Serials were low budget, short subject films usually broken up into fifteen chapters or episodes, each lasting about twenty minutes. They were notorious for their use of cliffhangers and unresolved plots. This device helped to create a loyal following, specifically among children. Serials were often melodramas and were presented in installments. Under the contract system, actors were obligated to perform solely for the studios to which they were contracted. In addition, studio employees, from the actors down to writers, were paid whether or not they worked. As such, it behooved studios to churn out as many serials as they could produce, since their staff was paid a flat rate. Serials were also cheap to produce as studios used stock footage and existing sets from other films.
The popularity of movie serials declined in the 1950s as labor unions gained leverage and demanded higher salaries for work performed. The final nail in the coffin for the serial came in the 1950s when television viewers could see their favorite serials for free.
This was the eighth chapter in a series of 15 episodes released by Columbia Pictures. Plagued by a gang of outlaws, Geronimo, played by Native American actor Chief Yowlachie (1891–1966), defends himself against American encroachment. Clayton Moore (1914–1999), who was best known for his role as the Lone Ranger in the television series version (1949–1957), is cast as Jim Scott, who attempted to bring peace between the Indians and the white settlers. Rodd Redwing (1904–1971) plays Porico, the son of Geronimo.
Linda Sterling (1921–1997), a former fashion model, was one the sound serial’s most popular heroines. She debuted in the role of the Tiger Woman with Allan Lane (1909–1973) as her supporting actor. The serial was re-released in 1951 under the title Perils of the Darkest Jungle. The plot centers on the efforts of local speculators who secretly scheme to lay claim to oil reserves somewhere in South America by running the natives off the land and sabotaging current drilling operations by a rival company. Ruling the tribe is the mysterious white Tiger Woman. The saboteurs try to undermine her authority by attempting to reveal her true identity as a millionaire heiress who survived a plane crash over the jungle when she was a child.
King of the Forest Rangers was one of the most gripping cliffhangers of its day. Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet (1893–1987), known as the “King of Serials,” this serial consisted of twelve episodes or chapters, most of which were a little over thirteen minutes. The Flaming Pit was the eleventh of twelve episodes produced by Republic Pictures, an independent film production and distribution company that was best known for its action-packed serials and B movies. This serial was eventually adapted for television in the early 1950s.