Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


BURN 'EM UP BARNES (12 chapter Mascot serial/1934). Directors: Colbert Clark; Armand Schaefer.

Race car driver "Burn 'Em Up" Barnes (Jack Mulhall) decides to seek other employment after his friend, a photographer, dies on the race track. He joins up with Marjorie Temple (Lola Lane) to form the Temple and Barnes school bus transportation company. Marjorie is unaware that there is oil on her property, which is why Lyman Warren (Edwin Maxwell) desperately wants to buy it and will stop at nothing to put her in the position where she needs to sell. Early in the serial Warren and his associate Drummond (Jason Robards Sr.) frame Barnes for vehicular homicide, but his young buddy Bobby (Frankie Darro) has film that proves his innocence -- naturally this film passes among many hands before the serial is through. At one point Barnes starts doing stunt work for a movie company [just when the serial begins running out of skimpy plot] with the bad guys still trying to kill him off via assorted accidents. The cliffhangers in this serial are generally well-done and quite credible with none of the "cheating" that often occurs in serials. Mulhall seems like a vaudeville entertainer who wandered into the wrong set and is a terribly obvious actor. Lane is lovely and reasonably competent, and Darro is just swell. Maxwell, Robards and Francis McDonald are credible enough villains, and Julian Rivero does the comedy relief as grease monkey Tony as well as anyone. This is not a terrible serial, but it's not on the top of Mascot's cliffhanger list to be certain.

Verdict: A lesser serial but not without some entertainment value. **1/2. 


Neil A Russell said...

This is one of my "guilty pleasure" serials and I've shared it with a lot of friends.

Just seeing the board race tracks is worth the price of admission (which I suppose was originally 10 cents with two cartoons and a western thrown in).

I don't think it's a spoiler, but in the last couple of installments there's a rooftop chase that takes place near the "Broadway" store in LA. Their sign is visible just in the distance, and I've estimated the amazing building with the New Deal era sculpture they are filming on is about where the Capitol Record building sits today.

Another thing I love about this serial is the use of real filming equipment as part of the "props".
That big hand cranked camera that Darrow catches the impossible footage on (pre-edited with closeups and all) and the touring car equipped with cameras and crew give an insight into how those old movies and serials were made.

William said...

Yeah, I love how in many old movies footage taken with one camera miraculously is divided into shots and angles with no work in the editing room. Or how a camera mounted on the front of a car facing forward can take movies of the driver and occupants!

Well, that's movies! Thanks for your comments!