After having played daredevil pilots in “Shadow of the Eagle” and “The Hurricane Express” it’s a change of pace for John Wayne in “The Three Musketeers”, the final entry in the trio of serials he appeared in for Mascot Pictures in the early 1930s.
This time around he’s a – no, hang on a minute, Wayne’s a pilot in this one as well. He should have had a word with his agent. Talk about being typecast.
Episode One – The Fiery Circle
The action kicks in right from the beginning as three intrepid Foreign Legionnaires, Clancy, Renard and Schmidt, played respectively by Jack Mulhall, Raymond Hatton and Francis X Bushman Jr., find themselves in a battle to the death with a tribe of extremely angry Arabs out for blood.
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Just as it looks as though the game is up, from out of the skies arrives pilot Tom Wayne, played by JW, who proceeds to indiscriminately mow down with a machine gun anyone on a horse and looking faintly foreign.
The survivors ponder who the pilot might be, seeing as a Legion aeroplane is usually black, and Tom’s plane isn’t.
Tom lands and tells them he’s on his way to meet his fiancé, obviously stopping off to massacre a few of the local natives on the way.
Clancy reveals to Tom he and his comrades were trying to intercept a gun-running caravan when they came under attack, and now they are the only survivors. Tom is obviously a bit of a classics scholar, dubbing his new friends the three Musketeers. In turn, they dub him the fourth Musketeer, D’Artagnan.
Tom flies to meet Elaine, played by Ruth Hall. Her servant Ali, played by a shifty-looking Al Ferguson, warns Elaine’s brother Armand, played by a fresh-faced Lon Chaney Jr., who arrives surreptitiously dressed in Arab garb, that Lieutenant Wayne is also on the premises.
Just as Armand arrives to meet Tom they’re interrupted by the sound of drums in the desert, drums that Elaine has noticed always play at sunset. A nervous Armand suddenly makes his excuses and leaves for the barracks.
Back in disguise, Armand makes his way to a secret meeting place. The room suddenly goes dark and a disembodied voice proclaims that “the Devil’s Circle is complete – El Shaitan is here” which, let’s be honest, is quite an impressive introduction really.
Mr. Shaitan calls the meeting to order, his face always covered from now on, this being the villain the audience is going to have to guess for the next eleven episodes as to what his real identity might be.
El Shaitan is rather upset that Tom has shot quite a few of his followers to pieces, telling Armand that he will have to get his sister’s fiancé to use his position with the American Embassy to help clear the shipment of a boatload of guns currently waiting in a French seaport.
Armand tells his boss “I won’t do it – you tricked me and got me into your power so I did your dirty work because I was afraid of being found out but I won’t let you drag my friend down to his ruin. I’m through with you and your infernal Devil’s Circle!”
He then performs an immediate about turn upon hearing the only way out is death, as opposed to the usual pay-off and references for a new job.
Armand hands the shipment papers to Tom who flies them to Paris and presents them for clearance of the ship. Unfortunately, the guns have already been discovered by the French authorities which puts Tom in a tight spot as he is asked to reveal who gave him the papers in the first place.
Refusing to name his brother-in-law to be, he is arrested but immediately does a runner. Tom makes his way to the airport and orders his sidekick Stubbs, played by Noah Berry Jr., to fire up the plane, Stubbs jumping into the passenger seat just as the French police arrive to arrest Tom.
Armand’s commanding officer, Colonel Duval, hands him a telegram which states that Tom Wayne must be arrested on sight, ordering Armand to relay the message to all outposts.
Armand returns home and packs with the intention of going to Paris to clear Tom’s name. El Shaitan, however, has other plans, suddenly appearing as if from out of nowhere and warning Armand he will die if he leaves for Paris.
Realising there’s no way out of the situation, Armand starts to write a suicide note. Meanwhile, Tom and Stubbs have just landed not far from Elaine’s house, Tom attempting to try and find out how and why Armand dropped him in it. He arrives in the nick of time just as Armand is about to blow his own brains out.
As a guilt-stricken Armand starts to tell Tom about El Shaitan and the Devil’s Circle, the villain himself appears and shoots Armand. Just before he dies, but after Tom has picked up the gun that El Shaitan used, Armand mutters something about Shaitan’s plan to go to Fort Maury to get the weapons.
The minute he expires Elaine runs into the room and sees that Tom is holding a gun. Ali the housekeeper declares that Tom killed Armand but before he can restrain him Tom leaps out of the window onto a conveniently placed empty horse and rides off with Ali and his boys in pursuit.
Ali exhorts the populace of the town they ride through to help waylay Tom by shouting “Death to the unbeliever”. As luck would have it the three Musketeers happen to be in the same town. Witnessing Tom under attack they give a combined shout of “all for one and one for all” and get stuck in.
The four of them then escape by donning Arab costumes before making their way to the local Legion fort. The swinish Ali presents Elaine with a note. Unfortunately, I was unable to read it myself but whatever the contents it sent poor old Elaine into a crying fit. No doubt further light will be shed on this later on down the line.
