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The Secret of Treasure Island

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Director  Elmer Clifton
Prequel  The Mysterious Pilot
Country  United States
4.6/10 IMDb

Genre  Action, Adventure, Crime
Story by  L. Ron Hubbard
Language  English
The Secret of Treasure Island movie poster

Writer  Elmer Clifton, L. Ron Hubbard, George M. Merrick, George Rosener
Release date  March 2, 1938 (1938-03-02)
Sequel  The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok
Cast  Don Terry (Larry Kent), Gwen Gaze (Toni Morrell), Walter Miller (Carter 'The Shark' Collins), George Rosener (Capt. Samuel Cuttle), Grant Withers (Roderick Gridley)
Similar movies  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, National Treasure, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Volcano action sequence from the secret of treasure island

The Secret of Treasure Island is a 1938 Columbia movie serial based on Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. The serial is broken into fifteen chapters. Reporter Larry Kent travels to an island in the Caribbean to investigate the disappearance of his colleague, and discovers that the island contains a lost treasure trove of gold. Kent meets Toni Morrell, the daughter of a shipmate whose partner knew the location of the treasure, who helps him in his investigation and they search for the treasure together. During their investigation they are opposed by a villain named Collins and Dr. X., who attempts to kill Kent. Kent defeats Dr. X. in the final installment of the serial.


The story was written by L. Ron Hubbard, at the time a writer of pulp fiction who went on to found the Scientology religion. Associate producer Louis Weiss hired Elmer Clifton to direct, and Yakima Canutt worked on the action sequences. The serial was well received by fans, and William C. Cline wrote positively of the action sequences in his book In the Nick of Time: Motion Picture Sound Serials. The serial received a one and a half star rating from Allmovie.


The serial is set on a remote island in the Caribbean, where reporter Larry Kent (Don Terry) and his enemies search for a lost treasure trove of gold. Kent arrives on the island in search of another reporter who had gone missing. Kent discovers that valuable lost treasure is buried on the island, and finds half of a map which holds a clue to its location. Toni Morrell (Gwen Gaze), the daughter of a shipmate whose murdered partner knew where the treasure was buried, agrees to help Kent investigate his friend's disappearance and locate the treasure. Morrell and Kent are opposed by a villain named Collins (Walter Miller) who uses his henchmen and supply of weapons and land mines in an attempt to stop them. Kent's enemy in the film is Dr. X. (Hobart Bosworth) who wears a skull mask and pirate clothing, and is in the process of developing a powerful explosive. Due to the actions of Dr. X., Kent is nearly buried alive, killed with dynamite and slashed in a sword battle. He defeats Dr. X. in the last installment of the serial titled "Justice".


  • Don Terry as Larry Kent, a reporter investigating the disappearance of a colleague in the area
  • Gwen Gaze as Toni Morrell
  • Walter Miller as Carter 'The Shark' Collins, owner of the island
  • Grant Withers as Roderick Gridley
  • George Rosener as Capt. Samuel Cuttle
  • Hobart Bosworth as Dr X.
  • Sandra Karina as Nurse Zanya
  • Patrick J. Kelly as Professor Gault
  • Yakima Canutt as Dreer, Leader of the Mole Men, Collins' slave diggers
  • William Farnum as George Brennan Westmore
  • Production

    Columbia announced plans to produce the serial in a June 29, 1937 press release describing their 1937-38 program. It was the third serial by Columbia, and the first of five costume chapter-plays. According to Columbia, the story was updated from Treasure Island, and adapted to fit the time period; L. Ron Hubbard asserted instead that he had adapted the screenplay from his novel Murder at Pirate Castle. An advertisement in the Motion Picture Herald described Hubbard as a "famous action writer, stunt pilot and world adventurer", and stated that he had written an "excitement-jammed yarn with one of the best box office titles in years". After his work on The Secret of Treasure Island, L. Ron Hubbard also helped with the script for the 1941 Columbia movie serial, The Spider Returns.

    Producer Jack Fier brought in Louis Weiss as associate producer, and hired Elmer Clifton to direct. Yakima Canutt worked on the action sequences in this serial and in The Mysterious Pilot, which William C. Cline, author of In the Nick of Time: Motion Picture Sound Serials referred to as "outstanding" work. Earl Bun and Ken Peach handled special effects for the serial, including work on the appearance of the mysterious pirate villain.


    The serial was well received by fans, and helped to solidify Columbia's presence in movie serials. Hal Erickson of Allmovie gave the serial a rating of one and a half stars. In his book In the Nick of Time: Motion Picture Sound Serials, William C. Cline described the action in the serial as "well paced and lively". Alan G. Barbour's book Days of Thrills and Adventure: History of the American motion picture serial from 1930-50 called The Secret of Treasure Island "one of Columbia's few good serials", and described actor Don Terry's performance as "excellent".

    The serial was highlighted as part of "Serial Fest 2002" in Pennsylvania, which also included serials Batman and Robin, Mysterious Doctor Satan and The Adventures of Rex and Rinty. The serial was shown along with the 1922 Down to the Sea in Ships at the 2006 Memphis Film Festival, and in an article about the festival John Beifuss of The Commercial Appeal called the two serials "Elmer Clifton classics".

    Chapter titles


    1. The Isle of Fear
    2. The Ghost Talks
    3. The Phantom Duel
    4. Buried Alive
    5. The Girl Who Vanished
    6. Trapped by the Flood
    7. The Cannon Roars
    8. The Circle of Death
    9. The Pirate's Revenge
    10. The Crash
    11. Dynamite
    12. The Bridge of Doom
    13. The Mad Flight
    14. The Jaws of Destruction
    15. Justice


    The Secret of Treasure Island Wikipedia
    The Secret of Treasure Island IMDb The Secret of Treasure Island