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ThePittsburghPress-PA-Oct-18-1990 - Cliffhmger movie serials turning up on videos...
Cliffhmger movie serials turning up on videos By Doug Nye Press news services The evil Dr. Daka's plan had worked. Inside the old warehouse, the trapped Batman and Robin, frantically searched for an exit. Suddenly an explosion ripped the building. Its walls began to crumble and its ceiling came tumbling down, burying our two heroes and apparently dooming them to certain death. The narrator's booming voice urged moviegoers to see the next chapter of "The Batman" to find out what happened. . Moments later the next chapter of this 1943 movie serial unfolded on the screen. It turned out that neither Batman nor Robin was dead. The two merely pushed away the rubble that lay on top of them, stood up and calmly brushed the dust off their costumes. And when Robin exclaimed, "Boy, are we lucky!," the audience howled with laughter. Originally, audiences weren't supposed to laugh, but they did in the mid-1960s when Columbia Pictures pulled the shoestring-budgeted film from its shelves and billed it as "An Evening with Batman and Robin," showing all 15 chapters at one sitting. Several months later, Columbia did the same thing VIDEO with its 1949 serial, "The New Adventures of Batman and Robin." It was even hokier than the first one and' spawned more hoots and howls from moviegoers. Republic Pictures, the most prolific producers of sound serials from 1935 to 1955, decided to get in on the fun. Republic packaged all 12 chapters of its 1941 serial "Adventures of Captain Marvel" and hoped for the same success Columbia had enjoyed, only when "Captain Marvel" was screened, not many people laughed. Unlike the shabby Batman serials, "Captain Marvel" was excellently made, featured dazzling special effects and was a first-rate action-packed adventure film. People who had come to the theater to make fun of serials were disappointed and, because of that, "Captain Marvel" was a failure with the "hip" 1960s audiences. Fortunately, times and minds have changed. Thanks in part to filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, there is a growing appreciation for the better motion picture serials of the past. Both Spielberg and Lucas have often said the creation of their Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies was influenced by the old serials. Not surprisingly, more serials are showing up on videocassette. To be sure, movie serials were one of Hollywood's versions of junk food and they reached plateaus of excellence as well as dipped to levels of ineptness. The Batman serials were typical of the serial fare offered by Columbia, which entered the cliffhanger field in 1937. Columbia's two Superman serials "Superman" (1948) and "Atom Man vs. Superman" (1950) - are both available on videocassette from Warner Home Video but are low-budget disappointments. Universal scored big in the 1930s with many serials adapted from comic strips. Its most notable efforts were the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe. But it was Republic, which began production in 1935, that eventually emerged as the king of the chapter-plays. Currently Republic Home Video offers several top-notch cliffhangers on video with more due out in December. Each comes on two cassettes and is priced at $29.95. Topping the list is the "Adventures of Captain Marvel," considered by many the best sound serial ever made. The flying sequences are spectacular. (Columbia Record and Statedistributed by Knight-News-Tribune.)

Clipped from
  1. The Pittsburgh Press,
  2. 18 Oct 1990, Thu,
  3. Page 51

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