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179 reviews in total 
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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Great Karloff, Great Production Values and "Exceedingly Foul", 14 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Boris Karloff does a great job in his first lead speaking role when he plays Fu Manchu in this 'A' list MGM film. The studio went all out for this one with high production values, great stars, and a story with sex, drugs, science-fiction machines, action and torture. It also exemplifies the 'Yellow Peril' theme so common during the first half of the twentieth century. Despite that, the film is highly entertaining and worth watching.

We should take Boris Karloff's own point of view regarding the film and his character as a 'fairy tale' too over the top and outrageous to be seen as a real condemnation of Chinese and the 'threat' they pose. Hey! wait a minute! The film was a 'Cosmopolitan Production'-- this was William Randolph Hearst's production company! (He had offices on the MGM lot). Coincidence? Let's not put it in the political climate of the time, but put it more in the category of the Flash Gordon serials with an outrageous 'Ming the Merciless' representing the Yellow Peril, and not let it detract from our enjoyment of the film. As Barton is tied down under the bell torture for several days becoming 'exceedingly foul,' so can we be totally offended by the explicit racism of the film, but it's done more in a melodramatic silly style than say the deadly serious realistic racism of Richard Widmark in 'No Way Out' (1950), or any of the anti-Japanese films made by the US during World War II.

We have Judge Hardy himself, Lewis Stone as Nayland Smith, and an effectively aggressive Karen Morley as Barton's daughter, both totally convincing. The forgotten Charles Starret, who made 65 Durango Kid westerns (and how many of those have you ever seen?) plays the handsome young hero, who in one of the great 30s laboratory scenes is injected with an unusual mind control serum derived from an on screen tarantula and a poisonous snake (the Gila monster just escapes from its fish bowl). For this he is remembered! Myrna Loy, before fame as Nora Charles in her series of 'The Thin Man' movies, plays Fah Lo See, Fu Manchu's sexy, sadomasochistic nymphomaniac daughter.

The level of production here is almost up to that of RKO's 'She' (1935). With strong acting (especially by Boris), great photography, a good script and pacing, this is a film worth seeing. I'll give it a 7.

Great for a Dark Night, But Don't Reveal The Ending!, 14 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a Tod Browning film with Atmosphere with a capital A. It's also an 'A' list horror film from MGM with superstars Lionel Barrymore, Jean Hersholt and Lionel Atwill, who are great to watch throughout. Unfortunately, Bela Lugosi as the vampire has only a small role with just a couple of lines of dialog. Despite this minor flaw, the movie is great viewing for a dark night due to its excellent production. (Note: Bela narrates the trailer for the film, giving him more lines than he has in the whole movie!)

'Mark' tells the story of tracking down the vampire killer of Sir Karell Borotyn (Holmes Herbert), and stopping the vampire's attacks on his beautiful daughter, Irena, played strongly by Elizabeth Allen, who can be seen as Lucie in 'A Tale of Two Cities' (1936). Lionel Atwill, so wonderfully stiff and gruff in his 75 films, plays the skeptical police Inspector. He's best remembered for the Universal 'Frankenstein' films 'The Son of Frankenstein' (1939), with his wooden arm, 'The Ghost of Frankenstein' (1942) and 'The House of Frankenstein' (1944) as well as his countless villainous turns in so many movies. 1930s superstar Jean Hersholt plays Irena's guardian, Baron Otto Von Zinden. He was the hero in Erich von Stroheim's 'Greed' (1924), and was a major star on radio and in films for his role as the kindly, fatherly, Dr. Christian (1939-1943).

And what can you say about Lionel Barrymore? He does a fine job here, but is much better in Tod Browning's 'The Devil Doll' (1936) with a mind boggling performance. He has great film credits too numerous to mention, from Billy Bones in 'Treasure Island' (1934) to 'Key Largo' (1948) and 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946), and his endless turns as Dr. Gillespie in the long series of 'Dr. Kildaire' films. He also played the role on radio (1939-1942). He was obviously the model voice for Dana Carvey's 'Grumpy Old Man' on 'Saturday Night Live' (1986-2000).

This film is squarely in the tradition of DON'T REVEAL THE ENDING!! movies. I can say no more. But even after the twist ending, the film is still enjoyable the second or more viewings. Browning had definitely improved as a director of 'talkies.' Thanks to James Wong Howe's wonderful photography, we get great shots and ensemble interplay among our three stars. Lots of moody atmosphere. Several sets are from 'Dracula,' as well as are many shots including 'walking through the cobwebs,' a throat staring Irena, the opossum, rats and spiders creeping around, etc. The film is consistently enjoyable due to its high quality art production, acting and photography.

Because twenty minutes were cut from the film before release, there are several oddities about who, what and why; but this doesn't really detract from the overall effect of the movie. I'll give it a 7.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Great Technicolor, Great Effects, Weak Acting, 13 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How many science fiction films were made in color before 1940? Unless we include 'color tinted' films from the silent era, the answer is ONE -- the recently released two-strip version of 'Dr. X' (1932). 'Dr. Cyclops' is an 'A' list SF film, it's in gorgeous Technicolor, and has state of the art special effects. It is highly recommended for those three reasons.

Dr. Thorkel (Albert Dekker) has been using radium extracted from a rich underground vein to miniaturize animals. We see the shrinking room and machine (the 'condenser'), the deep welled vein and a strange looking extracting device-- and the green glow of them in operation, all nicely done. He invites three scientists to confirm some mysterious part of his work, and then after their having done so, dismisses them the same day. Outraged, they stick around, until finally Dr. Thorkel locks them in the shrinking room and miniaturizes them. They spend the rest of the film escaping and then trying to kill him.

I first saw this in black and white on TV over 40 years ago, when few programs were shown in color. I didn't know it was filmed in color! While the movie had a great premise and effects, I was a little underwhelmed by the acting, and it didn't seem particularly exciting. Watching it today, it still has those weaknesses. Though Albert Dekker does a fine villainous job, as do Charles Halton (Rupert Bulfinch*), veteran of 186 bit parts in movies and TV, and Victor Kilian (Steve) with 139 to his credit, the rest of the small cast is flat, colorless, and uninteresting. (Paul Fix does get one great scene at the beginning.)The pacing is fine and the shrunken heroes are placed in a number of perilous situations. My 8 and 10 year old grandchildren were transfixed during those parts. You do enjoy watching the entire film; you just wish that Janice Logan, Thomas Colley, and Frank Yaconelli could have had a wider range of facial expressions and acting skills as well as better and richer dialog.

Charles Halton had a long career playing professors, judges, lawyers and other 'stiff' types; Victor Kilian can be seen as the (uncredited) professor leading a crew inside the Earth in 'Unknown World' (1951), and as a featured player in the great TV 'soap' 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman' (1976-1977).

The film has great Technicolor photography, matte shots, with mostly sharp rear projection that makes it seem as if the 13 inch shrunken humans are actually in the same room with Dr. Thorkel. We get the heroes filmed in giant sets, something done in other films such as the fantastic 'The Incredible Shrinking Man' (1957) with Grant William's great tortured face.

We have to be grateful for large favors. The amazing Technicolor and effects place this one up high. Some less than scary music (for example, flighty flutes and staccato violins during running sequences) and 'B' list actors in an 'A' level production reduce my score down to a 6 and a half.

* This presumably is a little joke reference to 'Bulfinch's Mythology' the standard work of the time on ancient mythology that included the story of Ulysses and Cyclops.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Stanley Ridges Stars in a Well Made Film!, 9 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When watching an old film from either the silent or sound era, you can heighten your enjoyment of it by putting yourself in the place of those who viewed the film during its initial showings. What must it have been like to have seen Douglas Fairbanks in 1924 in 'Thief of Bagdad,' or Renfield enter Dracula's castle in 1931 ('Dracula', 1931) or to have seen Karloff turn around in 1931 and show us the face of Frankenstein's monster (in 'Frankenstein,' 1931), or to have watched the alien ship emerge over Devil's Tower in 1977 (in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' 1977). But don't put yourself in the place of 1940 viewers of this film! They were probably expecting a horror film with on screen clashes or fireworks between Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, but they never appear together anywhere in the movie and a horror film it's not!

However-- if you watch this film as a film, without any expectations, you will be pleasantly surprised. It's a well made, classy Universal forties movie with a scene stealing performance by the main protagonist played by--- Stanley Ridges! Boris Karloff is really just the co-star, and poor Bela, as has been noted by others, was given a minor role after the role intended for him was given to Karloff, who was to have played Ridges' part. It is interesting to speculate on how Karloff would have performed in the role. In a perfect universe, I think he probably would have been nominated for an Oscar!

The dual 'Jeckyll and Hyde' role of Professor George Kingsley, Professor of English Literature at the University of Newcastle, and Red Cannon, the vicious and violent gangster, was played by British character actor Stanley Ridges, who clearly steals the picture. His dialog and face are so different as each character it's hard to believe it's the same actor! Karloff plays a brain surgeon, Dr. Savoc, who transplants Cannon's brain into Kingley's body after both are victims of a car crash. Savoc takes Kingsley to New York in attempt to discover where Cannon had hidden $500,000. Cannon's memories begin to take over Kingsley's mind and body. The first time you see this film, you will probably not believe, as I didn't, that the same person is playing both parts! Even in the ending credits I expected to see two names.

This is a tight little film with definite gangster film / noirish elements. Karloff is alternately noble (in bright light) and evil (in darkened rooms) in purpose. Cannon's scenes are right out of noir gangster films with their off-kilter angles. The great story telling is by Curt Siodmak, author of the novel 'Donovan's Brain,' and who has countless other wonderful writing credits for 'The Wolf Man' (1941), 'I Walked With a Zombie' (1943), as well as 'Bride of the Gorilla', (1952) among many. It seems he's got split personalities on the brain! But this film moves along quickly, and is satisfyingly done every bit of the way.

We also get Anne Nagal as a night club singer, in one of her 85 bit parts. She plays 'Misty' in 'Don Winslow of the Navy' (1942). Much better is Anne Gwynne, immortalized in her next film as the evil Sonja in 'Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe' (1940), where she tries to seduce Flash by offering him herself and Mongo, too! She appears in 'The Black Cat' (1941), 'House of Frankenstein' (1944) and as Tess Truehart in 'Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome' (1947), but in the latter one Karloff doesn't play her father the way he does here!

Let's give the Oscar to Stanley Ridges for his amazing performance. We can catch him in bit parts in later years, particularly as a doctor in the ground breaking Richard Widmark / Sidney Poitier film 'No Way Out' (1950). But poor Bela. He's relegated to playing an 'American' gangster whom Cannon suffocates in a closet. Well, he'd gotten his acting revenge when he played Ygor in 'The Son of Frankenstein' (1939).

For this thoroughly enjoyable tight little film, I'll give it a 6.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Weak Cliffhangers and Little Else, 7 September 2008

Not the best of the four Rin-Tin-Tin serials. Weak and almost non existent cliff hangers just add to the tedium of watching the heroes and villains steal Rex the Wonder Horse back and forth for almost ten of the twelve chapters. Mascot's previous offering, 'The Law of the Wild' (1934) featured the same back and forth capturing of Rex. Couldn't they have come up with a different story line?

Given the title, 'The Adventures of Rex and Rinty', one might have expected it to be about the pairing of the two animal 'pals.' We do get that for the first couple of chapters, which focuses on how they meet and become friends. Rex, the God-horse of the island of Sujan, had been stolen and brought to California to be a polo horse. Rinty was a wandering homeless dog during the Great Depression searching and scrounging for food. These early scenes with Rinty are well done, as he shows off his acting chops (!) to a melancholy soundtrack. Rex escapes from the evil sportsmen, and while wandering through the woods rescues Rinty from a snap steel animal trap. Later, when they encounter a skunk, Rex chases it off and Rinty leaps into a creek to wash off the smell, as Rex laughs in a funny scene worthy of Smiley Burnette.

Unfortunately, that's about it for the 'Adventures' that Rex and Rinty have together. The rest of the serial has 'popular polo player' Kane Richmond fighting the opposing evil polo team owner Harry Woods for possession and ownership of the horse. A loyal cult member from Sujan, Pasha, shows up and tries throughout the latter part of the serial to recapture Rex to bring him back to Sujan. Only three chapters take place there, but there's no real sense of mystery or menace. For a weird cult on a mystery island the best one is the fantastic 'The Return of Chandu' (1934) with Bela Lugosi as the romantic hero!

We do get Kane Richmond here, although he's much better in his other serials, particularly the clunky 'The Lost City' (1934), and the better 'Spy Smasher' (1942) and 'Haunted Harbor' (1944). He also plays one of Ming's pilot captains (the one who decides to help Flash after his brother is returned to normal after being a Clay man) in 'Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars' (1938), which also immortalizes Wheeler Oakman, who had over 280 film and TV credits, as Tarnak. Oakman, who plays henchman 'Wheeler' here, was also a great villain in 'The Lost Jungle' (1934), 'The Phantom Empire' (1935), and 'Darkest Africa' (1936). Then we have Smiley Burnette before his 'Frog Millhouse' days in an almost subdued role, though he does a couple of physical hi-jinks. We also see Charles King, but he doesn't have enough to do, except show off his excellent horsemanship.

As for an animal pals movie, we're going to have to look elsewhere, such as to 'Koneko Monogatari' (1986), released in the U.S. as 'Milo and Otis', or the 'Homeward Bound' (1993, 1996) movies. This one, except for the first two chapters really isn't an animal pals one.

The weak and almost non existent cliff hangers seem more typical of serials from the teen years to 1930; even from Mascot we expect more. Too bad they couldn't have let this be the first all animal serial as it was in the first two chapters! As yet another serial with little more than back and forth horse and automobile chasing, it only gets a 3.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Back and Forth With Rex and Rinty, 6 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This Mascot serial is in better condition DVD-wise than the two previous Rin-Tin-Tin serials 'The Lone Defender' (1930), and 'The Lightning Warrior' (1931). Unfortunately, this doesn't one star Rin-Tin-Tin, but his 'son' Rin-Tin-Tin Jr., who like so many children cast in the shadow of a mega-star parent, just doesn't have it as an actor. He mostly displays a menacing bark, is seen biting villains on the wrist, and in only a couple of chapters rescues the hero, 'John Sheldon' (played by Bob Custer) or Rex, the Wonder Horse. Junior only made 13 films.

The serial tells the story of rancher Sheldon, who is falsely accused of killing Lou Salter, his evil ranch hand. Salter, played with magnificent evil by Richard Alexander, steals Sheldon's super-fast wild stallion Rex, and turns him into a race horse, winning in the fastest time ever at Ardmore race track. Sheldon spends the rest of the twelve chapters trying to prove his innocence and ownership of Rex, who under a fake bill of sale is now owned by Frank Nolan (played by Richard Cramer), as he also tries to prove the guilt of the man who really stabbed Salter. That's about it for a story, so most of what we see is the heroes and villains riding back and forth to Sheldon's ranch to steal, free or recapture Rex.

At first you think it's too bad Alexander gets killed in Chapter One because he's so good as a villain, but the real villain, Cramer, is ugly and evil looking and wonderfully nasty for the rest of the serial. If his voice sounds familiar that's because he is immortalized as Nick Grainger the evil convict in Laurel and Hardy's great 'Saps at Sea' (1940), even though he appeared in 238 films, mostly as a bartender, detective, sheriff, etc. We also get Edmund Cobb, who had over 633 movie and TV credits, play Luger the key henchman for the entire serial.

Alexander gets to play a bad, bad villain, El Lobo, in Republic's 'Zorro Rides Again' (1937) and as the half naked strong man thug in the Ralph Byrd / Bela Lugosi serial 'S.O.S. Coast Guard' (1937) which is made much weaker by the fact that he plays a mute. His fine, deep voice is well displayed in his best role in 'All Quiet on the Western Front' (1930), as well as, of course, in his endearing presence as Prince Barin in 'Flash Gordon' (1936) and 'Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars' (1938).

The serial is capably directed by 'Breezy' Eason, director of so many serials including 'The Phantom Empire' (1935), 'Darkest Africa' (1936), 'Undersea Kingdom' (1936), 'The Phantom' (1943), as well the next Rex and Rinty serial 'The Adventures of Rex and Rinty' (1935), and 'The Last of the Mohicans' (1932), which also featured this serial's heroine, Lucile Brown as 'Alice Munro.' 'Breezy' was famous for his 'cavalier' treatment of animals, so much so that he was the cause of the American Humane Society's practice of visiting sets to monitor and protect animals and their safety. He was the second unit director of the infamous chariot horse pile-up in the first 'Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ' (1925).

Meanwhile, the big surprise of the serial is silent film star Ben Turpin, not only for having a prominent role in the serial, but also for being given third billing after Rex and Rinty and before the fourth billed hero, Bob Custer. Custer was an ex rodeo performer, so he's probably doing his own running horse mounts. Though he made 55 westerns, his billing here after Ben Turpin must be his main claim to fame. Our slap stick cross eyed Ben plays it mostly straight here, using his patented head turns, stares and physical falls for comic effect occasionally. He made over 230 movies, but not that many during the sound era; he doesn't have that good a voice for sound films, unfortunately. We can catch him in W. C. Field's 'Million Dollar Legs' (1932), and as the preacher in Laurel and Hardy's 'Our Wife' (1930) and as a plumber in 'Saps at Sea' (1940).

Finally, what about the first billed star, Rex The Wonder Horse? This is not his best of his handful of movies. He's a little better in 'The Adventures of Rex and Rinty' (1935), but he does his best work in 'Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island' (1936) playing off the well matched horse like actor Ray Mala.

So despite the novelty presence of Ben Turpin, the back and forth tedium of watching Rex and Rinty doesn't give this one more than a three and half.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
This Is Not The Phantom You Want To See, 31 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is not 'The Phantom' you want to see. This one is of historical interest only. You want the serial version of Lee Falk's 'The Phantom' (1943) with Tom Tyler, or the feature version 'The Phantom' (1996) with Billy Zane, or even the totally different Murnau 'The Phantom' (1922).

Of the 77 movies made by independent Action Pictures, this one is probably the most famous. Some think it's passable in the manner of 'The Cat and the Canary' (1927) but it's full of early thirties tedium--characters being scared when anything moves or is heard, or when a man in a black cape suddenly appears. It is an historical curiosity because the star, Allene Ray, was a victim of the transition to sound movies. A popular and beautiful serial star who did her own stunts, she had a high voice that didn't carry over well into sound films. This film was it for her. This was the kind of true story satirized by Jean Hagan in 'Singing in the Rain' (1952). Although credited as the star here, Allene hardly appears in it, and often doesn't speak, pretending to be 'unconscious.' Another victim of sound was Georgia Hale, the female lead in Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush' (1925) who made her last film in 1931.

The real star, 'Big Boy' Guinn Williams, seen in western serials and films as well as 49 TV episodes of 'Circus Boy' (1956-1957), does battle with 'The Phantom,' who, in fact is not even in a disguise.

Other than Allene's funny voice, there's nothing to recommend here. Just make sure Netflix doesn't send this to you when you want action or excitement with Lee Falk's 'The Phantom.'

I give it a 3.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A Great Film For Hallowe'en Or Any Dark Night!, 31 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a one of a kind film. It's the movie that put diabolism and Satan worship on the map and into the canon of world cinema.

Don't be put off by the fact that it is from the silent years. The new Criterion DVD versions are magnificent restorations-- probably better than the original prints; especially the 1968 version. The classical soundtrack is absolutely amazing and worthy of release all by itself. It contains the various classical excerpts that the writer, director, and star (as Satan) Benjamin Christenson (who?) had wanted played for the original score.

As for the film itself, it's a documentary with 'recreated scenes,' mostly based on Christenson's own research into the history of witchcraft. The title 'Haxan' (pronounced 'HEXen') means 'The Witches,' and he shows us the full gamut of their behavior including partying with demons and devils, giving birth to demons, flying on broomsticks, and kissing the devil's butt. There are fantastic special effects, including montages of witches flying and even stop motion animation of coins and a demon. Christenson uses lots of close ups. Other reviewers have noted how this influenced many European directors. Great innovation and use of film making techniques!

The whole film is in documentary style (including a 'lecture' on the history of witchcraft)and shows us how the so-called witches were really elderly women with some kind of physical deformity or ugliness (hence the 'old crone' Hallowe'en witch image); innocent women who confessed after hideous torture (implements of torture are shown in deadly cold objective documentary style) or after deception by their inquisitors; or else they were victims of hysteria, a mental condition he demonstrates that women of our own time exhibit. This last section is the weakest part of the film, but so what.

We also get an enlightening audio commentary from a Christenson scholar as well as a prologue to the film with Christenson himself made in the 1940s! One DVD has a jazz sound track, made in 1968, that really isn't that bad, since most of it consists of scary sounds to complement the action. It's not the worst modern sound track ever added to a silent film. That honor has to go to the painful rock soundtrack added to the 1970s re-release of Lon Chaney's 'Phantom of the Opera' (1925). There's also William S. Burrough's 'dead man talking' reading of what were the English intertitles of the silent film, which shortens it by about 20 minutes!

Meanwhile, we can see that all modern demonic horror movies can trace themselves directly or indirectly to this film -- the production company for 'The Blair Witch Project,' (1999) for example, was called Haxan. The Criterion DVD is an amazing restoration with fantastic extras.This allows us to say that this is a great film for viewing for Hallowe'en or any dark and stormy night! Watch this one first, and then follow it up with some of the great demonic movies such as 'Night (Curse) of the Demon' (1957), 'Witchfinder General' (1968), 'The Black Cat' (1934), 'The Wicker Man' (only the 1976 version, please!), or 'The Seventh Victim' (1943).

Because of the weak ending, I can only give it a 9. But what a 9 it is!

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Do You Like To Watch Men Riding Horses?, 31 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Do you like to watch men riding horses? If so, this Mascot serial has a lot of it, but not much else. Mostly filmed outdoors, it is a Western 'mystery man' serial in which the hero, Alan Scott (George Brent) is among those trying to discover the identity of 'The Wolfman,' who is leading a band of Indians attempting to drive all the settlers out of a mining town. The 'mystery man' theme was used countless times in serials from the twenties to the late thirties, and was often found in occasional B westerns, such as the wonderful Ken Maynard's 'Tombstone Canyon' (1932).

The high points include: seeing George Brent as a young, thin, virile Western hero. He should have done more Westerns instead of being packaged and sold the way he was throughout the rest of his career. You can see him in '42nd Street' (1933) and as the Professor in 'The Spiral Staircase' (1945); Lafe McKee, veteran character actor in over 400 films, has what must have been his biggest role ever, since he's in all 12 chapters; Georgia Hale, as 'The Girl,' feisty against the villains when she appears, was Chaplin's dance hall love in 'The Gold Rush' (1925) and had the lead in the silent 'The Great Gatsby' (1926). Since she was deemed 'unsuitable for talkies,' this was her last movie.

More high points: Theodore Lorch, as Pierre LaFarge, best remembered as the High Priest in 'Flash Gordon' (1936), appears in almost all the chapters; Frankie Darro as Jimmy shows off his great teenage physical versatility and fine acting ability, though he isn't featured nearly enough. Frankie is at his best after the great 'The Phantom Empire' (1935) in the many 'buddy' flicks he made with Mantan Moreland, see, for example, 'Up In The Air' (1940). Then there's Rin-Tin-Tin the putative star of the serial who shows a broader acting range than in his previous Mascot serial 'The Lone Defender' (1930), though here much of the stunt work must be his double. He died the next year.

Over all, it's a much better serial than 'The Lone Defender' because of so many outdoor action sequences. There's a fine cliffhanger with Frankie and 'Rinty' hanging from a bucket suspended over a canyon. There are also lots of good shots from inside the Bronson Caves. We get the sure hand of Wyndham Gittens as the supervising editor and one of the writers. He was responsible for many of the better 1930s serials including 'Tim Tyler's Luck' (1937) and 'Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars' (1938) as well as the dozen or so he did for Mascot. He gives us lots of red herrings regarding the identity of the 'mystery man' finally revealed with all details explained, in the final chapter, which includes the not surprising revelation that the warpath Indians were really white men, a cliché since 'The Iron Horse' (1925) and hey! ever since the Boston Tea Party!

Unfortunately, there's so much chasing around on horse back to fill in the chapters, that not much really happens. Better would be to have condensed it into an exciting feature the way that Gitten's 'The Lost Jungle' (1934) was converted into a feature that was better, and amazingly, more interesting, than the serial it came from!

Note: The 'Mill Creek Entertainment' DVD is awful -- booming hissing sounds and blurred visuals. Much better quality are its 'The Law of the Wild' (1934), and 'The Adventures of Rex and Rinty' (1935) both with Rin-Tin-Tin Jr., and Rex 'The Wonder Horse.'

Of the four Rin-Tin-Tin sound serials, the others being 'The Lone Defender' (1930), 'The Law of the Wild' (1934), and 'The Adventures of Rex and Rinty' (1935), this is the best one. It has the most interesting group of characters, a 'mystery man' guessing game story and the best cliff hangers. Still, there's too much riding around, so I'll only give it a four and half.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
There's Not Much To This One (Except For The Dog and Miss Crabtree), 27 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Here we get to see a 1930 Mascot sound serial. Mascot made better ones before and after this one. It's the story of the mysterious 'Ramon,' (played by Walter Miller) suspected of being 'The Cactus Kid,' who helps and protects the heroine, Dolores Valdez (June Marlowe) from having her gold mine being taken over by the evil Amos Harkey (Lee Shumway).

Oh, by the way, the real star of the film is Rin-Tin-Tin, who gets top billing and was the most popular film star of 1926. The story goes that a string quartet would play while he ate so that he'd enjoy a stress free meal. This was his next to last serial. He died in 1932. He does better 'acting' in 'The Lightning Warrior' (1931) where he sympathetically gets to play off a very young Frankie Darro. Here, he is mostly all action, jumping, running at high speed, pulling at ropes and digging. He is clearly the focus of many of the chapters, with the humans in the background.

The story is too back and forth, and little really happens. We do get to see lots of mysterious hands, shadows, and eyes popping out at various times to add the scent of mystery that they gave to so many silent and early sound films and serials. Only a couple of the cliff hangers are exciting, such as when Rinty rescues Ramon from a cliff bound runaway wagon. The gold mine is in the Bronson Caves, which we see briefly in two chapters.

Although Lee Shumway appeared in bit parts in 431 movies, he is little remembered. Walter Miller, veteran of 251 films, mostly as a guard, a henchman or a gangster, can be seen in one of the major roles in Mascot's much better 'The Last of the Mohicans' (1932), noteworthy for the fact that many of the chapters end with up to four different leads in separate cliff hanger endings.

Finally, what really keeps us watching each chapter is to see June Marlowe (with her natural hair color) who played Miss June Crabtree in six 'Our Gang' Little Rascal shorts. Here we never get any tight close ups, but even in the poor TV print (mine was from Mill Creek Video), we can glimpse some of the characteristic visual and vocal expressions she displayed with Chubby, Jackie Cooper and Stymie and the rest of her 'class.' As I've said, 'The Lightining Warrior'(1931) is a better Rin-Tin-Tin serial, as are any of the others written by Wyndham Gittens, who wrote so many Mascot, Republic, and Universal good ones.

For Rinty and Miss Crabtree, 'The Lone Defender,' unfortunately, merits only a 3.

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