about to end the serial at the beginning of this chapter.

A few moments later Detective’s Matthews and Hemingway appear, then run off to try and catch the Wrecker’s gang with whom Larry was fighting a few moments before. Meanwhile, as Walter Gray and Tom Jordan continue their search for Gloria, they catch sight of ‘Edwards’ and watch as he removes a mask to reveal it’s actually Carlson, the Planville station master. You know. Remember? The guy we saw donning the mask way back towards the beginning of episode six.

Walter Gray and Tom Jordan jump Carlson, accusing him of stealing the mask that the Wrecker wore to disguise himself as Edwards, the L&R railroad manager.

They drag him away, Gray ominously suggesting that “we should make very good use of you”. Just as Gloria and Larry are shooting the breeze over who the Wrecker might be they witness Gray and Jordan escorting Carlson to Gray’s car. Larry, still wearing the chauffeurs outfit and, unbelievably,  still able to convince Gray he’s not Bates, Gray’s real driver, transports the three men back to the airport office.

At some point, however, Gray realises they’re going the wrong way. Larry then reveals himself, which is a bit dangerous considering he’s speeding quite fast along a mountain road. Gray pulls a gun but can’t shoot Larry otherwise the car is going to plunge over the side into the canyons below. 

As Larry swerves the car around, Carlson grabs the gun from Gray and informs Larry he has Gray and Jordan covered. There then ensues a conversation in which, after Larry accuses Gray of being the Wrecker, finds out that Gray and Jordan caught Carlson wearing a mask to look like Edwards.

Carlson then points the gun at Larry instead and threatens to drill him before ordering everyone out of the car and driving away. What he doesn’t realise is that Larry is clinging for life to the back of the car, eventually wresting the gun from Carlson and taking control of the vehicle himself.

He tells Carlson they’re going to the main L&R railroad office so that he can get to the bottom of what is going on.

Their arrival is conveniently witnessed by Barney the Henchman, who immediately phones the Wrecker to inform him he’s just seen Larry and Carlson pulling up outside the L&R building. Why the heck nobody has figured out yet that all they need to do is subject Barney to a good kicking in order to find out the identity of the Wrecker is totally beyond me, but maybe that’s going to happen in a later episode.

Larry and his prisoner enter the outer office of Edwards, the railroad manager, and ask Gloria if her boss is in. As they go in to see Edwards, his attorney Stevens leaves them to it, which is a bit suspicious, don’t you think?

Anyway, Larry tells Edwards that Carlson was the guy who broke into his office the night before and that he might be the Wrecker, or knows who the Wrecker is.

Just as Carlson is about to spill the beans, wouldn’t you know it someone is hiding behind the curtains in Edwards’ office with a gun and before you know it it’s curtains for Carlson.

Larry gives chase but gets knocked out. Again. When he comes to he tells Gloria that the shooter was her father, old Stratton. Now, I don’t want to give anything away here but there appears to be a pattern emerging whereby someone who sees someone else do something dastardly doesn’t stop to think that it might actually be the Wrecker wearing a mask to make them look like that someone else.

Or am I getting ahead of myself?

Coincidentally Larry arrives at the exact same conclusion after Gloria tells him she’d just finished talking to her dad on the phone and whom she knows for a fact is miles away from where the office is.

As Larry runs out of the railroad building to try and find Carlson’s killer he’s apprehended by a police officer who’s been helping Walter Gray locate the car Larry drove off in with Carlson. Back in Edwards’ office, he tells Matthews it was Stratton what did for Carlson.

When Gloria’s name comes up Hemingway reveals he’s rigged up a dictograph in her office from which he might be able to find out anything. Or something.

Hemingway listens in on a conversation between Gloria and Stratton in which she tells dad that Larry has been arrested. Stratton proclaims that Larry has been trying to protect him so is now prepared to go and fetch some of the gold to use as bail to get Larry released.

Hemingway immediately relays the news to Matthews who decides to get to the mine first and give Stratton “a little surprise party”. Just as they leave, Gloria discovers that she’s been bugged so she rushes off to warn her father that Matthews is on the way to arrest him. Naturally, Barney is hanging about outside the office and, with his crony, follows her car.

Barney attempts to trick Gloria into stopping by shouting out from his car that he has a message from her father. A distracted Gloria then steers her car over the edge of the mountain road, and crashes at the bottom of a steep canyon…

Episode Eight – Outside the Law

… but it appears Gloria jumped just before she did a Thelma and Louise, Barney and his fellow henchman then picking up her crumpled body from the middle of the road. Not that crumpled as it turns out. Gloria is still able to write a note and throw it out of the back of Barney’s car followed a few seconds later by the notebook in the hope that someone of import will find it.

