Plot: Frank and Joe get jobs as assistant animal handlers on the set of a movie about “Jumper” Herman, but when the star is harassed and dangerous sabotage is occurs, the Hardys investigate.
“Borrowing” from the past: Frank and Joe serve as assistants to animal trainers who work with a bear and a puma. In original Clue of the Broken Blade, they worked with the carnival, with Frank feeding elephants and Joe working the snake tent. In The Clue of the Screeching Owl, they were fascinated by Col. Bill Thunder, who was a puma trainer. Joe acts as a stuntman in the movie in the revised Broken Blade. Chet had a job as an extra in Mystery of the Desert Giant.
Joe has a confrontation with a puma, during which he manages to slowly retreat to safety while someone else hits it with a drugged dart. There was a time when Joe would have taken the puma out himself; in Hunting for Hidden Gold, the brothers shot wolves, and Joe himself kills a tiger with a rock in The Disappearing Floor. Hardcore.
Nice work if you can get it: Weirdly, Frank and Joe don’t have an explanation for why they get the prime job of working as assistant animal handlers for a motion picture. No one mentions how Fenton saved their employers’ lives or got back their Aztec treasure; there’s no mystery to be solved (at least at the beginning). They’re just “friends of the Hardys.” (Maybe they’re “friends” from back when Gertrude was popular.) Some guys have all the luck, although given the huge amount of coincidences with the Hardys, it shouldn’t be surprising that they are the lucky ones.
Based on a true story: The movie the Hardys are working on, Dropped into Danger, is based on the fictional “Jumper” Herman. From the details in the story — Herman steals an archaelogical treasure in Canada, then flies across the border into America where his plane crashes and he and his treasure are lost for years — Herman calls to mind the infamous D.B. Cooper, who hijacked a plane out of the Pacific Northwest, threatening to blow it up unless he got a ransom and enough parachutes for him and the flight crew (the other passengers were allowed to leave). He parachuted from the passenger jet somewhere near the Columbia River and was never seen again, assumed dead.
With a name like that, she has to be a villain: Ghost of a Chance features a professor of folklore named “Sassy Leigh,” who is behind most of the chaos in the book. I’m sure the name was meant to evoke “Southern” in the readers’ minds, but … Sassy? Really? I mean, it’s an awful name — a sure sign of villainy — but it’s no Pierre Pierre or Slicer Bork. It’s not even Cadmus Quill, another academic type villain.
She has to be a villain, though, because she’s an awful folklorist. She claims an open mind is the hallmark of a “great” folklorist, because God knows, literal truth is what you’re supposed to be getting from these stories, rather than what the folk tales say about the society that tells them.
Other name-related follies: Of course, Jumper Herman is alive, and because he’s in a Hardy Boys book, it’s revealed he’s been living under an alias that is an anagram of his real name. Somehow — despite their experiences with the great Pedro “Zemog” (Gomez spelled backward) in The Jungle Pyramid — the Hardys don’t routinely run anagram checks on new acquaintances. Sure, that would be paranoid, but it would save so much time.
Why couldn’t Chet’s new hobby be cryptozoology?: There’s a Bigfoot in this story. I know: they hedge their bets, dance around it, but it’s there … and it, like everyone else, takes its turn beating up our favorite teen detectives, slapping Frank to the ground with a casual backhand. I believe the next step after being casually swatted by a creature that probably doesn’t exist is getting beat up something from folklore, so I fully expect Joe to be pummeled by an Elf lord later in the series.
There’s a time for G Ratings, and this isn’t it: When a stunt goes wrong and an actress injures her foot, she says, “Yikes, I think it’s broken.” Even if its only sprained — as it turns out to be — that is admirable (or foolhardy) linguistic restraint. I’m not talking about breaking out the four-letter Anglo-Saxon words, but ... well, screaming always helps, I find.
Opinions: There’s a big of everything in this one, and of course, that’s never a good thing. A movie, a sasquatch, a legendary criminal who has really nothing to do with either of those ... the Dixon du jour wasn’t at the top of his game here. I think the most disappointing is that no one knows or cares why the Hardys get such great jobs. Maybe they’re actually interested in a movie career, and Fenton, to make them realize it isn’t as glamorous as they think, gets them a job cleaning puma droppings for a summer? Maybe. Can you think of a better explanation?
He does manage to make Dropped into Danger sound like a troubled production. There are at least two rewrites: one to incorporate the lead actress’s sprained foot, and another to drop in the Hardys wrapping up the mystery. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like that good of a movie (there might be a reason no one’s done a big-budget D.B. Cooper story, no matter how cool it sounds), and the rewrites, sabotage, injuries, firings, and disruptions on the set would make any real movie studio very nervous. And think of what the bloggers would make of it? “Pictures from the set seem to indicate a pair of teenage boys ruling the set. This is going to be a disaster.”
Grade: C-. And the movie gets a thumbs down.