Riders Of Death Valley (Western Serial)
Sound: C Extras: C Chapters: C+
The fun of serials is to see the over-simplicity of good
vs. bad, the fights, the bad visual effects, the unintentionally funny lines
and just how old they are. When they
are Westerns, it becomes even wackier since so many were made just as Westerns
became a full-fledged genre in 1939.
The 1941 serial Riders Of Death Valley was one of Universal
Pictures’ larger productions, pulling together name stars within the genre at
their studio and going wild for 15 chapters.
Usually 12 to 13 were the limit, but 15 (even when some chapters recycle
and cheat the audience) is more ambitious.
Buck Jones, Dick Foran, Noah Berry, Jr., “Big Boy”
Williams and Leo Carrillo star with each chapter opening to that convention of
the singing cowboy, though who knows who is singing. After watching dozens of these serials, including the Westerns, I
have to say that this one was a disappointment, particularly with the
cliffhangers and how badly they cheat the audience. For all that money, the “escapes” are some of the dumbest ever
devised in serial history and to say they do not match the end of the previous
chapters in an honest way is an understatement. To say we have been given a “bum steer” would be fair.
Nevertheless, there are people who will even enjoy that,
while I found it hard to keep up with the characters since they were not as
developed, as I would have liked. This
was made for fans of the time and is a sort of culmination work for the studio
at that period. At least it is now out
on DVD from VCI.
The 1.33 X 1 image varied throughout, but is down a
generation or so, resulting in flattened images versus what you might expect
from film, yet is very consistent in its video black. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono shows its age, in part because of the
source more so than the transfer itself.
The combination is passable for its age. Extras are few and include stills, text on the actors and a few
trailers for other serials including one for many of those VCI has issued to
- Nicholas Sheffo