Elaine rides off to the camp of one El Kadur, played by Hooper Atchley. He welcomes her with the words “It’s a long time since the daughter of my old friend has visited me”, Elaine replying that she needs help to avenge the death of her brother on the mistaken assumption that it was Tom who did the killing.
Back at the fort the three musks are warned by Colonel Duval, played by Gordon de Main, that Tom is a gun runner who is not to be trusted, suggesting he is trying to lead them all into a trap.
I’m not sure how Tom has managed this but the next time we see him he’s flying his plane with the faithful Stubbs in the cockpit behind him when they are swooped upon by another plane piloted by a masked man Tom manages to identify as El Shaitan.
Both pilots engage in a dogfight but Tom’s machine gun jams so he has to land in a hurry. He and Stubbs abandon ship and manage to ride off into the desert on a purloined horse with Shaitan’s soldiers bringing up the rear.
A group of Legionnaires then come to the rescue but El Shaitan guns a lot of them down from the air before turning his weapon on Tom and Stubbs. The two men tumble to the sand beneath a hail of bullets…
Episode Two – One for All and One for One
… and one of them, poor old Stubbs, ends up dead. Noah Beery makes the most of his typical Hollywood send off, telling JW “There’s just one thing that makes me sore. Been living through a dozen crash-ups and I end up getting shot off a flea-bitten horse (gasp) Well, I’ll be seein’ ya”.
A mad-as-hell Tom takes up arms to avenge his dead friend and helps out the remaining Legionnaires, finally sending El Shaitan’s men on the run. They then chase the villains to a fortress which Tom tells the commander contains a large shipment of arms.
El Shaitan lands and leads his forces off to battle with the French. Meanwhile, whilst the Legionnaires attack the fortress from the front, Tom and a handful of soldiers, including the faithful 3 Musks, climb the battlements at the rear.
They secure the stronghold just before El Shaitan turns up, the soldiers disguising themselves as Arabs to fool the dastardly Shaitan into thinking his fortress and the weapons inside are still safe. El Kadur suddenly turns up at the fortress as well, closely followed by Elaine.
A fairly convoluted scene ensures in which Elaine produces two notes that she uses to try and convince the French Captain that Tom killed her brother Armand.
At the same time, Tom notices that El Kadur is wearing a Devil’s Circle bracelet but either way he still ends up under arrest for gun running.
The 3 Musks engineer an escape for Tom who rides off in to the desert dressed as a Legionnaire with his friends in phony pursuit. The four compatriots then join forces to hunt down El Kadur.
Back at Elaine’s place she is visited by another shifty-looking cove called Major Booth, played by Robert Frazer, who enquires as to how Elaine came by the letter from Armand accusing Tom of being a gun runner. She informs Booth the letter was given to her by Ali, her housekeeper.
Booth takes the letter and, out of sight of Elaine, pulls a gun on Ali, accusing him of attempting to betray El Shaitan, Booth having realised Ali had doctored the letter by removing a section to make it look as though Tom was indeed a bad’un, although why this should be a problem isn’t really made clear.
Hearing the kerfuffle, Elaine runs after Booth who she witnesses donning the robes of an Arab before riding off.
Back in the desert Tom and the boys follow a group of Arabs heading into a cave. Tom instantly surmises that this is where the Devil’s Circle meets. He and Renard sneak down into the cave whilst Clancy and Schmidt keep watch. At this point, Booth turns up followed closely by Elaine.
She gains entrance to the cave to seek out El Kadur, whom she mistakenly thinks is actually a good guy. Seconds after telling him that she’s sure there’s a spy in his camp the other Arabs spot Tom and Renard who run off in the opposite direction.
They run through a doorway that leads to the outside and then lock it in an attempt to thwart their pursuers whilst El Whoever – I’m beginning to lose sight of who the El is who here – tells his men there’s no need to knock the door down. On the outside Tom and Renard realise the ground is moving beneath them, taking both men towards the edge of a precipice…
Episode Three – The Master Spy
… but luckily Clancy and Schmidt come to the rescue and help Renard to climb up from the edge of the abyss into which he and Tom very nearly fell into.
However, before they can help Tom, the 3 musks are sighted by a number of El Shatain’s followers and are taken prisoner.
Tom meanwhile manages to pull himself out of danger and kicks open the door that he and Renard had used to exit the cave.
As he slips back into the cave he witnesses his three captured compatriots being brought in to face the wrath of El Kadur who tells them “when you set foot in the Devil’s Crater you signed your own death warrants”.
A shocked Elaine pleads with El Kadur not to harm the Legionnaires but the swine ignores her pleas and sentences them to death by firing squad.
Tom, seeing as Elaine is now alone in the cave, emerges from the dark and tells her that if she helps him save his pals he’ll give himself up and answer to the charge of having murdered her brother, Armand, even though he still insists he is innocent.
Outside the cave, the 3 musks are lined up to be shot when El Kadur hears Elaine calling out to him. Delaying the execution for a moment everyone rushes back down into the cave where Elaine tells them she’s just seen Tom running out via another exit.
