Tommy (1934 Universal Serial/VCI DVD)
C Sound: C Extras: C Film: C+
as a hit comic strip back in 1928 (over 90 years ago now), Hal
Forrest's Tailspin Tommy remains a popular classic action favorite
and was far ahead of the Johnny Quests and Speed Racers of the world.
Needing characters to headline their Saturday Morning Serials,
Universal licensed the character for two, starting with Tailspin
Tommy in 1934 and the 12 chapters here are very amusing today as the
serial approaches its 75th Anniversary. Maurice Murphy played the
title character, while a very young Noah Beery Jr. (The Rockford
Files) played Pete 'Skeeter' Milligan.
story begins when a contract to do air mail comes up for grabs and
Tommy is with the company that deserves to win it, versus Tiger
Taggart (John Davidson) who will literally kill to secure it. Tommy
scores early points in flying success and stopping a catastrophe,
upping his popularity and making Taggart more murderous. Then a
movie company wants to film his exceptional flying abilities, but you
know who wants it to be his last flight.
energy and fun here is typical of the earliest serials at their best
and shows once again how good Universal could make them. Even when
the model work is obvious, the pace just keeps going like all good
serial plays and is worth taking in once just to see how good these
could be. Once again, Lucas & Spielberg have this serial too to
thank for one of their franchises.
1.33 X 1 image is on the old side and shows its age, but for the age
of the prints, they look good and VCI obviously did some cleaning up
of them. Video Black is not bad as a result, but expect detail and
depth issues. Universal destroyed many of their older films, so it
is hard to know if/where better copies exist. The Dolby Digital 2.0
Mono also shows its age with some background noise and compression,
but the prints and their sound are at least consistent from chapter
to chapter. Extras include trailers for other serials, especially
those from VCI.
give you an idea of the character's following today, memorabilia goes
for more money than you might expect, including posters and lobby
cards for this serial, its sequel and four B-movies Monogram did of
the character in 1939. Besides a novel and actual film prints of the
adventures, 18 highly collectible early Big Little Books (made
between 1933 and 1940) are heading north of $300+ in the best shape
and climbing. Mint copies, if you can find one, are going higher.
The availability of DVDs like this only push up interest and values
more. VCI has the sequel serial out too and just issued it on
Blu-ray, which you can read more about at this link...
this original gets that same treatment!