|Index||4 reviews in total|
This is one of my all-time favorite serials...and I think one of the best
overall. Sure, I'm a little bit jaded, as the Vigilante was my favorite
golden age superhero when I was a kid (still is, actually), but it's a
really good serial.
Of course, the identity of the villain will be obvious after the first episode, but that's pretty much the norm for 1940's serials (look at Captain America). But there is a lot of action and thrills throughout all 16 episodes. And Ralph Byrd is great in the title role...one of the few roles that he is believable in besides Dick Tracy (where he is the master, no matter what Warren Beatty may think). Lyle Talbot is fun, as always, as is the rest of the cast.
There's a little bit of everything in this one...and I think it deserves a place next to the originality of such classic chapter plays as The Adventures of Captain Marvel and The Masked Marvel.
The plot was interesting and unique. However, it was stretched thin and some chapters dragged. 12 chapters would have been better than 15. Ralph Byrd was rather wooden in the title role and a slightly younger actor like Kane Richmond or Clayton Moore would have been preferable. Ramsey Ames was great as the heroine. I thoroughly enjoyed her singing. The comic book Vigilante was a country and western singer. It's too bad that more country music was not featured as it might have made the serial move faster. Lyle Talbot was adequate as the villain but Charles Middleton would have been better. The sidekick Stuff did not provide the comic relief that is typical of most sidekicks. George Offerman,Jr.was no Smiley Burnette.
There is a simple irony that the lead character travels everywhere on a
motorcycle, yet the story revolves around horses. The Vigilante:
Fighting Hero of the West is based on one of DC Comics' lesser known,
but interesting characters. In the comics and the serial Greg Sanders
was a singing cowboy, but there is only one real singing cowboy song
when Ralph Byrd performs "Saturday Night In San Antone" during the
first chapter. There is much more music in the night club that shows up
many times, and Ramsay Ames' singing is by far one of the highlights of
this serial. Later chapters do present more western action, but there
is no more western music.
I wish this had been a Republic serial because at times it seems to drag a little. The mandatory fights scenes take place often enough, but they lack the "oomph" that Republic was able to add to every serial. A mistake that cannot be missed is the two visits to the blacksmith's shop. It is trashed the first time, but totally rebuilt the second time. The clue for which everyone searches cannot be found in the first visit, but is totally visible and accessible in the second visit. This is too obvious to be forgivable. Experienced viewers may guess the identity of X-1 early on, but the build up to the villain's unmasking is part of the fun.
Although I have a problem with the continuity there are a lot of positives for The Vigilante. The plot was a combination of the best Gene Autry westerns and the many secret agent serials of its time. Mystery surrounds the stolen horses and the meaning of "100 tears of blood." Arabs, gangsters, cowboys, and secret agents are enough to hold my attention. Anything with Lyle Talbot is worth watching, too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Early on we think the head villain is the man who owns the nightclub since the villain has his office in back of the nightclub. But late we see him reporting to the head villain who is not seen in the one-way mirror. Then at the end we see that the head villain is the nightclub owner while I had two other candidates as the head villain, the police chief and the head waiter. This serial does have some production values with a number of extras in the nightclub scenes, the carnival scenes, the street scenes, etc. I do have a problem with the title. When I saw the title I thought it would be a western since I was not familiar with it as a radio show. But it is not a western. Our hero is simply making a western movie in a few scenes.
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