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Category:    Home > Reviews > Serial > Western > The Last Frontier (1932/Serial/Western/Roan Group)

The Last Frontier (1932/Serial/Western/Roan Group)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C     Chapters: C+



The Roan Group joins VCI in releasing their own edition of RKO’s dabbling in movie serials.  Van Buren, an animation company, produced the chapters for them in an interesting test water project for them.  To recap further, RKO was a major studio, but early on, it experimented with the idea of doing Saturday Morning Serial.  The result was the one-off Western The Last Frontier (1932) here in later Commonwealth release prints.  It runs twelve chapters as follows:


1)     The Black Ghost Rides

2)     The Thundering Herd

3)     The Black Ghost Strikes

4)     The Fatal Shot

5)     Clutching Sands

6)     The Terror Trail

7)     Doomed

8)     Facing Death

9)     Thundering Doom

10)  The Life Line

11)  Driving Danger

12)  The Black Ghost’s Last Ride



Lon Chaney Jr. (credited at the time as Creighton Chaney) is The Black Ghost, dawning his mask to break up land stealing terrorists.  As a genre piece, it is historic and interesting, but the cliffhangers are mixed and the program in general shows its age.  This was an early sound film, let alone serial, so this would have been more impressive in its time and Western fans will find this more appealing than most.  Dorothy Gulliver is cowgirl Betty, enough of a match for Tom Kirby (Chaney) outside of his masked antics.


Chaney is very young here and the acting is of the stage variety, with the actors standing around more and being a bit louder in their dialogue delivery, but there is just enough energy to keep this 70+ years old chapterplay going.  General Custer, Wild Bill, Kit Carson and the usual stereotypical “Indians” are also included.  If watched in the better spirit it was intended, it is not bad and not as racist as it might have been.  For serial and Western fans, it is a must-see.


Like The VCI version, the 1.33 X 1 monochrome full frame image shows its age and is lucky to be in the shape it is in.  With Warner, the owners of RKO since they acquired Turner Entertainment a few years ago just now getting to work on that long-neglected catalog (though Turner did spend some serious money to save it, that was not enough) now there’s, there is no guarantee that any materials from this serial have survived in their vaults.  You can expect some variances throughout in quality even more than usually exists in such serial sets, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is just as aged, with background noise throughout.  It is not as “hot” as many an untreated film soundtrack we have heard on DVD, but it is limited.


In all this, the two versions are pretty much a dead heat with each other, including being from later prints form a few decades later.  Extras are different, with Lou Lembeck doing an introduction, a trailer to Troma’s Radiation March and clip from Make Your Own Damn Movie in which the underrated director John Badham talks about going out and shooting in any format you can get your hands on.  By comparison, VCI offered text biographies of the two leads and director, plus trailers for four other serials and a general VCI Serial releases trailer.  Neither are wildly vital and can both be found on releases from other titles in the companies catalog.  That leaves price and cover art as your final deciding factors.  The chapters run 220 minutes either way.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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