"Continued Next Week..."

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Continued Next Week..."

Those words at the end of a Saturday matinée serial were an Army brat's curse while I was hitting 44 states before I was 12-years-old!

I was rarely in one place very long, so chances were slim I'd never find out how the hero was able to extricate himself or the ingénue from what always looked to be certain doom.

Through the wonder of cable TV and DVDs, I've been able to answer some of those cliff-hanging mysteries which have loomed large in my mind over the past 50-60 years.

Some of the chapterplays showed up on TV during the mid-'60s "high camp" craze, and fortunately they were the Republic serials, the best of them all based on production values.

They were shown in the New York area on Channel 9 on... natch!... Saturday afternoons, edited into a feature-length films to fit into a two-hour time slot.

But while Republic has the great production values, to the pre-teen so willing to suspend his disbelief, it was the titles and characters who were important!

If Republic had "Dick Tracy," "Captain Marvel" and the thrilling "Spy Smasher," cheap-jack Columbia had "Batman," "The Shadow," "The Phantom," "Black­hawk," "Mandrake the Magi­cian," and one of my favorites, "Mysterious Island1," based on Jules Verne's sequel to "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea."

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!"

Columbia had also licensed the character of...

Lobby card from 1950

..."Superman," another favorite from listening to the 15-minute week-daily radio program voiced by "Bud" Collyer.

(He would intone "This looks like a job for Superman," then lower his voice an octave for: "Up, up and away!" When I was nine I be­lieved every second of it!)

But try as I might (living in Kansas, Washing­ton or Michigan), I was never able to catch up with even one of the chapters of the two 15-episode serials produced in 1948 and 1950.

And then George Reeves arrived in 1951 with a full-length (all of 58 minutes) "Superman and the Mole-Men." That took care of my "Strange visitor from another planet" requirement 'til Christopher Reeve came along 27 years later.

Or so I thought... my sister knew better.

Preview of Coming Attraction:
Noel Neill, Tommy Boyd, George Meeker, Kirk Alyn and Carol Forman as "The Spider Lady"

"Continued Next Week..." to be continued.

  1. More almost 60 years later, I wonder why I wasn't more disturbed by the presence of a top-like spaceship containing a trio of Mercurians to complicate the lives of the escaped Union soldiers and Captain Nemo, but hey!, I was 11 and went with it.


1. RBCG said...

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2. Rob F. said...

Some time probably about the early-mid-1970s, public television (WNET-NY) showed old movie serials including "Buck Rogers," "Flash Gordon," "Zorro," and probably a few others I'm forgetting. Great fun, especially the campy acting, goofy costumes (sometimes obviously re-used from other movies), and ultra-low-tech special effects. But still great fun.

Being able to watch them sometimes one right after another on TV tipped me to the fact that the producers often played a bit of a trick on the audience. The cliffhanger the audience saw at the end of one episode is not quite the same thing that happens at the beginning of the next episode, the difference typically allowing the hero to make his escape. I guess they figured enough time would have passed between episodes shown in the theater that nobody would be the wiser!

Yes, the added "insert" shot showing the protagonist suddenly realizing the danger ahead, and leaping... always from the passenger's side... of the speeding car, just before the repeat of the shot showing the vehicle plunging to its doom.

What I remember most about the Buck Rogers and three Flash Gordon chapterplays... all with Buster Crabbe in the title roles... were the crackling, sputtering rocketships with the smoking and sparking rocket tubes, from which the smoke arose straight up.

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