April 5th, 2019. The estimable Tom Weaver–serial, B-film, and horror-movie expert extraordinaire–has broken some great news for serial buffs over in two threads on the Classic Horror Film Board Forum. Robert Blair of VCI has informed him that Universal is going to give VCI access to the original film elements for its serials; VCI plans to use these for new DVD releases of those serials (the linked threads refer to Blu-Ray, not DVD, but as you can see from a second post on the second thread linked, at least the first two announced releases, The Roaring West and The Red Rider, are DVD and not Blu-Ray).
Among the serials on the list Tom received from Blair are all four of Johnny Mack Brown’s Universal serials (Rustlers of Red Dog, Wild West Days, Flaming Frontiers, The Oregon Trail); all four of Buck Jones’ Universal serials (Gordon of Ghost City, The Red Rider, The Roaring West, The Phantom Rider); both Tailspin Tommy serials; both Don Winslow serials; both Green Hornet serials; both Secret Agent X-9 serials; and the three “Dead End Kid” serials–Junior G-Men, Sea Raiders, Junior G-Men of the Air.
The remaining serials on the list are: Ace Drummond, Adventures of Frank Merriwell, Adventures of Smilin’ Jack, Call of the Savage, Gang Busters, Great Alaskan Mystery, Jungle Jim, Jungle Queen, Lost City of the Jungle, The Master Key, Mysterious Mr. M, Mystery of the River Boat, Overland Mail, Perils of Pauline, The Phantom Creeps, The Phantom of the Air, Pirate Treasure, Radio Patrol, Raiders of Ghost City, Red Barry, Riders of Death Valley, The Royal Mounted Rides Again, The Scarlet Horseman, Scouts to the Rescue, Sky Raiders, Tim Tyler’s Luck, and Winners of the West
It’ll be great to see top-quality prints of all these titles, even the weaker titles. I’m particularly excited about Wild West Days, Don Winslow of the Navy, Pirate Treasure, Gang Busters, and the four Buck Jones serials. Winslow is widely available only in a very poor print, the superior Hermitage Hill edition being very hard to find; the only decent release of The Red Rider was also a no-longer-available Hermitage Hill effort, although that print could still be found on Youtube the last time I looked. The other three Jones serials and Wild West Days have never been given “official” DVD releases, Gang Busters has never been made available in a print sharp enough to do full justice to its shadowy visuals, and no really good print of Pirate Treasure has ever surfaced–even the Serial Squadron’s long-delayed DVD release of Treasure is, judging from the sample episode on Youtube, only good in comparison to the execrable VHS copies of the serial.
In short, this announcement is the best and biggest home video news that serial fans have received for some time. Spread the word, and give a big thanks to Mr. Weaver and Mr. Blair.