Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Crime > Drama > Serial > Mystery > Murder > Martial Arts > Drugs > Comedy > Australia > Aviation > Scie > Gang Busters (1942*/**)/The Man From Hong Kong (1975*/***)/The Phantom Of The Air (1933*/**)/Pirate Treasure (1934/*/**all Universal/VCI serials)/Seven Deaths In The Cats Eyes (1973/***both Twilight T

Gang Busters (1942*/**)/The Man From Hong Kong (1975*/***)/The Phantom Of The Air (1933*/**)/Pirate Treasure (1934/*/**all Universal/VCI serials)/Seven Deaths In The Cats Eyes (1973/***both Twilight Time Limited Editions/*all MVD Blu-rays)

Picture: B (Cats: B-) Sound: C+ (Man: B) Extras: C/B/C-/C-/B- Films: B-/B-/B-/C+/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The The Man From Hong Kong and Seven Deaths In The Cats Eyes limited edition Blu-rays are now only available from Twilight Time and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for some action thrillers to know about, two feature films we are revisiting here and three movie serials you will get a kick out of...

The wildest, most inane, wacky, campy and unintentionally hilarious of the three serials here is Gang Busters (1942,) which was based on the wildly successful radio drama program and had a few tie-ins along the way. It's the police authorities versus organized crime and here, the legendary character actor Kent Taylor heads the authorities against a new threat from the mysterious figure known as Mortis. Running 13 chapters (and 289 minutes!) with the usual slight overlap, it is well done, but has some editing that backfires and wants to be a noble project that teaches its young audience to respect the police.

Irene Hervey is the newspaper reporter (wait until you see her film camera!) and female lead, while Universal managed to also sign Robert Armstrong, Ralph Morgan (one-time Dick Tracy) and Richard Davies, so all that makes this one of their most interesting-ever serials and one worth your time.

Brian Trechard-Smith's The Man From Hong Kong (1975) has finally made it to the U.S. and on Blu-ray, the great Oz-Ploitation James Bond-wanna be that was the first Australian/Hong Kong co-production and pits Golden Harvest studio star Jimmy Wang-Yu against villainous drug kingpin and one-time James Bond George Lazenby. You can read more about the film starting at this link:


Doomed by an R-rating at the time (Fox picked it up for the U.S. market and sometimes going under the title The Dragon Flies) and not even being able to take advantage of having a huge hit record in ''Sky High'' by the English band Jigsaw, it did even worse than the then-recent Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) in a temporary lull in that series. I strongly recommend this one if you love action, crazy humor and can handle its political incorrectness. Lazenby has more fans as more viewers have discovered how great On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) really is, so consider it a curio that pays off.

The Phantom Of The Air (1933) is the oldest of the serials here, but has plenty of fun and amusing moments as Tom Tyler (later Shazam!/Captain Marvel in Republic's all-time brilliant Adventures Of Captain Marvel serial, reviewed elsewhere on this site) as a highly-skilled aviator who is in competition with another flyer (Leroy Mason) who is secretly the head of a dangerous criminal gan who finds out a scientist has invented an anti-gravity device that could be worth billions of dollars.

Both men happen to be associated with the scientists's daughter (Gloria Shea) and are both interested in her. Of course, all this means conflict is inevitable and if that was not enough, there is the title airplane that mighty be one of the most powerful and dangerous vehicles ever made.

Another solid, early sound serial, it was somewhat influential on the action genre and has some fun thrills, as it holds up better than expected, even when some of the effects are dated or old, as expected. Otherwise, the fight scenes and action scene are good and the storyline is better than usual. This runs 12 chapters (and 240 minutes) and is narrowly the best of the three serials we have here. William Desmond, Walter Brennan and Sidney Bracy are a plus in the good supporting cast. Once you start watching and enjoying it, it might be hard to stop until its over.

Pirate Treasure (1934) is another serial gems we are covering here and has an aviator (Richard Talmadge carrying the lead here very well) searching for the title fortune, apparently hidden by a long-gone relative. Can he find it? Does anyone else know it exists? If so, will they kill him for it?

He has a gal friend here (Lucille Lund, more than able to hang with 'the guys') and legendary character actor J. Pat O'Malley in an early acting role. The low-point is stereotypical 'natives' in the middle of nowhere who could thwart anyone getting the gold. Otherwise, these early sound serials are like the silent chapter plays, in that you can see the makers trying to find their way in making these series as exciting and impactful as they can and with somewhat limited resources. This one also runs 12 chapters (and 240 minutes) and has more solid moments than you might expect. Glad to see it saved and restored.

