Update, March 13: I really have nothing new to report, save that my review-writing has (so far) been proceeding according to schedule; however, I just realized it’s long past time to take down my New Year’s greeting–especially since Spring has finally arrived, even here in Frigia (I mean, Pennsylvania).

27 thoughts on “Home

  1. Thanks, Ken. By the way, my apologies to those who had comments on the old Home post; I’m still figuring out the intricacies of WordPress software, and had thought I could salvage the comments from the preceding Home post when I put up this replacement one (I couldn’t, it turns out). I think I’ll be able to preserve comments from a removed post in future, thanks to trial and error, but I figured I owed those of you who commented on the old Home post an apology.

  2. Jerry. Just on living through it cliffhangers. I have watched an interview with a 16 year old girl whose parachute did not open when she skydived from a mile up. She passed out and doesn’t know what happened. They said she landed in a cow pasture where the ground was soft enough to break her fall (I don’t really understand that). She did suffer severe injuries, but is recovering quickly. My bottom line with cliffhangers is that living through it is okay once in a while as long as it doesn’t become the standard way out, and it doesn’t stretch credibility too far.

  3. I agree with you that one or two believable live-through-it endings, if believable enough, are no problem; the fall-from-a-height-into-water escape, for instance, is quite credible (it seems to appear in nearly every Republic serial and in many Universals). I remember reading about a similar airplane-fall survival incident from 1972 or 1973–a student skydiver named Bob Hall who survived a plummet onto a runway (even stranger than the fall into the cow pasture). I’d consider that one, and the cow-pasture one, unacceptable in a serial, but you know what they say about truth being stranger than fiction. I can think of at least two serials (King of the Mounties and Captain Video) that have the hero falling into a haystack from an airplane–which at least provides more padding than a runway or even a pasture.

  4. Just a quick question……I am starting to buy more serials, got just a few, so would you or some of your
    experts give me a tip which ones to go for first?

    Thanks, Dickson

    • Thanks for the question, Dickson; I’ll do my best to answer it. Some of the best serials are, to my mind,
      The Fighting Devil Dogs (Republic, 1938),
      Gang Busters (Universal, 1942),
      Spy Smasher (Republic, 1942),
      Flash Gordon (Universal, 1936),
      Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (Universal, 1938),
      Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (Universal, 1940),
      Zorro’s Fighting Legion (Republic, 1939),
      Hawk of the Wilderness (Republic, 1938),
      Tim Tyler’s Luck (Universal, 1937),
      King of the Texas Rangers (Republic, 1941),
      Perils of Nyoka (Republic, 1942),
      Adventures of Captain Marvel (Republic, 1941),
      Overland Mail (Universal, 1942),
      Burn ‘em Up Barnes (Mascot, 1934), and
      Daredevils of the Red Circle (Republic, 1939).

      However, keep in mind that “best” lists are a very subjective thing–and also that this is a very superficial list; there are dozens of other serial well worth watching. The Golden Age of serial-making, from my point of view, runs from about 1938 to 1942–but there are other fans who prefer serials from the World War 2 era or the early 1930s. All of the above serials, and many others, are reviewed on my site; if you’re curious about a specific title, I recommend you check out the review; I try to include enough information to give a reader an idea of whether he’d find the serial interesting or not.

  5. I’m certainly no expert, just a serial geek, and haven’t watched everything, but have watched most of the consensus better serials, and
    (1)–I agree with Jerry about 1938 to 1942 being the serial peak or golden age
    (2)–eight of Jerry’s top serials on in my current top eleven (Flash Gordon, The Fighting Devil Dogs, Daredevil’s of the Red Circle, Zorro’s Fighting Legion, King of the Texas Rangers, Spy Smasher, Perils of Nyoka, Gang Busters)
    (3)–the other three? Mysterious Dr. Satan (great villain and robot), The Crimson Ghost (best serial villain and henchman), King of the Rocketmen (wonderful flying scenes)
    (4)–why eleven? Because I am too wimpy to kick off one of my favorites to make it a top ten.
    (5)–close misses (Dick Tracy’s G-Men, Jungle Girl, Drums of Fu Manchu, The Red Rider)
    (6)–My personal likes–western serials. I especially like the late thirties epic western serials (The Painted Stallion, Flaming Frontiers, The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok). They are really in a different class than either the B’s or even later A’s, as with the help of stock footage and non-stop action, they have real scope and seem like old dime novel western adventures come to life.
    (7)–I like but most don’t seem to–The two Superman serials. the flying scenes are cheap animation, but otherwise I find them charming and well cast.
    (8)–the big name serial which didn’t do it for me? Buck Rogers. After the Flash Gordon series, this proved a super let-down. I found it lacking in almost all regards except production values.
    (9)–best campy jungle serials–Tim Tyler’s Luck, Jungle Girl, Jungle Jim, Tarzan the Tiger), action, hungry animals, and guys in ratty gorilla suits. All you could ever want in a jungle adventure.