Larry is bailed out by Edwards in thanks for Larry having saved the Hurricane Express twice in the last few days. Back at the L&R building, Tom Jordan shows up at the office of his former boss in the hope that Edwards will look more favourably on the possibility of re-employing him.

Jordan tells Edwards he must know now what it feels like to have been knocked out by the Wrecker, just as the Wrecker did to Jordan in the crash that killed Larry’s dad, but Edward’s is having none of it and throws Jordan out. 

As Jordan is about to leave he sees Stevens with Larry who has decided to come back to talk with Edwards. Hiding in the outer office, Jordan eavesdrops on a phone call to Edwards in which a highway patrol officer reads the message that Gloria left in the road:  

‘Kidnapped by Wrecker gang. Phone Edwards. L&R Railroad. Gloria Martin”

Stevens gives Larry the keys to his car so that he can try and pick up Gloria’s trail out at Death’s Curve where the note was found. Jordan tails Larry as he leaves.

Meanwhile, Gloria is taken to a hideout where she is reunited with daddy Stratton. Gloria is taken to another room where she hears Barney beating up on her dad for refusing to reveal where he’s hidden the gold.

Gloria’s female captor then starts screaming, making Stratton think it’s his daughter being given the same treatment. Under further duress, he tells Barney the gold is hidden in the shaft of the old Forsyth mine. 

Larry – amazingly – actually finds Gloria’s note book still laying in the road. He follows the trail to Barney’s hideout where he chances upon Gloria’s handkerchief which she also left behind as a clue to her whereabouts.

Upon rescuing Gloria without throwing even one punch on account of her being guarded by a woman, Larry drives off with Gloria to go and find Stratton, Jordan still following close on Larry’s trail. Matthews and Hemingway turn up at the mine and then conceal themselves inside the shaft just as Barney and the gang arrive with Stratton.

The detectives jump to the wrong conclusion that Stratton is in cahoots with the bad guys, not realising he’s actually been kidnapped and forced to reveal where the gold has been hidden. A shootout then ensues between the rival forces.

In the confusion, Stratton slowly backs out of the mine away from the fighting and bumps into Larry who has just turned up with Gloria. Larry runs into the cave and witnesses some of Barney’s guys loading the gold into a car.

He waits for them to come back for the rest of the loot then tries to drive off with the gold himself. Just as he leaps onto the running board of the car one of the gang members takes aim, does a Bruce Dern and shoots Larry in the back, which means our definitive Mostly Westerns article on the films in which John Wayne dies needs to be revised once again. 

Or does it?

Episode Nine – The Invisible Enemy

No, it doesn’t. In a scene that’s so totally different from the end of the last episode there might be a case for calling the fraud squad in, Larry is not seen crumpling to the ground, he falls into the car instead, then starts the vehicle and drives off with the gold in the back. 

Barney and the boys naturally give chase, whilst Matthews and Hemingway emerge from the mine with Stratton in custody. Gloria, who insists her father is innocent, is then summarily fired on the spot by Matthews for abusing her position at L&R in order to help her convict father.

Larry loses his pursuers then drives to Planville, where he discovers Stratton has replaced the gold with iron bars.

The plan now is to try and ensure Barney and the boys get hold of the ‘gold’ again after which he intends to follow them and find out who the Wrecker is.

Sure enough, the boys turn up at the station and recover the gold. One of the gang phones the Wrecker to give him the good news whilst Larry listens in on the conversation via a handily placed listening device that he found in the station agent’s office.

He overhears all the details for the rendezvous that evening between the gang and the Wrecker then forces Barney and the boys at gunpoint into the station office.

Larry tells Bob, the station agent, to tie Barney and the gang up and then flag down the next train that arrives so that they can be turned over to the police. He then drives off to hunt down the Wrecker.

Back at the L&R office Edwards and Stevens discuss the damage being done to the railroad company by the Wrecker, Stevens still insisting that Walter Gray is the culprit.

Edwards still suspects the Wrecker is either Tom Jordan or Gloria’s father, Stratton. Jordan and Gray have their own conflab elsewhere, Jordan telling Gray that Stevens was all for wanting to reinstate him but Edwards still refuses to do that. Gray tells Jordan it is essential he gets his old job back as engineer on the Hurricane Express. 

Edwards receives a call to go and inspect an engine for a new passenger plane at the company workshop but when he turns up to check it out the foreman denies having called him.

A large hook and pulley suddenly falls from the roof, seemingly engineered by Jordan, and misses Edwards by a whisker. Upon inspection, it is obvious the rope was cut deliberately. Stevens happens to walk by just as Matthews and Hemingway turn up at the L&R with Stratton in tow.

