Directed by Noel M. Smith & Ray Taylor
Starring Kent Taylor, Irene Hervey, Ralph Morgan, Robert Armstrong
VCI has brought the Universal serial Gang Busters (1942) to DVD and Blu-Ray, restored from fine-grain material from Universal.
“Fellow citizens, you are listening to the voice of death.”
Based on the popular radio show, the bad guys are crooks brought back from the dead (The League Of Murdered Men) by the mysterious Professor Mortis—quite a stretch from the more authentic crime-busting featured on radio. The action’s top-notch throughout.
This has always been one of my favorite serials. Can’t wait to see this thing on Blu-Ray. Highly, highly recommended!
In August, The Film Detective is dragging three early Tarzan pictures out of the deep, dark video jungle and giving them new life on Blu-Ray.
Tarzan Of The Apes (1918)
Directed by Scott Sidney
Starring Elmo Lincoln, Enid Markey, George B. French, Gordon Griffith, Eugene Pallette
The first Tarzan film ever made. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel of the same name was published in 1912, and this is still held up as the most faithful film version of the character. The swamps of Louisiana doubled for the jungles of Africa. The film was a hit, and Elmo Lincoln would continue as Tarzan.
Adventures Of Tarzan (1921)
Directed by Robert F. Hill & Scott Sidney
Starring Elmo Lincoln, Louise Lorraine, Scott Pembroke, Frank Whitson, Lillian Worth
This 15-chapter serial was Elmo Lincoln’s third, and final, time as the Lord Of The Jungle, though he’d have small parts in a couple of the 40s Tarzan pictures.
The New Adventures Of Tarzan (1935)
Directed by Edward Kull & Wilbur F. McGaugh
Starring Herman Brix, Ula Holt, Ashton Dearholt, Frank Baker, Lewis Sargent
This 12-chapter serial was filmed on location in Guatemala, which brought with it a ton of problems, from financial and romantic woes to disease and impassible roads — and interference from MGM, which by this time was in the middle of their Johnny Weissmuller series. (Read up on this one sometime — it’s got quite a production history.)
Herman Brix made a name for himself at the 1928 Olympics, and they say he was considered by MGM before they cast Weissmuller in 1932’s Tarzan The Ape Man. Brix would later go by the name Bruce Bennett and he had a long, successful film career.
You can count on The Film Detective to make things things look as good as possible — and to load ’em up with extras. There are commentaries, documentaries and more. This is gonna be a good one, folks!
Directed by Ford Beebe & Saul A. Goodkind
Starring Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley, Regis Toomey, Jack C. Smith, Edward Van Sloan
VCI has been working on a restoration of The Phantom Creeps (1939), a 12-chapter Universal serial starring Bela Lugosi, for Blu-Ray release.
They’ve recently provided some info on why this thing is taking so long: “When we started working on the restoration early last year, we discovered that six of the 12 chapters, of the original film elements we received from Universal Pictures, had many issues. Some reels were missing, and some were on nitrate film and had deteriorated terribly. Fortunately, we found more complete original film elements stored at the Library of Congress. We have requested access to those film elements, however we were informed that film was actually owned by Sony Pictures (FYI, Sony actually is the owner of Columbia Pictures, who had a license in the 1950’s to distribute several Universal serials via their TV syndication division, Screen Gems, and that’s how they came to have these film elements). Since we discovered this, we have been negotiating with Sony’s legal department to give us permission to access and scan this film, which would allow us to finish our restoration. This process with Sony began last July, and so far, they have been cooperating, but still haven’t given us their permission. We feel confident that Sony will give us permission, but we just can’t say when. This is a very high-priority project to VCI, but unfortunately it is not as important to Sony, so we remain on hold.”
As this frame grab from Chapter 1 shows, this thing is gonna be incredible — and well worth the wait. The Phantom Creeps is a cool serial, put together by some of the very best at making such things: director Beebe, writer George Plympton and DP William Sickner.
I’m eagerly awaiting the next thrilling chapter in this story! When it gets here, it’ll be essential.
Directed by Ray Taylor
Starring Tom Tyler, Gloria Shea, LeRoy Mason, Craig Reynolds, William Desmond, Walter Brennan
VCI’s series of Universal serials on Blu-Ray continues with The Phantom Of The Air (1933), a 12-chapter pre-Code serial filled with Tom Tyler, Gloria Shea, terrific old airplanes and lots and lots of crazy stunts.
There’s a plane named “The Phantom” and an anti-gravity device called the Contragrav, stuff to talk about as they go from stunt to stunt in this “adventure in the sky.” It’s a lot of fun, and it should look just great on Blu-Ray. Coming later this year.
Directed by Ray Taylor & Lewis D. Collins
Starring Edward Norris, Eddie Quillan, Douglass Dumbrille, Lois Collier, Ruth Roman, Tala Birell, Clarence Muse
Anything with Douglass Dumbrille as a Nazi, Ruth Roman as the Jungle Queen and Clarence Muse as anything is worth a few hours of your time. And since the Universal serials VCI has been bringing to Blu-Ray lately are absolutely beautiful, I’m really looking forward to this one.
It’s 1939, and the Nazis are trying to take over Africa. They’re looking for the fabled Sword Of Tongu, which will help them win over the natives and have them join the fight against the British. It’s up to a couple of Americans (Edward Norris and Eddie Quillan), a British agent/archeologist (Lois Collier) and the beautiful, mysterious Jungle Queen, Lothel (Ruth Roman), to stop them.
Directors Ray Taylor and Lewis D. Collins did a ton of serials, and Collins went on to direct a few of the terrific William Elliott B Westerns at Monogram and Allied Artists. Universal’s serials boast better production values than other studio’s chapter plays, though this one is a bit talky and makes liberal use of stock footage.