He then helps overpower the two guards holding his pals at gunpoint after which they all make a run for it on some captured horses, freeing the rest of the steeds so that the other Arabs, summoned outside by the sound of one of the guards firing their weapon, cannot follow the escaped men.
Tom is as good as his word, telling his pals once they reach Elaine’s house that he is going to keep his promise and give himself up. When Elaine arrives moments later Tom asks who she is going to give him up to: the Foreign Legion or her friend El Shaitan?
Elaine is confused because she is under the impression she was talking with El Kadur. Tom suggests Kadur was actually El Shaitan in disguise. Tom can’t explain why Armand would have accused him of being a gun runner so he asks to see the mysterious letter and realises, just as Major Booth did, that it had been doctored.
Elaine suggests that maybe Booth has the missing section of the letter that might prove Tom’s innocence. Ali, who is secretly watching the proceedings from behind a curtain, runs off as Elaine calls out for him. She then tells Tom she thinks she knows where Booth is, Tom elated that Elaine now wants to help him prove he didn’t off her brother.
Elaine finds out Booth is not at home and tells Tom, who enters Booth’s residence. Booth suddenly turns up and catches Tom going through his gaff, pulling a gun on him just as the drums of El Shaitan start up again.
Tom lies to Booth about why he is in Booth’s apartment, telling him he saw someone sneak in and steal a letter. Booth immediately checks to see if the letter is still where he secreted it, giving the game away to Tom.
Both men then slug it out, Tom knocking Booth unconscious before retrieving the previously missing part of the letter that will prove Tom isn’t a murderer. Booth regains consciousness and then dons his Arab togs to go and answer the call of El Shaitan.
Whilst all of this has been going on Ali has been lurking in the background and overhears Elaine and Tom discussing the letter that clears Tom but now throws suspicion on El Shaitan. The two reunited lovers both agree to take the letter to Colonel Duval.
The Devil’s Circle convenes once more, El Shaitan telling his assembled cronies that their cause is in danger as Lieutenant Wayne has evidence against them that “must be suppressed at any cost”.
Booth then suddenly turns up and tells El Shaitan that Tom and Elaine have taken the letter to Duval. Everyone trots off to find them, eventually catching up to the couple in the desert. Tom tells Elaine they should split up, figuring he is the one El Shaitan wants to capture rather than her.
Their ruse doesn’t work, Elaine dropping the letter then falling from her horse. Tom is then waylaid, one of his pursuers unseating Tom from his steed then knocking him out.
Stick with us as we try and make sense of the next three episodes.
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Episode Four – Pirates of the Desert
The story so far:
The Three Musketeers are soldiers of the Foreign Legion. Their pal Tom Wayne is a fugitive from justice – falsely accused of having murdered his friend Armand Corday. Elaine Corday, sister of the murdered man, has helped Tom recover a letter, written by her brother, which fastens the guilt upon El Shaitan, the mysterious chief of the Devil’s Circle, who is plotting an Arab rebellion against the Foreign Legion. Meanwhile, at the Legion headquarters, Colonel Duval is listening to a strange story told by the Musketeers.
The rebels search Tom’s unconscious body for the letter, eventually finding it in the sand next to where Elaine has fallen from her horse. The rebels decide to leave Tom to the buzzards and then ride off with Elaine when a bunch of Legionnaires led by Colonel Duval turns up, giving their presence away by insisting they sing their soldiers song at the top of their voices at every opportunity.
Tom is magically awoken from his coma at the sound of their singing, although frankly, it could have gone either way. Strangely, no one seems to recognise Tom who is still dressed as a Legionnaire after his escape from the fort in episode two after having been arrested for gun running.
Tom and the soldiers then rush off to El Shaitan’s camp to rescue Elaine.
El Kadur rides out of the desert and into his camp just at the moment Duval and the Legionnaires turn up. Duval informs him that Kadur’s loyalty to France has been questioned on account of charges being made that he is actually El Shaitan.
Upon asking who has made the accusation, Duval summons forth the three musks and Tom. El Kadur then reveals to Duval that Tom is a gun runner and a murderer, prompting Duval to arrest Tom, who in turn accuses El Kadur of kidnapping Elaine. Renard steps forward and tells Duval he can prove Tom isn’t a gun runner but before he can state his case Tom accuses El Kadur again of being El Shaitan.
Kadur / Shaitan invites Duval into his tent for a private chinwag. Once inside the tent El Kadur berates Duval, who it is obvious is now in cahoots with the bad guys. Duval tells him he had no choice after the three musks had raised their suspicions about his own loyalty.
Outside the tent Tom is starting to get a little suspicious himself, insisting he should go and try and find Elaine.
El Kadur demands Duval get rid of Tom, Duval exiting the tent to inform everyone that El Kadur has explained the situation satisfactorily to him, and Tom is to be put under arrest. The musks leap into action, helping Tom to escape on horse, one of them then replacing him on the steed whilst Tom remains in the camp to find Elaine.
Whilst the Legionnaires are off on a wild goose chase Tom knocks out a rebel and dons his robes. Another rebel, El Maghreb, arrives and Tom overhears him informing El Kadur that Elaine has been taken to the fortress where the rebels have stored their guns. Still in disguise, Tom rides to the fort and tells an unsuspecting guard that El Shaitan wants Tom to interrogate Elaine.
