Action Heroes Of The Cliffhanger Serials! (1992/Legend DVD)/The Sloane “Fast” Triple Feature: Fast Company (1938)/Fast & Loose (1939)/Fast & Furious (1939/Warner Archive
DVD)/George Gently: Series 5
(2012/Acorn Blu-ray)/Nick Carter
Mysteries Triple Feature (1939 – 1940/Warner Archive DVD)/Revenge For Jolly! (2012/Sony DVD)/The Sweeney (2012/E1 Blu-ray w/DVD)
& C Sound: C/C+/B-/C+/C+/B &
B- Extras: D/C-/C-/C-/D/B- Main Programs: C+/C+/C+/C+/B-/C+
PLEASE NOTE: The Fast and Nick Carter trilogy
DVDs are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series
and can be ordered from the link below.
Western came out of the silent era and B-movies until it became a genre in
1939, but action mystery suspense thrillers have a different history and they
pull from several sources. Nick Carter
and Sherlock Holmes were among the major characters to debut in print in the
1880s, followed by many detectives (too many that have been forgotten) and when
silent film arrived, they were among the early characters to be put on
film. The first silent serials aimed at
adults as much as anyone also featured their share of mysterious
characters. Then sound arrived to film
and things picked up. Six new releases
happen to show that range and give us a look at exactly those roots and what
they have led to today.
with a compilation. Action Heroes Of The Cliffhanger Serials! from Legend DVD and
features 90 minutes of previews for old movie serial chapter plays that Hollywood’s
smaller companies (Universal, Columbia and Republic in particular) started
producing in the 1930s aimed at younger audiences. They were among the first child-targeting
films, feature some Western characters, but often also marked the debut of many
other action heroes, comic book heroes and the Science Fiction and Horror
genres found major ground and they all becomes the foundation for the growth of
many key genres.
the serials featured are on DVD (and I wish would show up on Blu-ray eventually)
including many we have reviewed on this site.
Included in this set are King Of The Rocket Men, The Iron Claw,
Columbia’s Batman & Robin, Columbia’s Superman, Columbia’s Vigilante,
Columbia’s Congo Bill, Columbia’s Blackhawk (all DC Comics adaptations from
Columbia), Universal’s Flash Gordon, Universal’s Green Hornet, Don Daredevil,
The Mysterious Doctor Satan, Undersea Kingdom, The Green Archer, Republic’s
Zorro, Republic’s Spy Smasher, Republic’s The Adventures Of Captain Marvel
(both from the now defunct Fawcett Comics), Republic’s Dick Tracy, Republic’s
Captain America, Universal’s Gangbusters, The Great Adventures Of Captain Kidd,
Tex Granger, Columbia’s King Of The Congo (with Buster Crabbe as Thunda),
several politically incorrect jungle adventures, a few Western=based, one with
John Wayne (he did several at Republic), and a piece of an otherwise lost Lone
Ranger serial from 1938.
set on DVD, there are no extras, but it gives you an overview of how successful
these chapter plays were.
also had full length novels and feature films, but the studios often took these
properties and tried to turn them into B-movie series, even high class
ones. MGM had their successes, but
sometimes, the properties did not lead to long series. Warner Archive has just issued two titles
that show how the studio would try to make a series work, but throw in the
towel when they saw things were just not working out.
have what I call The Sloane “Fast”
Triple Feature and involve a married couple who happen to run a specialty
bookstore and sometimes solve murders.
Joel Sloane and his wife Garda are a bit dysfunctional, but MGM tried to
make them work in three films. Edward
Buzzell’s Fast Company (1938, not to
be confused with the David Cronenberg film, of course) featured Melvin Douglas
and Florence Rice as the couple trying to solve a murder that becomes entangled
in a forged book scheme. They are the
best pairing to play the couple despite the quality of actors who succeeded
them in the next films, but this plays more like a rough draft of The Thin Man
series MGM made later, yet it’s the best of the three films here.
