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Category:    Home > Reviews > Serial > Adventure > Adventures Of The Flying Cadets (Serial)

The Adventures Of The Flying Cadets (Serial)


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



One way to see how bad B-movies with A budgets fail is to compare similar material from years ago.  This surfaced again when I watched The Adventures of the Flying Cadets (1938), a Universal Pictures serial in a semi-lucky 13 chapters that tells the story of how four trainees in the U.S. Air Corps battle a Nazi spy ring.  The recent film in question is Tony Scott’s 1986 propaganda/Music Video hootfest Top Gun.  You know, the film where the cadets sort of party and fly all the time, then because no other unit of fighter plane pilots are available, fight then-Soviet MiG jets.


Back then, everyone laughed at the idea that no team would be nearby if such a thing occurred, after the events of 9/11/01, the propaganda is exposed in the ugliest possible way.  No one will ever laugh at that moment again, knowing the new truth it holds.  The Flying Cadets waste no time here, especially having many more hours than Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Rick Rossovich have to fill.  When a series of murders can be traced to agents of The Third Reich, this older “fab four” picks up the clues and follows up on them, discovering the Nazi-supported terrorism.  Faster than you can say The Hardy Boys, they are hot on the trail of the Fifth Column-types, all of which the adults are oblivious to.  The chapters are as follows:


1)     The Black Hangman Strikes

2)     Menaced By Murderers

3)     Into The Flames

4)     Doorway Of Death

5)     Crashed In A Crater

6)     Rendezvous With Doom

7)     Gestapo Execution

8)     Master Of Treachery

9)     Wings Of Destruction

10)  Caught In The Caves Of An-Kar-Ban

11)  Hostages For Treason

12)  The Black Hangman Strikes Again

13)  The Toll Of Treason


This is not the outright propaganda it could have been, but the results are mixed.  The cliffhangers are not as suspenseful or as well executed as Universal’s better chapter plays and the fight scenes are also tamer.  I wonder if kids being involved are one of the reasons.  If it is, that was a mistake.  This also does not look like it had the biggest budget, even for its time, so the result is a curio that is not offensive or effective.  It is above average and fun for some laughs.


The full frame black and white images are on the grainy side with the darker scenes suffering detail problems, but this seems to do more with the material used than the actual DVD transfer.  It is old at worse and watchable at best.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono has the usual background hiss and for-its-age distortion, but it also occurrently has additional distortion in spots that was distracting, but again from the original source, not the transfer or digital mastering.  The only extras are four trailers for other serials VCI has available or is about to issue on DVD.


Of course, this serial was made before Pearl Harbor and most people did not realize what was really ahead.  The naïveté is somewhat charming and sad at the same time.  There are more exciting serials than The Adventures of the Flying Cadets, but there have been much worse, and it certainly is not as condescending as Top Gun so we can give it that credit.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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