Tom then clonks the rebel guarding Elaine after which the lovers are reunited. El Shaitan then turns up in his plane and informs his boys he hadn’t sent any messenger to interrogate the prisoner. Realising they’ve been discovered the couple try to escape, Elaine hiding behind a crate of weapons whilst Tom takes to the walls.
As Tom sneaks along the parapet he hears Elaine scream after being found by El Shaitan. He leaps to his feet, revealing himself to the rebels. A shot rings out and…
Episode Five – Rebel Rifles
… Tom falls to the ground dead. In the midst of all this El Kadur arrives at the fort, causing El Shaitan to make his excuses and leave. Elaine kneels down by Tom’s body but he suddenly sits up, informing her it’s just a flesh wound. Gee. What a guy. Elaine tells him El Kadur had come to their rescue which means he can’t be El Shaitan. Tom reckons he doesn’t know what to think. Join the club mate.
El Kadur informs Tom he doesn’t care what Tom thinks. As far as he is concerned, Tom is still a gun runner and a murderer. Tom tells Elaine to show El Kadur the letter written by her brother which proves his innocence but of course, she lost it back in the desert at the end of episode two, remember?
Tom ends up under arrest – again – with Elaine promising she’ll find the letter. Her first act once she gets back home is to accuse Ali of doctoring the document written by her deceased brother, which he denies, but she fires him anyway.
She then goes shopping for someone more trustworthy but, whilst waiting to see what’s on offer manservant-wise, she overhears a couple of right looking villains discussing the letter and El Shaitan’s plans. In a nutshell, it goes something like this:
“The arms will be distributed tonight. Tomorrow El Shaitan will drive out the French and make himself master of the ‘something something something’”, but whatever it is Mr. Shaitan is planning it won’t be an act of charity, that’s for sure.
Elaine runs out of the manservant shop at which point El Shaitan magically appears and tells the idiots shouting his plans all over the casbah that she was spying on them and she needs to be stopped pronto, or سرعة as they say in that part of the world.
The drums of El Shaitan ring out once more encouraging the locals to join in the chase after Elaine. She finds herself surrounded by a bunch of “brown devils” – not my phrase, but that of the 3 musks who yet again can be found strolling down the main thoroughfare singing their increasingly annoying 3 musks song.
They rescue Elaine by knocking everyone out, one of the still conscious villains screaming “death to the unbelievers” which is met with the statement “maybe you’ll believe this one” as a musk smacks him in the chops. I know. It’s not exactly Indiana Jones offing the swordsman with his gun in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but still faintly amusing.
Evading capture by climbing up into the roof as the bad guys mill below, Elaine and the boys report to Colonel Duval, relaying the details to him of El Shaitan’s latest plans. He sends Elaine home with an escort then unfairly punishes the boys for fighting again.
Schmidt gets guard duty, telling Tom, who is now a prisoner in the Legion fort, that Duval punished all three of them despite having they having saved Elaine from the mob. Not only that but Duval did not send any of his men to retrieve the guns Elaine told him about. Tom is now absolutely convinced the colonel is in league with El Shaitan and needs to get out of his cell.
They cook up a plan in which Tom feigns illness, the doctor is called to his cell, Schmidt passes the thermometer out of the window after distracting the doctor, Renard dips the thermometer in a bucket of hot water resulting in the doctor sending Tom to the hospital because he’s got a temperature of a hundred-and-four.
Tom then jumps out of his stretcher, leaps over the walls of the fort in a single bound and goes in search of the weapons that Elaine had informed the 3 musks about. Colonel Duval orders his men to go and find Tom before he then dons an Arab disguise.
El Shaitan (or maybe it’s Duval in disguise) arrives to check everything out, he and a crony hiding whilst Tom appears and punches out a guard, intent on stabbing him in the back. Tom enters the room where the weapons are stashed and as he checks out one of the rifles on display Duval, now back in uniform, appears and points a gun at him.
“The next time you see rifles you’ll be looking down the barrels of a firing squad”, he tells Tom who exclaims in return “So. You are El Shaitan”. He rushes towards his would-be killer, but Duval makes his move first, shooting Tom in cold blood…
Episode Six – Death’s Marathon
… but the bullet from Duval’s gun hits the stock of the rifle Tom is holding. He feigns death then smacks Duval in the chops as he leans over Tom’s body. The soldiers under Duval’s command rush to the room after hearing the shot and arrest Tom who is lead out into the street.
At that same moment, two more soldiers apprehend an Arab leaving the building from another door and arrest him as well. Upon being presented to Duval, his disguise is removed to reveal Mayor Booth, who it turns out is a secret agent.
He tells Duval he has orders from the American embassy to take Tom to Paris where he will stand trial for the charges against him. Duval argues Tom is wanted by the Foreign Legion for the murder of Armand Corday and, if he doesn’t face the firing squad, then Booth can take him to Paris instead.
