Brass Bancroft Of The Secret Service Mysteries
Collection (1939 – 1940/Warner
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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- Nicholas Sheffo