S.O.S. Coast Guard (VCI 1937)
Sound: C Extras: C- Chapters: C
1937, Ralph Byrd hit the screen as Dick Tracy, a comic strip detective familiar
to many. Later that same year, he starred in S.O.S. Coast Guard (1937). Though not as well known, this serial is
actually quite an important bridge between the Dick Tracy serials of the time. It shares both the star, and the directors
(the first had been co-directed by Alan James and Ray Taylor, while the later
three were done by William Witney and John English). The story is everything you might expect from
a serial of the time, and even includes a performance by Bela Lugosi as the
evil scientist Boroff.
holds the formula for a deadly gas capable of disintegrating almost anything in
its path, and Lt. Terry Kent is the man who must find a way of stopping him. At just under 4 hours long, the serial
chapters are is capable of dragging at times. I feel that if you take the time to watch each
chapter on an individual basis, you'll be more pleasantly rewarded and retain
the cliffhanger feeling that was intended. Those without the time or desire to see this
in its entirety could track down the shortened version released in 1942 - it
clocks in at just 69 minutes, but fans would advise against that.
the age of this print, and that to my knowledge it has not undergone any
significant restoration at any time; the picture quality is certainly above
what I expected. The full frame
monochrome image is the serial has looked yet.
At most times, the image is very clear and well-defined. Some shots do appear slightly darker, possibly
losing a little detail. This shouldn't
be attributed to any deterioration, however, but rather the use of different
camera or film types when filmed. Another
welcome surprise is the condition of the original mono soundtrack. Mild hissing and clicks are occasionally
present, but for the most part everything is well above average.
My only major complaint
with this disc is the lack of sufficient bonus material. A commentary here would have gone a long way
in one's appreciation of the film, something VCI has done before, would have
gone a long way in enhancing one’s appreciation of the chapter play. However, bios on the stars and directors of
the film are included - something that should be appreciated by casual fans of
serials looking for a starting point to expand their knowledge. Also included is one fast-paced ad covering
VCI's catalogue of serials available on DVD. The previews shown would have been a welcome
addition, had they been better represented. Instead, they are lumped together with poor
pacing and the box art taking up much of the frame.
Outside of that, the VCI
version of S.O.S. Coast Guard is the one to own, so those who could not find it
when the Roan Group edition went out of print who wondered what version to get,
go for VCIs.
- David Milchick