Thursday, March 17, 2011
RED BARRY 13 chapter Universal [Filmcraft] serial (1938). Directors: Ford Beebe; Allen James.
"In the home of a friend it is too early for suspicion. In the home of an enemy, it is always too late."
This snappy serial is based on a King Features comic strip, and an interesting device has each chapter's recap told via comic panels. Red Barry (Larry "Buster" Crabbe) gets involved in a case regarding some valuable stolen bonds, against the wishes of the police commissioner (an excellent William Gould), who prefers his own man handle matters. Wing Fu (Cyril Delevanti) wants the bonds to buy needed planes for Chinese forces, while Russian dancer Natacha (Edna Sedgewick) insists that the bonds were wrongfully taken from her father. Others tied up in this case include intrepid reporter "Mississippi" (Frances Robinson); theater owner Mannix (William Ruhl); Wing Fu's son (Philip Ahn), an intelligent man who masquerades as the pidgin-English spouting "Hong Kong Charlie;" foppish if brave detective Valentine Vale (Hugh Huntley), the commissioner's favorite; and the sinister Qoung Lee (Frank Lackteen), who is also trying to get his hands on the bonds. The best cliffhanger has our hero tied to a bureau with a vial of explosive tottering on top as would-be rescuers, unaware of the danger, try to break through the wall behind him -- watch out! Crabbe is perfection in the title role, the other cast members are swell, the theme music is memorable, and the serial has a good plot full of interesting twists and characters. The very talented Philip Ahn gives another noteworthy performance.
Verdict: Buster is more than a "Flash." ***.