  6. All sound serials exist, except for 11 Universal’s from 1929-32 and two independent serials. Also, only the first six chapters of CLANCY OF THE MOUNTED are available, and one chapter of BRENDA STARR, REPORTER is missing. All existing serials are available, some only through the grey market, but some titles are not from good quality prints, like BRICK BRADFORD. Some of the dealers in the grey market are honest in telling you what the quality is of particular titles.
    I’m not sure this is allowed here, but two good sources are VCI, and most releases from the Serial Squadron. The Squadron has the best quality on DRUMS OF FU MANCHU, THE LONE RANGER, DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST, and KING OF THE MOUNTIES.

    • I think it is a good idea to be able to publish your thoughts on the quality of different products here. We are all here because of how we feel about these films, and the viewing experience determines to some extent how we rank them. Some serials I got on VHS were so bad I couldn’t finish them (Iron Claw, Chandu, New Adventures of Tarzan) but I might have really enjoyed them if that wasn’t the case. Could be a great serial but if it’s all washed out or too dark we won’t watch it. If participants can provide some objective guidance as to the best prints out there it would benefit all of us.

      VCI is a premier vendor I think, most of what I have is from them, and I haven’t ordered any from Serial Squadron but it appears the quality is great there because of the significant restoration efforts they make, you can see clips on their web site to judge. Republic’s own reissues on tape in the 90’s were of course excellent and some looked (and still do) like they were filmed yesterday. I know Alpha is very inexpensive, Undersea Kingdom was fine but Blake was hard to watch as there was no film restoration done, and the print was rough. Hermitage Hill seemed to do great restorations but alas, their last chapter has played, although the web site is still active. A seller on eBay has a ton of them for short money but I don’t know how good they are. I just found a vendor in Australia that has a high quality angle and I’ll order a couple from him as a test.

      So I guess we just keep looking for good quality, I don’t want to miss the diamond for the rough.

  7. At the Serial Squadron, Dr. Grood will spend more months restoring a serial than anyone else would ever dream of, but sometimes he gets too creative and botches a project royally. He obtained an excellent print of THE PHANTOM EMPIRE, but modernized it tinting ray gun blasts purple, adding music, etc. But he did do a restoration on THE LONE RANGER that is miles ahead of any other version. DAREDEVILS OF THE WEST is missing five reels of sound, so he recreated the dialogue, music, and sound effects that is so well done that you sometimes can’t tell where the new sound ends, and the original sound track begins. Grood did the voice for Robert Frazer, and is so spot on, you would swear it is Frazer.

  8. I have no objection to open discussions of serial DVDS here; I rarely compare and contrast video quality in my reviews, since I’m more focused on critical analysis, but I agree that it’s important for fans to know where to locate good prints of these serials. VCI is definitely the most all-round dependable producer of serial DVDs; Alpha’s stuff is often of uneven quality, and generally inferior to VCI’s–although Alpha’s print of the Galloping Ghost is excellent. Dr. Grood did do a good job with Daredevils of the West and many other serials, but their prices are usually higher than VCI’s or Alpha’s; Grood can also be very erratic when it comes to returns or shipping schedules.

  9. Thanks for the suggestions! I had Overland Mail and Flaming Frontiers in my queue, so Overland Mail is up next. I just finished re-watching The Miracle Rider, so I would usually switch it up to another type of serial … but I’m a big Noah Sr. and Jr. fan. I’m surprised to find another serial that features them together. I’ll save further comments for Sr.’s Villain page.

