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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > Comedy > B-Movie Series > Brass Bancroft Of The Secret Service Mysteries Collection (1939 – 1940/Warner Archive DVD)

Brass Bancroft Of The Secret Service Mysteries Collection (1939 – 1940/Warner Archive DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: D     Films: C+



PLEASE NOTE: This release is only available from Warner Bros. in their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from at links below.



While small companies made movie serials, the big studios made B-movie series and Warner was no exception.  It was a chance to try out new contract players and a young Ronald Reagan was one of them.  Thinking he had leading man appeal, they cast him as federal agent Brass Bancroft and the result was an interesting four-film series that ran for two years.  Now, Warner Archive is offering the Brass Bancroft Of The Secret Service Mysteries Collection as a DVD set exclusively from their website.


Edited in Warner’s punchy action style, the four films include:


Secret Service Of The Air (1939) as Bancroft has to break a sinister smuggling ring from Mexico.  It offers a good start to the series and Reagan fits into the character well enough at a time when his corporate spokesman voice was not fully developed yet, so you can imagine the studio hoping he could be a hit doing these kinds of films somewhere between Buster Crabbe and John Wayne.


Code Of The Secret Service (1939) begins the idea that Bancroft is involved with The Treasury Department as a fellow agent is tracking down printing plates and Bancroft is ordered to join him in the hunt.  It is a switch that makes this work and increases how interesting the series becomes.  Some nice twists too.


Smashing The Money Ring (1939) goes further into this direction as Bancroft eventually goes undercover as a prisoner to find out where phony money is being printed secretly inside said prison.  This manages to be funny while still holding the thriller aspect together well enough.  It looked like Reagan might have a hit on his hands.


Sadly, Murder In The Air (1940) with its blimps and as WWII propaganda stopped the series in its tracks despite being a quality run.  A hobo is found dead, but happens to have a money belt on him with $50,000 (which is like a million bucks today) so Bancroft has to find out how this has happened before Axis saboteurs do serious damage to the new war effort.


Because of the war effort, many genre series (even the Fleischer animated Superman shorts) became WWII pro-Allied propaganda, which diminished story possibilities and it is fair to say this would have run at least a couple of more films and Reagan would have become the bigger star everyone knew he could be at the time.  When watched in order, you feel it all ends too soon and could have gone on longer.  By the end of WWII, the studio tried to launch him into lead roles and supported this for a while, but Reagan worked at various studios by 1950 and the rest is history.  Brass Bancroft was a casualty of the realities of WWII and was never revived.


Too bad.



The 1.33 X 1 black and white image across the four films is not bad for the age of the films and Warner did a nice job keeping these films preserved enough.  Of course, considering a former President of the United States is here, you would think it would be and it is.  All have that great Warner monochrome look and we don’t see enough of these period genre B-movies to begin with, so film fans will enjoy this on that level.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound can be rougher showing its age, but maybe this would sound better in a lossless Blu-ray release sometime down the line.  However, that would reveal other flaws, so the sound is what it is.  There are no extras.


To order, go to this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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