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Republic/Columbia serials featuring Batman/Captain America etc

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Beatlelennon65, Jun 14, 2003.

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  1. Beatlelennon65

    Beatlelennon65 Active Member Thread Starter

    Has anyone seen these old serials? I am sure they are not very good, but I would love to see some of them with Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Batman. Does anyone know if they will be out on DVD?
     
  2. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    The search engine is your friend! I typed "Batman serial DVD Republic" into Google and found this place. However, note that what they sell are DVD-Rs. This may be the only way to see them, though. Maybe someone like Ken McAlinden can give you a more difinitive answer.
     
  3. R. Cat Conrad

    R. Cat Conrad Almost Famous

    Location:
    D/FW Metroplex
    Claviusb, you l'il devil, you beat me to this topic by a full day! I'm a big fan of of old movie serials and am a frequent lurker over at the Serial Squadron site.

    Here's the skinny for Beatlelennon65:

    Don't let the DVD-R status of most of the prints offered by the Squadron give you pause to consider the quality. The fellow doing the restorations who goes by Dr. Grood (aka Eric Stedman) knows what he's doing and the prints offered for sale are truly a labor of love. As a long time serial aficionado I would classify the Captain Marvel serial as a MUST; never has this character been done better, IMHO. Between the accuracy of the costume, Tom Tyler's appropriate physique and no-nonsense delivery of lines, Frank Coglin's amiable Billy Batson, the cleverly choreographed stuntwork, the evil Scorpion, etc., a splended time is guaranteed for all! (Sorry 'bout that last line, Beatlelennon; couldn't resist!:D)

    BTW, I own a copy of the Serial Squadron DVD-R of Captain Marvel and it smokes my OOP copy of the now rare Captain Marvel serial on laserdisc released by Republic! If your machine plays DVD-R's I'd snatch one of those puppies up while the title is still available.

    As for Captain America, well, it's supposed to be pretty good but the whole concept of the character was changed before Republic filmed it to make it easier and cheaper to film. It's an acquired taste to be sure, because the stuntwork is very good indeed, but from my recollection when I saw chapters of this many years ago at a convention, the character had been altered way too much for me to appreciate it.

    Batman was a Columbia serial and they are far more hit and miss than the Republics. There were two Batman serials as I recall, and while I haven't seen either of them the earlier one, from '43 if I'm not mistaken, is supposed to be the better of the two.

    While I'm at it, I'll list some of the better costumed character serials and perhaps a clunker or two (i.e., on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being avoid at all costs & 10 being excellent) keeping in mind that unless I know the source of the DVD or DVD-R I can't vouch for picture quality:

    Spy Smasher (Republic): costumed hero from the Fawcett line, like CM, with lots of action, exellent stuntwork & amazing Lyedecker special effects. Note: Currently unavailable. [9]

    Black Commando (Columbia): original costumed hero with good production values with a special segment at the end of each chapter where a rather nervous Major with flop-sweats on loan from the army provides instruction in code breaking; it's a real hoot! Available as a DVD-R from Western Trails derived from what appears to be a decent 16mm source print. [8]

    The Phantom (Columbia): This is a so-so serial only because of the budgeting. Tom Tyler, again, is costumed as "the ghost who walks" and fortunately the costume and the actor are sufficient to pull off a believable performance. There's plenty of action, but this one isn't nearly as exciting as the Black Commando or any of the Republic costumed hero serials. Available as a DVD from VCI; it appears to be derived from an excellent 16mm source print or second generation 35mm print. [6]

    Captain Marvel (Republic): What can I say, ...this may not be the greatest serial of all time, but it most certainly is the greatest superhero serial and ranks as among the top three or four costumed character serials, if not the very best! Great Lydecker special effects, including flying sequences that may keep you guessing as to how it was done; excellent stuntwork, above par acting (for a churned out serial); it has it all! If you don't like this one, you may not be serial fan material. Currently available only as a DVD-R through the Serial Squadron; this restoration appears to be derived from a high quality 16mm negative or sourced from a first generation 35mm print. [10]

    Captain America (Republic): The less said the better, IMO. Thos film takes a police proceedural type of plot set in WWII against saboteurs and goes where one might predictably think it would. Token costume somewhat resembles Timely/Marvel character, but omits key features; actor doesn't carry the role AT ALL physically or otherwise. The only thing positive I can say is that with approximately 3 well choreographed stunt fights per episode it probably won't get too dull. Will soon be available as a Serial Squadron, presumably on DVD-R and undoubtably from the best source print available and carefully restored by Mr. Stedman. [4]

    The Spider's Web (Columbia): From 1938, this serial is based on one of the bloodiest pulp magazine characters ever conceived, ...and the serial lives up to the pulp character's reputation for mercilessness. The body count grows chapter by chapter; every time he dons his costume those 45 automatics blaze away, knocking off henchmen right and left. All I can tell you is that this one is just plain fun from the get-go; it does have the "feel" of those period pulp magazines and before you ask, NO, I'm not a psycho! :laugh: This is currently only available as a DVD-R from Western Trails video, but it appears to have been derived from another decent 16mm source print. [9]

    Well, I'd better break for now; if folks are interested I may add more information later.

    :cheers:
    Cat
     
  4. Beatlelennon65

    Beatlelennon65 Active Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for the info Cat! I will look into it and see what I can find.
     
  5. R. Cat Conrad

    R. Cat Conrad Almost Famous

    Location:
    D/FW Metroplex
    You're welcome; feel free to ask any questions about old movie serials which might be on your mind. I don't have all of the answers, but I'll gladly supply whatever information I have at my disposal and opinions as to which serials are the most entertaining, if requested. :)

    :cheers:
    Cat
     
  6. R. Cat Conrad

    R. Cat Conrad Almost Famous

    Location:
    D/FW Metroplex
    Here are a few other serials worth checking out:

    Daredevils of the Red Circle (VHS only, thus far) - Republic Home Video release; occasionally can be located used or as discontinued stock. This is an excellent serial with loads of inventive Lydecker Brother's FX and one of the most memorable theme music scores ever, by Cy Feuer!

    Secret Agent X-9 (DVD from VCI Home Entertainment) - Lloyd Bridges in a WWII nazi spy actioner, originally from Universal.

    Fighting Devil Dogs: (VHS only-?, thus far) - Republic Home Video release; this one has it all: great costumed villain, bizarre futuristic gizmos, flying wing aircraft, hunchback apprentices, US Marine heroes and fast, tight pacing. If it has a weakness, it's the too frequent use of stock footage.

    The Masked Marvel: (VHS only-?, thus far) - Republic Home Video release; a fast paced action serial with plenty of Lydecker Bro. FX and choreographed fights; check your brain at the door stuff, highly predictable, but great fun!

    Manhunt in the African Jungle (LD & VHS only, thus far) - Republic Home Video release; the second of the only two serials featuring actor Rod Cameron, who eventually became a B-feature star shortly after this and through the 50's. Excellent action; lots of inventive cliffhangers and stuntwork and some of the Lydecker Bro's best model FX.

    Well, that'll do for now!

    :cheers:
    Cat
     
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