  10. Michael, I think you will enjoy OVERLAND MAIL. Somehow it just works for me. Lon Chaney Jr, Noah Beery Jr, and Don Terry make a great team together.

  11. Jerry, you haven’t posted any reviews here for over a month. I hope everything is going well with you.


    Lovable Pa Stark

    • Hello, Pa. Thanks for asking about me; I’m doing OK–just working hard on completely revising and publishing the Character Actors sections right now, which hasn’t left me any time to put up any new reviews; I will return to reviewing eventually.

  12. Hi Jerry! I’m a Grandson of John Merton, and Nephew of Lane Bradford. I can’t thank you enough for your extensive research into the careers of my family, and so many other wonderful actors. Please know your work is very, very much appreciated! Sincerely, Rick Sparks

    • Thanks for the “thank you,” Mr. Sparks; delighted to hear from, and to know that you enjoyed the pieces on your family. If you have any anecdotes or other information to add about your grandfather or uncle, please feel free to add them in the comments sections on the pieces; I’m always eager to learn more about these actors from their own relatives.

  13. Well this is a real cliffhanger. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful reviews of these cinematic poor second cousins we are so fond of. I have enjoyed them and the comments very much. Have a great summer, and we’ll see you again in the fall. In the meantime I’m going to try and dig up those final six chapters of Clancy of the Mounted I put down in the basement a few years back :) .

  14. Howdy Jerry. Just found out about your site from The Classic Horror Forum Richard Jones FINAL PASSINGS post.
    Love me some serials. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. God bless you and yours, Dan

  15. Jerry – your in depth reviews have really changed the way I watch serials now. One thought I had recently was just how frequent a plot device loss of consciousness is. Besides the obligatory girl-gets-knocked-out-in fight-scene requirement, or good-guy-gets-knocked-out-so-bad-guys can escape, so many serials use either unconsciousness or loss of individual humanity as a part of the plot. Killer Kane’s amnesia helmet, Daka’s zombies, Flash I’s Draught of Forgetfulness, Dale Arden’s loss of memory in Flash II, Red Grange’s pal’s amnesia, Dick Tracy’s brother, C. Montague Shaw in Undersea Kingdom, Fu’s Dacoits, Radio Patrol’s hypnotized bad guy, various hypnotized subjects of Victor Poten, Scarab’s cigars, and a Mascot serial (I forget which one) where John Wayne was driven around unconscious for about two full chapters, for example. Seems to pop up quite often.

  16. Really like your reviews. Learning so much. I would like to know if it is possible to have a section on
    all those character people, some of whom I have just heard of but never can find a picture of, so when I see
    them I can put a name to. I know this will be a huge job. You list so many in your reviews but where do
    I find pictures of them? Have tried a lot of sources, to no avail. Thanks for letting me ramble.


    • Thanks for the comment, Dickson; as you can see, I’ve covered some prominent character players in the Character Actors section linked from the top of the page, although obviously that’s very far from comprehensive. My reviews often feature screencaps of some of the supporting players featured in the serial, and might be of help; if you’re looking for information on a particular name or face, feel free to ask here in the comments section and I’ll be happy to see if I can ID the actor in question. That’s the best I can do at present, I’m afraid, but sometime in the future I’ll be adding substantially to the Character Actors section (as well as the Heroes, Heroines, Villains, Sidekicks, and Henchmen sections)–and might also add a gallery of actors who didn’t do enough serials to warrant a whole section.

  17. I discovered your fine writings years ago and have been a fan ever since. There is nothing like reviews from “Jerry Blake”- fair, penetrating, while instructive on what makes this bygone genre so much fun. It was through you, for example, that I was made aware of the stylish, low-angle camera work of “Captain America.” Keep up the brilliant work; this site is a treasure trove!

  18. I followed a thread for Carlos (Charles) Stevens and read the info on your website. The statement made that he was a grandson of Geronimo is fictitious and might have been used to create his image and get acting work. His mother Eloisa was a Michelena whose parents emigrated from Sonora, Mexico to Solomonville, AZ. Eloisa married George Stevens who served for a while as Sheriff of Graham County and who was previously married to an Indian woman who died in 1882 long before Carlos was born.

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