Matthews receives a call to attend to the ‘accident’ at the engine shed and leaves immediately. He tells Edwards they’ve got Stratton up in his office but when they get there they find Hemingway knocked out cold and Stevens tied up in a chair, Stevens telling them that Stratton clonked Hemingway and then did a runner.

Back at the station Barney and the boys overpower Bob and tie him up. One of the gang phones the Wrecker and tells him Larry has the gold and intends to be at the meeting point later on, the Wrecker declaring ominously “He is, a? Then I’ll be there to meet him”.

Larry arrives to meet the Wrecker in the company of Matthews, Hemingway and a couple of big guys, Pete and Dick, for backup. Larry enters the building where he expects to find the Wrecker but the Wrecker gets one over on him, pointing a gun at Larry and shining a light in his face so that Larry can’t make out his identity.

He then demands to know where the gold is but Larry manages to kick the gun out of the Wrecker’s hand and they get into a punch up.

One of them reaches for the gun on the floor and a shot is heard. Matthews and the other detectives enter the building as Larry runs out and announces he’s just killed the Wrecker.

When they enter the room they find a dead man on the floor, but it’s not the Wrecker. It’s Larry. Looks like we’re definitely going to have to rewrite that article now.

Have you guessed who the villain is yet? Nope. Me neither, although I have my suspicions. I’d share them with you right now but I don’t fancy getting shot in the back, so join us in a couple of weeks for our final trip on the Hurricane Express and we can all find out together the identity of the dastardly Wrecker. 

The full 12 part series of The Hurricane Express is available

The Hurricane Express – Episodes 10 to 12

A final recap before the Hurricane Express reaches its final destination.

“Outside a lonely house railroad detectives are waiting for a signal from Larry Baker who believes he has at last run to earth his father’s murderer, the mysterious criminal known as the Wrecker”

That’s all we get as an intro to episode ten so, unless you want to do your own catch up and reread what I wrote previously, on with the show.

Episode Ten – The Wrecker’s Secret

So let me get this right. It’s one thing when an episode ends with Larry being shot in the back as shown at the end of chapter eight, but it then turns out that he actually isn’t.

However, the beginning to episode ten really takes the biscuit. You can definitely hear a shot ringing out at the end of episode nine implying the Wrecker has killed Larry but no, it transpires that Larry has been walloped over the head and knocked unconscious instead.

So, no shots being fired, no dead Larry, and no explanation. In other words, another cliff-hanger that never was. 

Still, in disguise as Larry, the Wrecker locates the gold. A shot rings out and one of the newer detective guys, Pete or Dick – I couldn’t tell – staggers out of one of the rooms, points back from whence he came and says “The Wrecker!” and falls to the ground.

They run back to where the real Larry was last seen and find him gone. Stratton witnesses what he thinks at first is Larry carrying Larry to his car, but then cottons on that one of the Larry’s is the Wrecker.

Stratton pulls his gun but the Wrecker decks him and drives off. Old Stratton can’t be that old because he very quickly catches up with the speeding car and clings on to the back of the vehicle like a kid on a fairground ride.

The Wrecker arrives at Barney and the gang’s hideout and is overheard by Stratton ordering the boys to make Larry talk on account of he knows where the gold is whilst he, the Wrecker, goes back to the office in case his absence might arouse suspicion.

Not realising that Larry is feigning unconsciousness the gang tie him up then go back to their poker game in another room. Stratton, who is outside the hideout, has a hurriedly whispered conversation with Larry in which Larry tells him he has a plan to capture the Wrecker and his whole gang.

Edwards, Stevens, Matthews and Hemingway meet back at the L&R office, Matthews confessing he couldn’t figure out where the Wrecker took Larry.

At the insistence of Stevens, boss man Edwards insists the detectives keep an eye on Walter Gray over at the headquarters of the airline. Hemingway gets the job and starts hanging around outside Gray’s office, just in time to catch Gloria making a surprise visit.

She tells Gray she’s lost her job at L&R so a delighted Walter offers her employment at the airline. He’s just about to make a non-consensual approach to his new employee when Tom Jordan arrives and demands to see Gray alone. 

Whilst Jordan warns Gray he’s taking a big risk hiring Gloria, the phone in her new office rings. Picking it up she hears her father on the other end exclaiming he’s had a hard time trying to locate her. How he eventually did locate her is another one of those explanations the scriptwriters couldn’t figure out for themselves either.