Elaine is called to testify at Tom’s rather hurriedly convened trial but although she tells the court he is innocent of murdering her brother she is unable to produce the letter she claims will clear Tom. Duval then announces that Tom has been found guilty of murder and will be executed by firing squad in twenty-four hour’s time.
The 3 musks reassure Elaine they’ll do all they can to help Tom but Elaine says the only person who can help is El Kadur. She rides off into the desert, Tom‘s friends following her on account they don’t trust Kadur any more than they do Duval.
Elaine arrives at Kadur’s camp and tells him about Tom’s imminent execution, begging Kadur to get the letter back from El Maghreb, the man she is sure orchestrated her kidnap back in episode four. El Kadur then instantly hands the letter over to Elaine, telling her he was holding it for purposes of his own.
Unknown to them their conversation is being overheard by one of the many Arabs in the serial who appear to do nothing all day but hang about outside someone’s tent in order that they might hear something of import worth relaying to the bad guys.
A few moments after Elaine rides off with the letter, El Maghreb arrives and tells Kadur he admitted to El Shaitan that he retrieved the letter from Elaine and then destroyed it. If El Shaitan finds out the letter is still in existence then it’s curtains for Maghreb.
Kadur admits he’s just handed the letter back to Elaine so once again she ends up being pursued by Maghreb. The 3 musks then turn up just in time to catch sight of El Maghreb riding after Elaine. They unhorse her pursuers, Elaine telling them that although she has the letter she doesn’t trust Duval.
She decides to seek out Duval’s commanding general instead, the 3 musks pointing out it would take at least twenty-four hours to reach the guy on horse, by which time Tom will be pushing up daisies. “I’m not going to ride” Elaine replies mysteriously.
Elaine and her 3 friends are next seen at the local airport, the boys faking a fight to distract the soldiers on guard whilst Elaine jumps into a waiting plane that, by happy coincidence, is not only owned by Colonel Duval but is also fired up and ready to go.
Elaine takes to the skies and shortly finds herself in front of Duval’s superior who announces that the letter she has produced means Tom is justified in being given a new trial, the general providing the condemned man a reprieve in the process. The general wishes Elaine a safe and speedy journey but we know that’s not going to happen on account of a swinish local who starts faffing around with her plane.
Back at the fort, the 3 musks are ordered to fall in and join the firing squad for Tom’s imminent execution. Meanwhile, Elaine has to perform an emergency landing in the desert due to the plane having been sabotaged. She lands safely then starts walking through the desert to get to Tom with his reprieve.
Back at the fort, Duval gives of his best evil smile as Tom is escorted by the firing squad to the place of execution. Elaine turns up just in the nick of time, waving Tom’s reprieve and telling the soldiers to stop the execution. A volley of shots ring out followed by a loud scream as Elaine staggers between Tom and executioners and gets caught in the crossfire.
It’s getting quite exciting, isn’t it?
Episodes Seven – Naked Steel
The story so far:
The Three Musketeers are soldiers of the Foreign Legion. Their pal Tom, falsely accused of having murdered a Legion officer, has been sentenced to be shot. The real murderer is El Shaitan, the mysterious chief of the Devil’s Circle, who is plotting an Arab rebellion against the Legion. The Musketeers suspect that their commander, Colonel Duval, is El Shaitan, but lacking proof they are forced to join the firing squad that is to execute Wayne. Meanwhile, Elaine Corday, Tom’s sweetheart, has obtained a stay of execution but her airplane has crashed in the desert. A last minute appeal to Colonel Duval is also being made by Major Booth, of the American Embassy in Paris.
It turns out there was no real crossfire for Elaine to succumb to when she arrived to save Tom just in the nick of time, seeing as a couple of the 3 musks replaced the live ammunition used by the firing squad with blanks.
Duval orders the squad to have another go at riddling Tom full of holes, this time with real bullets, but he is reluctantly forced to obey the reprieve Elaine has given him from his commanding officer, General Foray, ordering Tom to be taken back to his cell instead.
Naturally, all of this is being watched from the shadows by the Arab spy El Maghreb who immediately rides off on his horse – why are there no camels in this film? – and arrives back in town just as the drums beat out once more for the believers to attend the latest Devil’s Circle meeting.
He then rides to El Kadur’s camp and informs him of Tom’s reprieve. Maghreb confides to Kadur his fears that El Shaitan has worked out that the letter he stole from Elaine that ended up with Kadur who then handed it back to her in order to help her get Tom off the hook, means death for him.
Kadur advises him to strike first by getting to the meeting back in town and try and kill El Shaitan first. He arrives too late for the meeting, unaware that El Shaitan has Maghreb marked for death as a traitor.
El Kadur pays Colonel Duval a visit, telling him he must keep an eye on the 3 musks as “they are a serious menace to our cause”.
We are then treated to a four-minute superfluous flashback from episode three when Clancy, Renard and Schmidt, who are about to be executed by Kadur’s men, are rescued in the nick of time by Tom. Back in the present, Duval promises Kadur the three men will be arrested by the military police to ensure they won’t interfere with their plans again.
Elaine rides into town with the 3 musks, going off alone back to the manservant shop where she tells the owner that one of his servants is probably an agent of El Shaitan.