Marin’s Fast & Loose (1939)
pumped up the humor way too much with Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell as
the couple, picking up where the last film left off. However, the plot starts to involve Nazi
agents and the humor seems very out of place in addition to a certain flatness
to the film and lack of chemistry between the likable leads. It is worth a look, but not great by any
means, so the studio tired one more time.
choreographer Busby Berkeley was called in to helm Fast & Furious (1939) which plays better than those sometimes
with Vin Diesel no-brainer car films, but despite toning down the humor still
has too much of it. Nazis are here again
and the couple is now played by Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern, who make a
better couple than Montgomery & Russell but not Douglas & Rice. This has some good moments and the leads are
engaging, but the film just does not improve from the previous entries and with
WWII breaking out, MGM folded the series.
for each film are the only extra.
same time, MGM signed a young Walter Pidgeon as Nick Carter and made what would
be only three films with him and of the character, now issued as the Nick Carter Mysteries Triple Feature by
Warner Archive starting with the still-impressive Nick Carter, Master Detective (1939) with the best mystery,
fighting, action sequences, writing, pacing, editing and action. Phantom
Raiders (1940) has sabotage of ships he has to stop and the results are
mixed with the ideas working better than the film and Sky Murder (also 1940) has him taking on Nazi spies with less humor
despite his bee-loving sidekick.
Like the Fast films, the Nick Carter Mysteries became victims of change and Hollywood did not know how to deal with
that. While the Sloane’s were of an
upper class who would eventually have to deal with a new darker world, Carter
was a pre-WWI action hero who would have to be darker (he would eventually be a
Killmaster spy fighter in a post-WWII book series) and a gumshoe detective that
he was not created as. WWII eventually
became a dark reality that ended many great movie series (including the
Fleischer Superman cartoons) and with TV’s arrival, B-movie series and serials
had their days numbered. However, they
were very important pieces of filmmaking, especially at their best and I am
glad to see them still arriving on DVD.
for each film are the only extra for this disc as well.
craze of the 1960s, rise of comic book heroes, retro 1980s adventures and other
great classic novels, TV shows and films would follow in the 60+ years
following and the classy detective stories up to the 1980s came back in recent
years as the formulaic police procedural for “upper class” type looking for
“quality: product, but a glut resulted instead, though the likes of George Gently: Series 5 (2012) with one
time Professionals action star
Martin Shaw as the title investigator somehow manages to be one of the few such
shows that are not boring and unwatchable in the subgenre.
telefilm mysteries here take place in Britain of the 1960s (which likely
helps stop it from becoming too micro-technical and cold, i.e. boring) and include
Gently Northern Soul, Gently With Class, The Lost Child and Gently In
The Cathedral. It helps that Shaw is
a good, likable actor and that he has some believable chemistry with co-star
Lee Ingleby, but despite being based on a novel series like the MGM series
decades before it, the show never becomes more exciting than what it is which
disappoints me. However, it is at least
consistent, but too safe. A 3-minutes
Behind-The-Scenes featurette clip is the only extra.
his career to The Professionals and
the shows that made it possible, especially the original Sweeney with John Thaw as Regan, a tough lad cop running a special
crime unit in a show that brought new realism to British TV and started with a
telefilm called Regan. That realism played into the 1980s before
such shows became silly and repetitive, but now, there is a feature film remake
of the series simply called The Sweeney
(2012) and Ray Winstone takes over the Regan role.
originally initiated as a project by Fox (who later dropped out apparently),
this new version is set in 2012 and has a more rotten Regan (this backfires a
bit), tries for a new style (even when referencing older classic lines and
phrases from the show, save “Gov” which we rarely hear and was sent up so well in
a skit from The Comic Strip Presents
skit series E1 has issued in a great DVD box set reviewed elsewhere on this
site) so it is trying to have it both ways and sometimes it works and certainly
better than Michael Mann’s disappointing Miami
is good as Regan and company have to solve a crime with unusually powerful
people involved, but their unorthodox methods (not as gritty as the original
show, by the way, which was thematically darker anyhow) may not be enough
because what is really going on is so bad.
