Classic Cliffhanger DVDs for your Serial Stocking

Discussion in 'DVD' started by LaurenceGarvey, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. LaurenceGarvey

    LaurenceGarvey Second Unit

    Jan 27, 2005
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    It’s time once again for the official suggested Christmas list of recommended serials on DVD. This year’s Top Ten list is a little different, as I’ve chosen favorite serials from favorite chapterplay categories.

    Super-Hero: BATMAN (Columbia/1943/15 chapters) Batman and Robin battle one of the great serial villains, Prince Daka, whose wartime plans to help Japan subjugate humanity include turning America’s greatest scientists into mind-controlled zombies, and occasionally tossing somebody into an alligator pit he keeps beneath his desk. (Sony, $29.95)

    Silent: BEATRICE FAIRFAX (1916) Beatrice was the Ann Landers of her day, with songs, stories, and (later) comics devoted to her. In 1916, the Wharton Brothers filmed a serial in Ithica, New York, for the Hearst-owned International Film Service. Actual letters to Beatrice's advice column were adapted into fanciful 3-reel adventures. No cliffhangers, but non-stop laughs and excitement. The transfer is from a tinted 35mm print, and ample bonus material is included. ( $16.95)

    Science-Fiction: FLASH GORDON (a/k/a SPACE SOLDIERS) (Universal/1936/13 chapters) The greatest of all motion picture serials, a lusty, action-packed star-spanning epic with space ships that sound like Norelco razors. The Image DVD is excellent ($29.99), and for ten bucks more you can buy a boxed set that includes FLASH GORDON’S TRIP TO MARS (Universal/1938/15 chapters) and FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE (Universal/1940/12 chapters). Buster Crabbe as Flash, Jean Rogers as Dale, and of course Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless.

    Horror: GANG BUSTERS (Universal/1942/13 chapters) As Universal horrors go, this is closer to, say BLACK FRIDAY than SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, but it’s a rather grisly tale of a criminal scientist (Prof. Mortis) who brings dead gangsters back to life to work for him… if they don’t play along, they don’t get to stay “back to life” very long. ( $17.95)

    Jungle: JUNGLE JIM (Universal/1937/12 chapters) Movie buffs remember the popular 1950s movie series with Johnny Weissmuller, but hardly anybody remembers this terrific serial with Grant Withers. Too bad, because I think it’s the best “jungle” serial ever made. (VCI, $29.99)

    Flying: KING OF THE ROCKET MEN (Republic/1949/12 chapters) The first and best of the three serials featuring a guy with a jet-pack on his back and “Up/Down Fast/Slow” controls on his sternum. New York City is destroyed by a tidal wave at the end, but nobody really seems to mind. (Pro-Active, $19.99)

    Cowboy: THE MIRACLE RIDER (Mascot/1935/15 chapters) Mascot didn’t do 15-episode serials very often; this one was intended to be something special, and it is, as famed screen cowboy Tom Mix stars in his only serial (and last film). When I think of what a movie cowboy should look like, I think of Tom Mix. Charles Middleton is the villain. (VCI, $19.99)

    Secret Agent: SECRET AGENT X-9 (Universal/1945/13 chapters) When the two versions of SECRET AGENT X-9 were released a couple of years ago, the big fuss was over the 1937 edition, but the 1945 serial is much better. Lloyd Bridges, in one of his first films, stars as X-9, battling WWII saboteurs. One of Universal’s best serials. (VCI, $19.99)

    Anti-Nazi: SPY SMASHER (Republic/1942/12 chapters) Sadly, there aren’t too many prime Republic serials available on DVD, but this is one of the best, an adaptation of the famed Whiz Comics caped hero. Spy Smasher and his twin brother fight the Mask, a Nazi saboteur. Non-stop thrills. (, $24.95)

    Zorro: ZORRO’S CLIFFHANGER COLLECTION. Well, here’s an easy one: VCI offers the three best Zorro serials at one low price. You get ZORRO RIDES AGAIN (1937), ZORRO’S FIGHTING LEGION (1939), and ZORRO’S BLACK WHIP (1944), all 12-chapter Republic serials and all highly recommended. BLACK WHIP stars Linda Stirling as a female Zorro. (VCI, $29.99)
  2. Malcolm Cleugh

    Malcolm Cleugh Second Unit

    Jan 11, 2002
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    Laurence thanks for the list. It always prompts me to buy a few more DVDs. We dont see many of these released in the UK, only really Flash Gordon so have to import.

    Delighted to see King of the Rocketmen finally got a release as definite buy. Can remember it when the BBC in the UK screened during school holidays, with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Although they have not been on for over 15 years now. Still have off air VHS of it so that can get junked.
  3. John Sparks

    John Sparks Screenwriter

    Sep 12, 2001
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    Menifee, CA
    Real Name:
    John Sparks
    I have so many on LD that I haven't even opened up yet. I only buy what I don't have. So many serials, so little time.

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