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The thing that strikes me is the paucity of good henchmen in the old
serials, the Master Criminals just couldn't find good help! Surely
there was a better class of hoods to choose from? Or perhaps spending
money on a vast master plan didn't leave much over to find decent
staff? Anyway,the crooks here on offer are certainly not paid for their
intelligence or indeed their courage as at the first sign of the
police, they leg it as fast as possible. Of course, this saves the
Spider on a number of occasions as he has the annoying habit of
bursting in on a gang of thugs and attempts to slug it out with them
and always comes a cropper and ends up unconscious on the floor. This
does allow the writers to put him in the obligatory cliffhanger at the
end of each episode.
It's unfair to judge these old serials in one showing as they weren't intended to be watched like that. I attempted to get close to the weekly chapters by viewing an episode each evening and fast forwarding the synopsis at the start of the chapter. This did give a feel of how they would have been seen at the time of release.
You do find that the same sets are used over and over again, especially the bar where the gang makes it's headquarters in the back. Although,there never are any other customers ever. But that's low budget serial making for you.
The cliffhangers and escapes are okay and pretty much of the standard of the time, burning cars, building collapses, fire traps,etc. Warren Hull does a good job in the triple roles of Richard Wentworth, the Spider and undercover baddie, Blinky McCade and does seem to be enjoying himself in each one,which makes it all enjoyable for the audience. The supporting cast are fine too and while nothing special, it's all fun to watch.
Police Commissioner Kirk is a complete oaf though,badly acted and how such a dolt got to be head of police is the biggest mystery after who the master villain the Gargoyle really is! Kirk constantly bows to Wentworth and lets him run the show and make the decisions, at one point he says," Wentworth made a monkey and a laughing stock of me!" I think you'll find he was doing a pretty good job on his own.
There are plot holes you could drive a bus through in the story but these were intended as fast moving action adventure yarns and a little thing like plots were on the back burner most of the time. And there's always something happening to keep your mind of things like that. Like a roller-coaster ride, just go with the flow and enjoy the trip.
The Spider Returns was directed by old Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy
director James Horne, who used it to send up the serial genre. It's the
villains who come in for the most ridicule.
The henchmen are inept, sometimes spectacularly so. At one point they are wear paper party hats and blow noisemakers, girls on their laps, and the Gargoyle enters and has a tantrum: "These wild parties must cease!" he says -- well, emotes would be a better word.
Horne made another humorous serial, Terry and the Pirates, in which it's the hero who gets the razz. The Green Archer also has comedy elements, with the head villain having fit after fit as his henchmen botch every assignment. Hey, somebody had to point out these genre flaws, and Horne was just the guy to do it. These serials are a good change of pace for fans of the form, and, since Horne started his career doing serials, he was up to doing the action sequences effectively as well.
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