Promoted and advertised as "The Million Dollar Serial", most of which appears to have been spent on advertising and the most elaborate pressbook ever put out by Universal on a serial (or ... See full summary »
Promoted and advertised as "The Million Dollar Serial", most of which appears to have been spent on advertising and the most elaborate pressbook ever put out by Universal on a serial (or 95% of their feature films for that matter), Universal's 51st sound-era serial (following "Sky Raiders" and before "Sea Raiders" and, to quote the late Oliver Drake who wrote the original story,..."we were lucky they didn't call it 'Land Raiders'), "Riders of Death Valley" remains a favorite for the 7-12 year-old kids who saw in on original release in 1941, and a major disappointment for those who came later and never saw it in the 35mm version shown on a screen in a 350-seat grind-house theatre, and now question what all the excitement was about. Hey, you had to have been there. Actually, it is just one long prolonged chase after another for the most part and, even worse, it is usually the 5-6 good guys running from 2-3 of the bad guys (which even had eight-year-old kids of 1941 wondering what's up ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The town of Panamint is being controlled by Kirby and Blake who are trying to drive out all the prospectors so they can obtain all their land, but are opposed by the Riders of Death Valley, a group led by Jim Benton opposed to the oppression caused by Kirby and Blake. An old prospector, Chuckawalla Charlie, leaves one half of a claim on a gold mine, The Lost Aztec, which is richer than any other mine discovered. The mine is shared also with Charlie's niece Mary, who goes searching for the mine (based on Charlie's map) with Jim and the rest of the riders. Blake sends Wolfe Reade and his outlaws to get the map giving the location of the mine, but after Jim, Mary, and the riders find it, Blake & Kirby get Wolfe to sabotage their efforts of getting the lode mined, smeltered, and assayed, while Kirby tries obtains the bank note Jim took out to pay for the work on the mine, while also framing Jim and Tombstone (fellow rider) of the murder of the banker. This "million dollar serial" is just advertising and nowhere near the effort Universal put into Flash Gordon, but for B western fans this serial is a treat. Foran makes a good hero, but I would have rather seen Buck Jones assume his role rather than be regulated to a sidekick. Blaine and Blue are okay as Kirby and Blake, but the screenplay could have just merged the two characters into one. Bickford is great as Wolfe playing the role with a nastiness that should be in every western and serial. The serial seems a bit too involved at times as well. Rating, based on serials, 7.
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