|Index||3 reviews in total|
Enjoyable chapterplay from producer Henry MacRae. A bit slow in spots but overall a nice job by everyone. Interesting young cast includes Jean ( "Dale Arden" ) Rogers and Carla Laemmle. The last few chapters are the best with a good use of Universal features stock music in the background.
I might have enjoyed the Adventures of Frank Merriwell a whole lot more
had they kept it within the time frame it was written. The first Frank
Merriwell story came out in 1896 and the attitudes in those stories
very graphically expressed those of pre-World War I America. And that's
where Frank should have stayed.
Instead he's updated to the year 1936 and the character really doesn't play well here. For those who don't know Merriwell was a fictional character created by Gilbert Patten writing under the name of Burt L. Standish. He was a square jawed, clean living, college athlete with no vices of any kind who while getting into all kinds of adventures still managed to get back in time to make the winning touchdown, win the race, or hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth inning for good old Yale. The books were enormously popular in the Theodore Roosevelt era and baseball pitcher Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants was in that time considered a living embodiment of Frank Merriwell. I'm surprised no one has ever considered a biographical film based on Mathewson.
This is a serial, so I'm not expecting the greatest caliber of acting and certainly not even Cecil B. DeMille type special effects. In that I wasn't disappointed. Donald Briggs plays our firm jawed hero who in this version after hitting a game winning grandslam homerun, gets called home when his mother is taken ill. That's a ruse, she's being harassed by prowlers and she thinks they're after a ring that Dad Merriwell left before disappearing two years earlier.
The ring holds the key to a buried treasure and our intrepid hero with his gang of college chums go searching for it with these mysterious villains on their trail. During the course of the Merriwell gets to show off his prowess in rowing, track and field, and boxing. The climax in fact involves a football game.
Jean Rogers who played Dale Arden in the Flash Gordon serial is on hand as Frank's most chaste girl friend and biggest booster. It's what was expected of the all American hero back then in 1896.
It might have gotten a couple extra stars had it stayed in 1896.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is a scene in the movie "The Story of Temple Drake" where the
chilling Trigger snarls (after a run in with the white knight attorney
Stephen Benbow), "he thinks he's some kind of Frank Merriwell"!! Frank
Merriwell was the epitome of all the derring do heroes who flourished
in books and comics during the 1920s. He made his first appearance in
1896 in books and stories by Gilbert Patten, who used the pseudonym
Burt L. Standish. He said he named his boy for everything he wanted in
a hero - truth (Frank), a happy disposition (Merri) and a healthy
physique (well). In 1928 a comic strip began and in 1934 a radio serial
ran for a few months. A big complaint about the movie serial (as one
reviewer has pointed out) is that it did not stick to the original time
frame because by the 1930s the name Frank Merriwell was considered an
anachronism and completely out of touch with the grim reality of the
Donald Briggs was chosen for the role because he played the lead in the radio serial but even though he did have a reasonable career in radio he was a washout in movies. Unlike the leading lady, Jean Rogers, who soon went on to bigger and better things in her next serial "Flash Gordon".
The big college game is on but their star hitter, Frank Merriwell, is nowhere to be seen - he is busy driving like the wind to take a sick puppy to the vet. That's just the kind of guy he is!!! Of course he gets to the game just in time to save the school but soon gets a telegram that sends him hastening to his sick mother's side. It seems his mother owns a ring that could uncover the mystery of his father's disappearance and when Frank takes it up to town to have it valued odd things start to happen to him. The baddies have infiltrated the college and because of Frank being the insufferable "goody goody" that he is the school is full of boys who are more than willing to fall in with plans to teach him a lesson.
As the chapters progress Frank and his chums find themselves in all sorts of strife - knocked out of a burning boat, falling over a cliff edge, wrestling an escaped lion as well as the obligatory rescue of the heroine from an overturned canoe!! The fascinating thing about this serial (I found) is that Frank's chums (with the exception of John "Dusty" King) are made up of the children of old time actors. Carla Laemlle was niece of the head of Universal and was pretty good in her role as Jean's best friend. There was also Wallace Reid Jnr, Edward Arnold Jnr, House Peters Jnr etc and because they went by their own names (Wally, Eddie, House etc) it is easy to pick who they are. The "master villain" is a poor excuse for a bad guy - his disguise is just a blind fold over one eye. He wouldn't have fooled any kid in the audience provided there were any left in the cinema by the time the last episode screened.
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