Lastly, we have Antonio Margheriti's Seven Deaths In The Cats Eyes (1973,) which has more variations of its title in English alone than any other film I can think of, as Margheriti again goes under his pseudonym 'Anthony M. Dawson' with Jane Birkin visiting a Scottish Castle (meeting her mother there) and the family in it, only to discover something very murderous is going on. A giallo that tries to be something different, we covered a very cheap DVD version of the film around the time this site launched and I though this would be a lost film. It was issued in a better version later, but I am now only catching up to it in this restored Blu-ray edition.

Though it did not make me love the film, I have to say it was much better, more pleasant and enjoyable this time and I raised my opinion (and rating) in the film a bit. Now that I can actually see and hear it clearly as intended, I can see subtleties in the film and performances that I could not see before and how the script takes some risks, plus a different approach to the murders. Anton Diffring, Hiram Keller, Dana Ghia, Venantino Venantini, Doris Kunstmann, Francoise Christophe, Luciano Pigozzi, Georg Konrad, and Serge Gainsbough help make up the effective supporting cast and this is now the only way to see this film outside of a mint, scope 35mm or even 16mm film print.

With its often superior use of color and melodrama involving sex, betrayal and class division, some will find this more involving and intriguing than others, but it is at least a different kind of entry in the giallo cycle and now, more than worth revisiting.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on all three serials can show the age of the materials used here and there, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of all on previous, lesser home video formats with new scans that make these all look shockingly good from new 4K scans. Detail and depth is some of the best I have ever seen for serials on home video to date and will surprise fans and those new to serial chapter plays. As for sound, all feature PCM 2.0 Mono sound and sound as good as they likely ever will, save Pirate with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound that is slightly weaker and has more background noise, yet it has more clarity than expected. That makes them all on par with each other.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Man From Hong Kong is from the same fine, restored version Umbrella has on their older Blu-ray edition, save that the image here is slightly darker and sometimes more color-rich. It may also be missing a sliver of info on a side or two, but its fine and as shot in real 35mm anamorphic Panavision, is the best-looking release of the five covered here. As for sound, we get two soundtracks here, a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is a surprising choice and on the weak side, plus a PCM 2.0 Stereo mix that is much better and might be a bit more naturalistic than the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on their older Blu-ray, but not always as clear, even when some elements in that upgrade fall short. It is a draw for the better sound on both, but maybe if this ever gets a 4K edition, they can do a 12-track upgrade with the best of both mixes.

That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Cats, which as I noted in my old DVD review was 'Shot by cinematographer Carlo Carlini in Techniscope (an inexpensive version of Panavision) and originally issued in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor.' Unlike the hideous low-budget DVD we covered long, long ago, the color here is often fine and you can see how it would benefit and look in such a 35mm print, but we do have some off images (an early faded shot is a one-time thing) and a little softness here and there (partly form the format, but maybe also from the persons handling the scan trying to get rid of grain here and there?) that stops this from looking as good as the few great Techniscope transfers we have seen to date.

The two soundtracks are here with Riz Ortolani's solid music score are in PCM 2.0 Stereo, in either English (which is what they are actually speaking for the most part) and Italian dub tracks, but both have all their dialogue done in post-production as was the norm for all post-WWII Italian (co-)productions. It is fine, the stereo simple, but as good as the film will ever sound and a huge improvement over that hideous DVD from years ago. From what we gather, this is also better than the DVD Blue Underground later issued.

Extras include Original Theatrical Trailers on all five discs, though the VCI tend to be for other releases (serials in all cases, save Pirate for two similarly-themed feature films they have all also issued,) Gang Busters adds the early Technicolor classic cartoon A Tale Of Two Kitties that pits a very early appearance of Tweety Bird (he was not yellow yet) with cat take-offs of Abbott & Costello to great effect (in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that is not bad.) Both Twilight Time releases add very nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and essays by Mike Finnegan, Man From Hong Kong is not as loaded as its Umbrella counterpart, but does drop the low-def versions of Trenchard-Smith's other films that were squeezed onto it. We still get the segment on the film from the Not Quiet Hollywood documentary (reviewed at full-length elsewhere on this site) and the feature length audio commentary track with Trenchard-Smith, actor/stunt legend Grant page and co-star Hugh Keays-Byrne. Too bad the Making Of piece is not here, but the booklet helps to make up for it.

Cat adds a decent feature length audio commentary track by film historian Troy Howarth, who has been prolific in this respect and is not bad here.

To order The Man From Hong Kong and/or Seven Deaths In The Cats Eyes limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at these links:


- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com