Ben Drew makes for a solid co-star, Nick Love does his best to direct
all this and you can tell the people involved here are happy to make this and
love the original series.
it gives us a mixed result and what still makes it watchable are the attempts
to keep it going, the unusual energy from the attempt to make it and just that
it is a rare totally-British feature commercial production. However, it can
also come across as flat as George
Gently and those cleaner police procedurals, no matter when they are set.
the original Regan TV pilot, which
we covered in an import Blu-ray, still holds up better despite its age. You can read more about that one at this
not expect a sequel or series here either.
I also was not impressed by the car chases, despite the involvement of
the gang from Top Gear. It will be a curio at least for those who
know the original show, but most U.S. audiences never heard of it or
saw it, sadly. Even if you have not, it
is worth a look if it is your kind of storytelling.
are actually more impressive in this case with a feature length audio
commentary track by Love and the Producers, two Animated Storyboards and no
less than six Behind The Scenes featurettes that show how much work and even
fun went into its making. I wish more
releases were this ambitious.
brings us to the biggest surprise on the list, Chado Harbold’s Revenge For Jolly! (2012) manages to
pull off the clever street edge the new Sweeney
is missing, has mystery involved and some of the slyest humor in the genre in
years. Harry (Brian Petsos) just loves
his little dog Jolly, but is not always involved with the nicest people and
after going out with his cousin Cecil (Oscar Issac, a good actor too and they
have great chemistry together), comes home to find his dog killed assassination
style. This makes Harry mad and he
spends the rest of the film trying to find who did it.
darkly comic, the film still takes itself and us seriously and never misses a
beat as it is able to do all the humor without becoming a spoof of itself, the
script is really good and the makers know their way around the crime genre very
well. I wish more films and TV shows
did, but they usually just do bad Tarantino rip-offs with no heart, soul or
point. This film is one of the rare
exceptions and worth going out of your way for.
sadly no extras, but Elijah Wood, Adam Brody, Kristen Wiig, Bobby Moynihan,
Kevin Corrigan and Ryan Phillippe also star.
See this one!!!
X 1 on the Action DVD is weak and
soft from the dated transfer and dated trailers as expected, but is watchable
enough. The 1.33 X 1 black and white
transfers on the Sloane “Fast” and Nick Carter DVDs look better and come
from 35mm vault materials to the point that they are the best-looking DVDs on
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Jolly
is a nice shoot off of a RED ONE and RED EPIC cameras, but this transfer makes
it look softer throughout than I would have liked and I hope we get a Blu-ray
2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Sweeney is the best performer on the list as expected, offering a
unique mix of several different HD cameras and HD definition
concentrations. That put it just past
the 16mm original Regan pilot on
Blu-ray in performance quality and has some nice color, but expect some styling
choices and minor detail issues here and there.
The anamorphically enhanced DVD version is much softer.
1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Gently
is as good as the previous Blu-ray sets with some minor noise and definition
issues, but good looking, colorful to most of an extent and limited in being
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Sweeney is the sonic winner here as well with a fine soundfield
throughout, solid recording work and a warm presentation that sounds better
than many big action films we have encountered on Blu-ray of late. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD
version is not as good, but still has consistent surrounds. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo on Gently has some Pro Logic surrounds and
is also well recorded if not with constant surround activity.
Dolby Digital 5.1 on Jolly is dialogue-based
and nicely recorded, but I wished for a lossless soundtrack as I watched
because I know there is more sound here than the Dolby AC-3 can deliver. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the rest
of their DVDs show their age, but we get more background hiss on the Action DVD than I would have liked and
it is a few generations down. The Sloane “Fast” and Nick Carter sound shows their age, but sounds pretty good under the
the Fast and Nick Carter trilogy DVDs, go to this link for it and many more
great web-exclusive releases at: