Vintage Serials [5 Discs] [DVD]

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Mystery Squadron [Serial]
Heroes and villains alike use airplanes instead of horses in this generally well-made Mascot serial featuring diminutive cowboy star Bob Steele. Steele and sidekick Guinn "Big Boy" Williams (whose supposedly comical craving for jellybeans quickly becomes tiring) are hired by an aviator friend (Jack Mulhall) to aid Lafe McKee and his daughter Lucille Browne in safeguarding the building of a dam. A mystery villain known only as "The Black Ace" is using a gang of air pirates in a (largely unexplained) war against the construction firm. The mystery villain proves, of course, to be the one character seemingly above suspicion. In fairness to the serial, we shall refrain from divulging his identity, however. Mystery Squadron contains many well-made aerial fights and stunts but is also filled with all kinds of silly and seemingly unnecessary gaffes. When a dart carrying a warning note is thrown through a window, for example, that same window is shown in the following shot as not only securely closed but covered by an undamaged lace curtain. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Black Coin [Serial]
The first of three inexpensive serials produced by Louis Weiss for Poverty Row company Stage and Screen Productions, The Black Coin centered around 12 black coins, who together form a treasure map. The plot was as old as the Hollywood Hills, and didn't quite deliver the same punch by 1936, despite the addition of the popular G-men to the proceedings. Secret Service agents Ralph Graves and Ruth Mix go in search of the villains who are using the Caswell Shipping Company as a front to their smuggling operation when they stumble over the secret of The Black Coin. Ruth Mix, the daughter of Tom, furnished much-needed name value to all three Stage and Screen serials. William Desmond, a major serial star in the silent era, plays a bit as a bartender in The Black Coin, while, more amusingly, veteran stunt man Yakima Canutt appears as a character named "Ed McMahon." ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Vanishing Legion [Serial]
Filmed at Newhall, CA, with exteriors shot at Universal City, Mascot Pictures' The Vanishing Legion became the little company's signature serial. Producer Nat Levine had managed to sign veteran cowboy star Harry Carey, blonde starlet Edwina Booth, and Olive Fuller Golden, Carey's wife, all of whom had recently just barely survived the travails of filming MGM's Trader Horn (1930) under extremely difficult conditions in what was then termed Darkest Africa. Now they were employed in a typical serial story of young Jimmy Williams (Frankie Darro) and his wild stallion (the famously intemperate Rex, King of the Wild Horses), both searching for the mysterious gang that framed Jimmy's father (Edward Hearn) in a murder scheme. The two get assistance from leathery old Happy Hardigan (Carey), who has discovered a plot by the lawless Vanishing Legion to sabotage Caroline Hall's (Booth) ancestral oil company. Behind the shenanigans is a master criminal, heard but never seen and known only as "The Voice." The identity of the villain is revealed only in the 12th and final chapter, "The Hoofs of Horror." Said identity, which of course shall not be revealed here either, was that of a venerable, old character actor who usually played kindly fathers. Of course, Mascot engaged in a bit of skullduggery themselves by having Boris Karloff as a "voice double." Also released in a re-edited feature version, The Vanishing Legion has become synonymous with Mascot Pictures and is the title of a groundbreaking biography of the little studio by Jon Tuska. Sadly, the serial proved the final film for silent screen cowboy Dick Hatton, who was killed in a car accident later in the year. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Clutching Hand [Serial]
The second of three serials produced by the Weiss Bros. for low-budget Stage and Screen Productions, The Clutching Hand brought back that eminent detective Craig Kennedy, who had first appeared in Pearl White's The Exploits of Elaine back in 1915. Now played by the veteran Jack Mulhall, another holdover from the early silent era, Kennedy is hired to solve the mysterious disappearance of Dr. Paul Gironda, whose formula for the manufacture of synthetic gold is coveted by a mysterious cloaked villain known only as The Clutching Hand. Along with Dr. Gironda's nubile daughter, Verna (Marion Shilling), and young newspaper reporter Walter Jameson (Rex Lease), Kennedy is aided or opposed in his quest by an impressive array of unemployed former silent screen "names" that include William Farnum, Reed Howes, Mae Busch, Bryant Washburn, Franklyn Farnum, and Snub Pollard, not to mention newcomers like Charles Locher (later known as Jon Hall) and Tom Mix's daughter, Ruth. The best made and most successful of Stage and Screen's three chapterplays (the company had promised six or seven), The Clutching Hand was also released in a 70-minute highly edited feature version. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Bob Steele
    Bob Steele
  • Guinn "Big Boy" Williams
    Guinn "Big Boy" Williams
  • Image coming soon
    Lucille Browne
  • Jack Mulhall
    Jack Mulhall - Hank Davis
  • J. Carrol Naish
    J. Carrol Naish
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