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

Thursday, February 28, 2013


THE GALLOPING GHOST (12 chapter Mascot serial/1931). Director: [B.] Reeves Eason.

This cliffhanger serial was built around the "talents" of famous football player, Harold "Red" Grange, who sort of plays himself, and that not very well. His off-screen nickname was -- you guessed it -- "Galloping Ghost." Red is a college football player [Grange was 28-years-old but looks in his forties or older] who is framed by crooked gamblers and tossed off the team of Clary University. His buddy, eh, "Buddy" (Francis X. Bushman Jr AKA Ralph Bushman) is secretly married to bad girl Irene (Gwen Lee) when players are supposed to be single, so he's an easy target of blackmail and is later hypnotized so he doesn't even know who he is. Red is eventually accused of murdering another player on the team. Buddy's sister Barbara (Dorothy Gulliver) has a yen for Red. Since we know who the chief bad guy is from the first there's little suspense, but there is a surprise concerning a sinister "cripple" who rather energetically weaves his way through the action and cackles maniacally at the end of each episode. The action is often cranked up like a silent movie. It's interesting that the cliffhanger at the end of the first chapter -- Red lets go of a parachute he's sharing with a gal and manages to land safely on top of another plane -- was later used more or less in more than one James Bond movie. Other good cliffhangers include a bit with a boat that's crushed between moving piers and a car in a garage that crushes downward on top of Red's prone body. This is a busy, not-terrible serial that suffers a bit from a primitive style and some pretty bad acting, although serial fanatics may enjoy it. Theodore Lorch as Dr. Blake and Tom Dugan as a stuttering cabbie are the most memorable members of the cast, and Gwen Lee isn't too bad, either. Lively theme music.

Verdict: Has its moments but mostly for serial completists. **.

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