I have to admit things started to get a bit confusing at this point but the upshot is that Elaine rightly suspects El Shaitan’s eyes and ears are everywhere and that their best bet now is to try and find El Maghreb.
Spotting Maghreb riding out of the casbah they all take off in pursuit but Elaine and the boys are separated when the military police ride in and arrest the 3 musks as ordered by Duval.
Realising she is now on her own Elaine continues to ride after Maghreb. A couple of assassins appear from the shadows to kill him as decreed by El Shaitan. Maghreb ducks as a huge knife heads his way, the weapon catching Elaine instead. She falls screaming from her horse…
Episode Eight – The Master Strikes
… which isn’t surprising seeing as it really is a very big knife indeed. Meanwhile, in one of those scenes that really should have featured at the end of the previous episode and now mysteriously crops up in the recap at the beginning of episode eight instead, the 3 musks persuade the military police that Elaine really is in grave danger so they all ride off after her.
Luckily Elaine has only sustained a flesh wound to the shoulder, but El Maghreb doesn’t get off so easily. El Shaitan appears as if from nowhere – yet again – and shoots Maghreb stone dead, uttering “So perish all enemies of El Shaitan” which is rather needless seeing as there’s no one in the direct vicinity to actually hear him, making the statement more about his ego than anything else.
Back at the fort Duval sentences the 3 musks to indefinite guard duty, the boys now not only convinced that the colonel is in league with El Shaitan but that he might actually be the man himself. Meanwhile, El Shaitan calls yet another in a long line of meetings to announce that the guns and ammunition captured by Duval are now sequestered at the Legion barracks and will be stolen back in turn that very evening.
Shaitan also announces he’ll take the opportunity to rid himself of Tom Wayne at the same time.
The Arabs then attack the barracks, the 3 musks foiling an attempt on Tom’s life, although the weapons are successfully liberated by the bad guys all the same.
Tom is released and goes to Duval’s office to see if he can discover any evidence that shows the colonel is in cahoots with El Shaitan. Hearing Duval coming back and he hides, watching as the colonel dons an Arab disguise before disappearing into the night.
Tom follows him and eventually finds himself in the building where El Shaitan is still presumably overseeing the meeting from earlier. Tom is discovered peeping through the curtains and takes off, the killers hot on his heels.
He hides in the manservant shop and is advised by the proprietor, who has previously been warned off by Duval not to believe the rumours about El Shaitan or else, that the best place to hide it is at Elaine’s place.
Tom turns up at Elaine’s in disguise as an Arab manservant, telling her he has positive proof that Duval is El Shaitan. At that very moment Duval knocks on the door accompanied by a bunch of Legion soldiers and tells Elaine he suspects Tom Wayne is hiding in her house.
Tom eludes capture by the old trick of hiding behind the door in Armand’s old room and, after a fruitless search, Duval positions his soldiers outside the house in case Tom turns up. Elaine suggests to Tom that she flies off once more to see Duval’s commanding officer, General Foray, and try and persuade him of the colonel’s suspected dealings with El Shaitan.
She creeps out of the house but is captured by Shaitan’s men. Tom, hearing her cry for help, runs from the house and jumps on to El Shaitan’s horse, holding a gun to his head and telling everyone he’ll pull the trigger if they don’t let Elaine go free. The horse rears up and …
Episode Nine – The Fatal Cave
… unseats both Tom and El Shaitan on to the ground, which has to be one of the weakest cliff-hangers I’ve ever seen.
Tom then unmasks El Shaitan only to find himself face-to-face with Major Booth. The major denies that he is El Shaitan, claiming he masqueraded as him in order to outwit Duval and take Tom back to Paris to stand trial for gun running.
Despite Tom’s denial of guilt and Elaine’s claim that he is innocent, Booth will not be swayed. Elaine scoots off before she can be detained any further, intending to relay all she has learned to General Foray in the hope he will come to Tom’s rescue.
El Kadur pitches up at the fort to see Colonel Duval just seconds after two of the 3 musks – I can’t tell which one was which because the YouTube print is a bit foggy – conceal themselves in the colonel’s office after trying to find evidence of his cahooting with El Shaitan.
They overhear Kadur telling Duval that the guns and ammunition are safe at the Devil’s Crater. The spare musk fires his gun to distract Duval and Kadur when he realises his two comrades are about to be discovered.
All three then meet up, now convinced El Kadur is Shaitan and Duval his faithful lieutenant. A wounded soldier then staggers into the fort and, accompanied by one of the 3 musks, informs Duval that he and his comrades were attacked by Major Booth who has fled with Tom Wayne in his custody.
Duval decides to send his troops after Booth and cut him off before Booth reaches the border.
Tom manages to untie his bound hands and leaps from his horse to disappear amongst the surrounding rocks. He knocks out one of his captors and steals their horse. As he tries to ride away he is immediately thrown from his stead as Booth’s soldiers shoot at him.
Tom tumbles down a rocky slope then feigns unconsciousness as his would-be killers ride off to follow a trail up the hill to get hold of him.