He tells his daughter that Larry is going to lead the Wrecker’s gang to a place called Logan’s Flats where the gang will meet up with their boss. Stratton is worried that they’ll kill Larry once they realise he doesn’t actually have the gold and instructs Gloria to get help.

She then rings Edwards at L&R and pleads with him to help Larry which Edwards grants, though with some reticence, telling Gloria he’ll instruct Matthews and his boys to meet up with her outside the L&R building.

On the way out she bumps into Hemingway and drags him along with her to go and meet Matthews. At that exact same moment, Gray and Jordan catch Gloria and Hemingway driving away, Jordan assuming they must have overheard whatever it was he and Gray were discussing in Gray’s office.

Gray isn’t too concerned, telling Jordan they’ll beat Gloria and Hemingway to wherever it is they might be going by getting there first in his plane.

Meanwhile, Larry leads the gang out to Logan’s Flats where he’s told them the gold is located. The Wrecker, now disguised as Edwards, arrives by plane and tells Larry to stop stalling otherwise Barney will administer a lethal dose of lead poisoning.

Gloria and the police arrive just in the nick of time, Larry taking off after the Wrecker whilst the others shoot it out with the new arrivals. Barney smacks Larry over the head with a rock, allowing the Wrecker to make his getaway.

Just as the Wrecker climbs aboard his plane the fantastically agile Edwards turns up and grabs the villain before the plane can take off. He rips the mask from the face of the Wrecker and exclaims triumphantly, “So. You’re the Wrecker!”, at which point he gets a bellyful of lead for his troubles.

Episode Eleven – Wings of Death

Well, I’ll be darned. This has to be a first, for the John Wayne serials anyway. Someone who looks as though they’ve met their maker at the end of a previous episode actually does turn out to be dead when the next one begins.

Unbelievably, Howard Edwards, head of the L&R Railroad Company, is no more, killed by the Wrecker, and still Larry and the others, apart from Gloria, think the Wrecker is Walter Gray.

This is mainly down to the suggestion that the plane the Wrecker flew in on and in which he and his gang escaped, looks suspiciously like one of Gray’s fleet. T

his prompts Matthews to suggest they contact the police to keep an eye out for Gray at the airport whilst Larry and the others make their way over there as well.

Arriving at the airfield their suspicions are confirmed when they’re told Gray had landed a few moments before in his cargo plane, although he was flying alone.

Larry, Gloria, Matthews and Hemingway barge in to Gray’s office for a showdown but Gray is able to supply an alibi that proves he couldn’t have killed Edwards.

Larry isn’t convinced and in an attempt to explain why he thinks Gray is the Wrecker there then follows a three-and-a-half-minutes recap of the action as featured in episode two, starting with the removal of the train carriage from the express that contained the gold and ending with Larry’s plane being machine gunned from the sky, just in case the audience missed it all the first time around.

The upshot is that Gray, still protesting his innocence, is arrested and taken away for questioning.

In quick succession, Barney receives the news that Gray has been pinched and then a newspaper article declares that Gray has escaped on his way to prison after having been rescued by his ‘gang’. Matthews tells Stevens it’s obvious Gray is the Wrecker on account of his gang helping him to escape.

Stevens, who is now the new general manager of the L&R, orders Matthews to go and recapture Gray and put him behind bars.

Elsewhere, Gloria and Larry try to convince Stratton that, seeing as now Edwards is dead, somehow proving he wasn’t the one holding back the evidence that would clear him, Stratton should give back the gold stolen from the L&R.

In the end he agrees, but personally I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Tom Jordan approaches Stevens to ask that he reinstates the much-maligned engineer which Steven readily does, him being a nice guy and all that.

As Jordan leaves the office he hears his new boss take a phone call in which Stevens is informed by Stratton that he’s returning the gold and that the loot is located at the Forsythe mine, thirty-five paces from the entrance to the north tunnel.

As a smug Jordan creeps out of the office Stevens summons Matthews and tells him to go and retrieve the gold. On his way to the mine with Hemingway, Matthews is killed when a plane strafes their car. The plane then lands under the watchful eyes of Larry and Stratton, Larry convinced the Wrecker has heard Stratton is handing the gold back and is now trying to get to it before anyone else.

Larry watches in disbelief as Barney and the gang disembark from the plane with the Wrecker nowhere to be seen.

Stratton suddenly emits an unearthly cackle, Larry turning in horror and realising the Wrecker is now disguised as Gloria’s father. The villain knocks Larry out, proclaiming to his followers “Come on, boys. This interfering fool won’t trouble us again.

All our enemies are out of the way and the gold is ours”. Cue more maniacal laughter from the Wrecker, who has now obviously gone doolally from trying to remember who the hell he’s supposed to be impersonating next.

