|Index||3 reviews in total|
Don Winslow started life as the leading character in a series of books
aimed at the juvenile boy trade. From there, Don had his own newspaper
strip, Radio Program and Comic Book series. Finally, he made the jump
to the silver screen in two serials from Universal.
The first one, DON WINSLOW of THE NAVY rates as one of the very best of that era.It combined Naval action with spies of still unnamed nations fighting forces of the U.S.Navy in a fictional South Pacific locale. Winslow acted as much as an intelligence agent as he did a Naval Officer.
The casting of Don Terry in the lead was truly a master stroke as he did not play the character, he became Don Winslow. The others in the cast did a yeoman's job making the whole film run very well and seemed to be a more realistic portrayal of real life occurrences than many serials did.
Add to this really good music, with the theme being a stirring rendition of "Anchors Aweigh" and we have one serial from the top shelf of Universal Pictures. And it seems to hold up quite well today.
I am partway through V.1 of "Don Winslow of the Navy"- so far, so good!
At first it was a scare because the title screen and credits were very
badly reproduced, with plenty of scratches and not even centered
correctly. The actual episodes were considerably better, although I did
find them a little dark overall.
It was so refreshing to be back in a period when the US was truly the "good guy", where the president was loved and followed by nearly everyone, when America had a special spirit. The enemy was well-defined, and although it was a horrific war, as all of them are, at least it made sense.
The acting is better than some, with the cast seeming more enthusiastic than certain other serials of the same age. Is it as good as Flash Gordon? Well, no, not so far, but it could get better. As is I have no regrets- it's quite watchable.
The Scorpion is a real propaganda-evil enemy, but he sounds German. Since Winslow operates near Pearl Harbor, I'd expect a Japanese enemy to be more appropriate. Maybe he is both! The cliff-hanging parts could be done better, but I guess all the serials followed the same model. The fights also weren't as realistic as they could be, but this was to lure kids back to the theater the next week, not get Academy Awards. I did wonder why so many young, healthy actors were not drafted themselves! You can't really go wrong with Don Winslow of the Navy, especially if you shop a little since it is about as inexpensive as you can get.
I remember seeing Don Winslow Of The Navy several decades ago on
television which was running these old serials as feature films. What I
could not get then and now is why Don Winslow and his trusty sidekick
Red Pennington were always in their dress whites. In fact all the naval
officers portrayed were in dress whites. Even Samuel S. Hinds as the
CINC. No khakis, no navy blue. Even I knew back then that these
uniforms made the whole thing look ridiculous.
Don Winslow Of The Navy began as an almost official comic strip. It was written by a navy man Commander Frank Martinek and it was actually something the navy used as a recruiting tool. Frank Knox who was Alf Landon's Vice Presidential running mate and newspaper publisher and later Secretary Of The Navy was a booster of the strip.
Winslow's nemesis like Batman to Joker or Nayland Smith to Fu Manchu is the infamous Scorpion. No sooner does Winslow squash one bit of Scorpion villainy then the guy is active in another part of the world.
Fortunately for this Universal serial the Scorpion is played by Kurt Katch who played many a nasty Nazi in the coming years. The fact that the serial was released just prior to Pearl Harbor was a godsend for the box office. All we see of Katch is a face giving out orders and threatening reprisals for failure in telecommunication. Wonder what his recruiting pitch for henchman was?
Don Terry plays the title role and Walter Sande is Red Pennington. A couple of women girl Fridays for the guys are Claire Dodd and Anne Nagel respectively. Winslow and Pennington are sent to investigate Scorpion activity in the South Pacific on the tropical isle paradise of Tangita where John Litel operates a gold mine by day, but he's really the Scorpion's guy on the ground.
The Scorpion has quite an operation. He's got an underground submarine base complete with underground oil wells for fueling. He also must refine the stuff underground as well, but that's not mentioned. From this place he's sinking all kinds of supply ships and other kinds of freighting in the Pacific.
We never really do know just what the Scorpion's ultimate aim is or is he just your garden variety megalomaniacal supervillain. I lean to the latter, but that Teutonic countenance of Katch made him perfect for the time.
The cast performs their parts completely straight though I can't believe they took all this seriously. There are a lot of people still out there who love these old serials. For me I'm glad the movie going public matured in its tastes enough to put these finally to rest.
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