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

Thursday, June 20, 2013


CLASSIC CLIFFHANGERS VOLUME ONE 1914 - 1940. Hank Davis. Midnight Marquee; 2007.

This is a slender but entertaining series of essays on about fifty or so sound serials [and a couple of notable silents] written by someone who is both appreciative and knowledgeable of his subject. The newcomer to serials and even a few veterans can get some help from Davis in deciding which of the serials he covers are ones they want to invest some time and money in. He begins by scrutinizing the original silent and highly influential Perils of Pauline [covering the sound remake later in the book] then looks at The Master Mystery starring the legendary Houdini. Sound serials that he examines include such notable works as Dick Tracy, Daredevils of the Red Circle, The Spider's Web and King of the Royal Mounted as well as a few [in my opinion] stinkers such as The Galloping Ghost, The Return of Chandu, and Hawk of the Wilderness. Davis uncovers some interesting information about the serials that may be new to many readers, although his accusing one actor of being a pedophile based solely on some scenes in The Vanishing Legion is a little bizarre. Davis employs a conversational tone in the book that can be fun [and the book is often amusing] but some readers might find it a little trivializing and off-putting. Still, the book is very readable and pulls you along. Lots of illustrations, too. Volume 2, which I have not read, covers sound serials beginning with 1941 and onward. Introduction by Adrian Booth, better known as Lorna Gray of The Perils of Nyoka.

Verdict: Not essential reading maybe, but quite entertaining for serial buffs. ***.

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