Larry Baker (John Wayne) works for an air transport company as a pilot. His father Jim Baker (J. Farrell MacDonald) is an engineer on the “Hurricane Express”. According to Baker it is the fastest train in the U.S. When an accident caused by a villain known as the Wrecker kills Jim, Larry vows to bring the murderer to justice. The wreck was blamed on an employee named Tom Jordan (Matthew Betz). Jordon was fired despite his claim that he was innocent and that The Wrecker knocked him out and caused the crash.

The manager, Howard Edwards (Tully Marshall), of the L & R Railroad tells the railroad attorney, Stevens (Conway Tearle), that he believes the Wrecker is Frank Stratton (Edmund Breese). He is an escaped convict who was in prison for robbing the railroad. Stratton had been wrongly convicted but Edwards and the railroad company detectives Matthews (Joseph W. Girard) and Hemmingway (James T. Burtis) still believe The Wrecker is Stratton. Stratton has been trying to prove his innocence. He believes Edwards has documentation that will prove it. Stratton’s daughter Gloria (Shirley Grey) has been working for Edwards as his secretary. She is using the last name Martin so she can keep tabs on what is going on in the office without revealing that she is related to Stratton.

Another potential suspect is Walter Gray (Lloyd Whitlock) the manager of the airlines that Larry works for. Since the railroad has been having accidents business for the airline has picked up. Many think that Gray is trying to steal business from the railroad by orchestrating the problems. Another in the mix is Carlson (Al Bridge), one of the station agents who has been acting strangely lately. According to Jordan, Carlson lied to railroad which resulted in Jordan’s firing.

When a gold shipment is sent on the Hurricane Express the Wrecker, and his minions, plan on stealing it. Stratton beats them to it and hides the gold hoping to use it as leverage to get the papers that will prove his innocence. Now he’s got not only the police after him but the railroad and the Wrecker along with the Wrecker’s henchmen. Gloria gets involved trying to help her father and Larry’s involved because he wants to find the man who killed his father not to mention the fact that he’s in love with Gloria.

“The Hurricane Express” was released in 1932 and was directed by Armand Schaeffer and J. P. McGowan. It is a twelve chapter American pre-code adventure mystery serial produced by the poverty row studio Mascot Pictures.

The serial may be a little difficult to watch depending on your source. It’s quite old and there has been no restoration on it. The film on youtube is really fuzzy and the sound a little muffled. The Archive has a clearer version but they are broken down by individual videos for each chapter instead of all in one video. There are some quality DVDs out there for the John Wayne fans. Glenn Strange, best known for playing the monster in some of the Frankenstein movies, plays one of the henchmen.

Part of the cleverness to it was the villain. Most of the time he’s in a mask pretending he is one of the other characters. At times you don’t know if the person on screen is the Wrecker or a regular character. His identity is hidden but he’s still in the scene and not behind a shadow or a hood like in most serials. Since the characters themselves play the Wrecker it’s easy to hide his true identity until the end. I haven’t seen that kind of twist since “Mission Impossible” the television show.

This was an interesting serial. I’ve heard a lot of bad stuff about the shortened movie so I recommend the full serial. There also were some fun miniatures and cliff hangers. There’s lots of action, good acting and it manages to have a basic story you can follow that doesn’t get boring. Also, if you like trains or planes you’ll get to see some.

John Wayne did three serials for Mascot. Besides “Hurricane Express” he did “Shadow of the Eagle” 1932 and “The Three Musketeers” 1933. In “The Hurricane Express”, Wayne does most of his own stunt work.

CHAPTER TITLES: 1. The Wrecker; 2. Flying Pirates; 3. The Masked Menace; 4. Buried Alive; 5. Danger Lights; 6. The Airport Mystery; 7. Sealed Lips; 8. Outside the Law; 9. The Invincible Army; 10. The Wrecker's Secret; 11. Wings of Death; 12. Unmasked.