Episode Twelve – Unmasked

Buckle up your seatbelt as we head for the terminus on the Hurricane Express.

Just like the previous episode, there’s a real surprise at the beginning of this one when it becomes clear Stratton is actually Stratton making out he’s the Wrecker in order to flush Barney and the boys out into the open.

Larry, who was obviously not knocked out, pulls a gun on the bad guys but inevitably it turns into a shoot-out. There’s then another surprise as Hemingway arrives with his boss Matthews who, despite being shot in the previous episode and then expiring with the final words “They got me, Hemmie” is still very much alive.

Matthews decides to take on the bad guy manning the machine gun which he does by stealthily shooting him in the back.

Barney and the survivors make a hasty retreat and escape by plane. Larry leads Matthews and Hemingway to where Stratton stashed the gold which they then load into their car.

Gray, having mistakenly been arrested as the Wrecker, then ‘rescued’ by the real Wrecker’s gang and tied up, manages to crawl to a phone and asks the operator to put him through to Gloria, telling her where he’s being held.

When she arrives to free Gray she asks why he cautioned her not to call the police. Gray tells a shocked Gloria it’s because the Wrecker is her father. Hearing Barney and one of the boys suddenly arriving at the hideout a still trussed-up Gray tells Gloria to conceal herself.

The Wrecker, looking very much like Tom Jordan, also appears – although from where I’ve yet to figure out.

He informs the failure that is Barney they’ve got one more chance to get the gold seeing as Stevens is shipping it out on the Hurricane express later that night and that he, the Wrecker, will be on the engine himself to stop the train at a siding near a place called Ash Fork.

Barney and his fellow thug run off to arrange transportation for the gold. Gloria emerges from hiding and insists Gray must now realise her father isn’t the Wrecker, both of them now believing it’s been Jordan all along.

Having been brought up to speed by Gloria regarding the Wrecker’s latest plan, Larry and Stratton stake out the rendezvous at Ash Fork then jump Barney and the other guy when they turn up.

As the four men punch away, the Hurricane express flies by, Larry catching a glimpse of the Wrecker who has failed to put one of the engineers out of commission.

Larry grabs an unconscious Stratton, runs to his car and drives off after the express. Barney and his guy go after them but their car veers off the road. Larry races alongside the track next to the train and leaps from his car, presumably being driven by a now conscious Stratton, and takes on the Wrecker, this time looking very much like Walter Gray. Grappling for a gun, the Wrecker accidentally shoots himself. 

Larry brings the train to a halt and is joined in quick succession by Gloria, Matthews, Hemingway and Tom Jordan. Walter Gray then suddenly arrives so they check the Wrecker and realise he’s wearing a mask.

Matthews pulls it away to finally reveal that the identity of the Wrecker is Stevens, attorney at law to the L&R.

Larry admits that he and Gloria’s father already knew it was Stevens but had no proof which is why they set a trap for him.

Stratton pulls up just as Stevens delivers a dying confession, admitting he organised all the train wrecks so that he could drive down the share price of the company, get rid of Edwards and then buy the L&R at a bargain price using the gold to finance the purchase.

He also sportingly verifies Stratton’s innocence at the same time. Seconds after Stevens expires Walter Gray congratulates Stratton on becoming the new general manager of L&R (too soon?) and also offers Larry his job back at the railroad. 

The Hurricane Express takes off, this time knowing it’s finally going to reach its destination in one piece. And about time too.

The full 12 part series of The Hurricane Express is available

A couple of observations on the serial as a whole. First of all the theme music used at the beginning of each episode is highly reminiscent of the traditional Irish tune’ The Rake of Mallows’ which is used in “The Quiet Man” and entitled ‘Prelude to the Big Fight’.

Just thought I’d share that thought with you. Secondly, and more importantly, “The Hurricane Express” is so much more entertaining than “Shadow of the Eagle”, Wayne’s previous serial.

Don’t just take my word for it though. According to a contemporary review as detailed in Fred Landesman’s invaluable book “The John Wayne Filmography”, “John Wayne’s second Mascot series is in every way an improvement over “The Shadow of the Eagle”. The story is almost logical”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

We’ll be publishing our next article on the final Mascot serial that John Wayne appeared in, “The Three Musketeers”, after the summer break. In the meantime check out our regular posts on the Mostly Westerns Facebook page.

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Steve is a film scholar of note, gaining both an MA in film studies and a Ph.D. for his thesis on the silent films of John Ford. Steve, a scriptwriter and published novelist, provides much of the content you see here and is a dedicated aficionado and longtime fan of John Wayne, John Ford and Western films in general.

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