Tom seizes his chance to escape only to find Booth has him in his sights. The major keeps him pinned down but the 3 musks arrive and shoot at Booth who scarpers real quick. They then dissuade Booth’s men from attempting to recapture Tom by the old tried and true method of shooting a couple of them to death. Works every time.
The boys reunite, the 3 musks telling Tom they know Kadur and Duval have hidden the guns and ammunition at the Devil’s Crater.
Tom suggests that if they capture the weapons they’ll have enough evidence once Elaine gets back with Colonel Foray to prove Kadur and Duval are very bad people indeed.
Tom and the musks ride off to the Devil’s Crater once more, Tom and one of the boys sneaking in the back way as they did before back in episode three.
Tom is instantly spotted by Shaitan’s followers and chased out of the cave but the musk who accompanied him has hidden in the shadows so shuts the door from the inside. Tom and the other two assault the cave from the front, shooting two pesky Arabs in the process.
The shots alert a passing troop of Legionnaires who rush towards the cave. Tom and the musks decide to dynamite the entrance to the cave so that El Shaitan and his followers cannot get at the weapons but, as they light the fuse, the Legionnaires appear and fire on him and the 3 musks, who are now considered deserters.
Tom tells the boys they need to get back to the fuse, put it out then leave through the back door, all four of them reaching the entrance just as the dynamite is about to explode.
I don’t know about you but I think I need a rest after all of that.
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Episode Ten – Trapped
The story so far:
The Three Musketeers are soldiers of the Foreign Legion. With their pal, Tom Wayne, a fugitive from justice, they are out to capture a large shipment of arms intended for use in an Arab uprising. Unknown to them, Major Booth of the U.S. Secret Service, from whom the Musketeers helped Tom to escape, is still on his tail. Standing guard over the arms, in a cave of the Devil’s Crater, is El Kadur, an Arab chief, whom Tom and the Musketeers suspect as El Shaitan, the mysterious head of the rebel plot.
Tom and the 3 musks make it into the cave in one piece, only for El Kadur to get to the dynamite first and throw it out of the cave just before it explodes. They take El Kadur into custody, Tom suggesting his companions clear themselves of the charge of desertion by showing the Legionnaires who tracked them to the cave that they had found the weapons and apprehended Kadur in the bargain.
This they do, also telling their fellow soldiers that Tom died in the explosion, giving their friend the opportunity to work undercover so that he can track down and capture El Shaitan unimpeded.
Major Booth turns up just as Tom exits the cave and rearrests him. Tom is too quick for him though, and manages to escape on horseback. Booth gives chase and falls from his horse, breaking his leg in the process.
Tom does the honourable thing and goes to help but Booth takes his pistol gun and holds Tom at gunpoint. Tom proceeds to try and convince Booth of his innocence as he starts to recount the events of the preceding episodes, providing an excuse for yet another prolonged flashback sequence.
Booth believes Tom is telling the truth and gives him back his pistol, Tom promising he will hand himself in once he’s caught El Shaitan. He then takes Booth to hospital. Tom’s a nice guy.
The Legionnaires hand El Kadur over to Colonel Duval who insists on interrogating the prisoner on his own. The colonel tells his secret accomplice he can’t let him go otherwise it will throw suspicion on himself. Kadur then informs him that not only is Tom still alive but he’s on his way to capture El Shaitan. Duval immediately retrieves his Arab costume and leaves the fort.
Cut to another interminable Devil’s Circle meeting where El Shaitan tells his followers “Wayne is still alive!”. He orders the house servant Ali to return to Elaine’s house and lie in wait for Tom who arrives and dons the Arab disguise he wore in episode eight.
Ali witnesses Tom leaving Elaine’s house, pulls his gun to shoot him, then thinks better of it. Tom hits town and goes to Booth’s apartment, the major having given him the key earlier on. Tom discovers a peephole into the manservant shop and witnesses the owner, Ratkin, being assaulted by Colonel Duval, in disguise as El Shaitan. Tom rushes to help the stricken man but as he leaves Booth’s place he runs into Ali, who strikes at Tom with a large knife…
Episode Eleven – The Measure of a Man
… but Tom, despite having been shown falling to the ground at the end of the previous episode as if stabbed, manages to get the best of Ali. He then runs into the manservant shop, witnessed by Elaine who happens to be riding past at that very moment with General Foray’s aide, Colonel DeMoine, and apprehends Duval at gunpoint.
Duval tries to bluster his way out of trouble but DeMoine is determined to interrogate him back at the fort. Just at that moment El Kadur floats by and tells everyone he is prepared to vouch for Duval’s innocence. Duval is just about to tell all gathered he knows who El Shaitan really is when a shot rings out and he falls wounded to the floor.
Noting that the shot came from the direction of the peephole from Booth’s apartment, Tom runs out of the shop and catches sight of Ali riding away. He follows on horseback, unaware that two of Shaitan’s boys are now on his tail as well.
One of them shoots at Tom who falls from his horse, but he’s only playing possum, knocking both of them over a sand dune then resuming the chase to catch up with Ali. He then pulls Ali from his horse and demands to know why he shot Duval.
Ali denies having done the dirty deed, telling Tom at the same time he has no idea who El Shaitan actually is. He does, however, give up the password for entry to the Devil’s Circle meetings. Tom’s not sure if Ali is telling the truth so decides to lock tie him up and lock him in Elaine’s house.
The 3 musks arrive at Elaine’s gaff just as Tom is tying Ali up. They tell him that DeMoine left the manservant shop temporarily and when he returned Elaine had disappeared, Duval was dead and Kadur nowhere to be found.
Tom surmises Kadur is responsible for Elaine’s disappearance, he and the musks realising she’s probably being held captive at Kadur’s camp. Tom enters the camp first whilst the others sneak in round the back.
They are soon discovered and set upon by Kadur’s men whilst Tom stumbles upon Elaine being held in Kadur’s tent. She’s unable to remember who brought her to the camp as she was unconscious at the time, Tom, Elaine and the boys deciding retreat is the better part of valour and skedaddling as quickly as they can.
They arrive back in town to be greeted by the sound of El Shaitan’s drums summoning the faithful to another Devil’s Circle meeting. Tom suggests he attends the meeting and sends Elaine and the musks back to the barracks to go get Colonel DeMoine but Elaine tells him it’s best if the boys stay with him whilst she goes to fetch DeMoine. Meanwhile, back at the house, Ali finally manages to free himself from his bonds.
He then rides into town where he is spotted by the 3 musks who decide he’s back to warn El Shaitan of Tom’s whereabouts. They chase after Ali but lose him almost straight away, figuring he has disappeared behind the façade of a fireplace in the room they had followed him to.
Still in disguise, Tom manages to gain entry to the meeting. El Shaitan informs the members of the meeting that he has discovered El Kadur is the head of a league organised against him and therefore “must be removed”.
At that point Tom pulls out a gun and the lights go off. The 3 musks hear the gunfire and try harder to unlock what looks like a secret entrance to the Devil’s Circle. A shout of “Death to the unbeliever” is heard followed by a number of gunshots…
Episode Twelve – The Glory of Comrades
… but as it turns out the secret entrance the 3 musks eventually break down leads out into the street, which is a bit of a non-starter for all concerned.
Meanwhile, Ali, from whom Tom stole his Arab disguise, runs into the Devil’s Circle meeting and points him out to the others, and it’s only after that someone shouts out ‘Death to the unbeliever’, which means the footage shown at the beginning of this episode was missing from the end of the previous episode – again.
Decent film editors must have been in short supply back in 1933.
The 3 musks eventually find the Devil’s Circle meeting place and arrive in the nick of time, foiling El Shaitan as he is about to plug Tom. Elaine, Colonel DeMoine and a bunch of Legionnaires along with El Kadur then arrive, Kadur running off in the other direction as everyone else joins the fray.
Tom tells Elaine that El Shaitan has escaped but everyone else had been captured. Tom, Elaine and Colonel DeMoine leave the Devil’s Circle by another entrance with Ali in tow and find themselves in the manservant shop, chancing upon El Kadur in deep conversation with Ratkin, the proprietor.
At this point Ali confesses that it was El Shaitan who shot Elaine’s brother Armand, proving that Tom was innocent of Armand’s murder all along.
Ratkin suggests that the Devil’s Circle has now been broken but Tom isn’t so sure. He then takes everyone back to an incident as featured in episode seven when Tom overhears El Maghreb confronting El Kadur about having placed him in great danger after handing back to Elaine the letter Maghreb had stolen from her which proved Tom hadn’t killed her brother.
The point of the flashback establishes that Tom was convinced at the time that El Shaitan was left-handed. Not only that but Shaitan was also wounded slightly in the left arm as shown in the flashback. Tom then turns to Ratkin and squeezes his left arm, but Ratkin pushes him away and escapes through a trapdoor under a table that drops into the floor below.
Tom gives chase, sustaining a gunshot wound as he tussles with the villainous shop owner. Ratkin gets the drop on Tom and is about to shoot when the 3 musks appear, all them lined up in the form of a firing squad, and execute the man who was secretly El Shaitan.
The 3 musks are promoted to sergeants and Tom and Elaine fly off to get married.
The serial started out quite promisingly but by the end I kind of lost interest as to who the villain might be. According to differing sources El Shaitan, when in disguise, was either played by Charles ‘Ming the Merciless’ Middleton or Yakima Canutt. Canutt had quite a distinctive voice so my money is on Ming.
I found the opening music quite jaunty, although I had trouble working out the lyrics. The same goes for the song the 3 musks sang whenever they were in a singing mood, which happened in practically every episode.
Having spent the last six months or so in the company of the three Mascot serials starring John Wayne, I think, I can honestly say I’m glad he didn’t make any more. If I had to rate them in terms of pure entertainment then I’d say the best of the bunch was the second serial, “The Hurricane Express”. “The Three Musketeers” just about pips “Shadow of the Eagle” to second post, but if you’re of a mind to then maybe check them out for yourselves. I can think of worst ways to spend your time during these days of pandemics and lockdowns.