Welcome back! It’s Saturday morning again which means it’s Saturday Breakfast Serial Time! This week, it’s Chapter Two of Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (You can find Chapter One here.)
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the transition of serials from silent to sound, a transition which would begin to give the serials more of the look and feel of the ones that are more familiar to us today. In that post, I wrote about Tarzan the Mighty, one of the first serials to include partial sound, including the first recorded “Tarzan yell”. That was not however, actually the first serial to include partial sound, as that distinction actually goes to King of the Kongo which was produced by Mascot pictures in 1929 and released a few months prior to TtM.
Though the serial itself is not really considered all that interesting, it’s history (and its place in history) certainly makes it so. One of the first things you need to know about sound recording for film at the time is that as opposed to the sound actually being a part of the film itself, the sound accompaniment was actually recorded onto disks that were sent along with the film and had to be synced up and played alongside the film itself. This meant that in order for there to be sound with the movie, one not only had to have a copy of the film, but the disks also, and that is where the problem with King of the Kongo and a restoration of the entire film begins, because although a complete copy of the film itself is still known to exist, most of the accompanying disks have been lost or destroyed, meaning that we will probably never have a full restoration of this important piece of cinema history.
Of course, I have to use the word “probably” there, as one never knows what might be found in the future. As a matter of fact, it’s in a lot of ways a tribute to coincidence that we have as much of a restoration of the serial with its sound today as we do. I’m not going to go into the entire story of the restoration and preservation of what does exist here, but for those truly interested, at least part of the story (and some very interesting insight into the world of film collecting and preservation) can be found here.
Here’s a list, thanks to Wikipedia, of what sound for this serial is known to survive, and its preservation status as of June of last year:
Chapter 1 (three reels) • Into the Unknown (no sound known to exist)
Chapter 2 (two reels) • Terrors of the Jungle (no sound)
Chapter 3 (two reels) • Temple of Beasts (no sound)
Chapter 4 (two reels) • Gorilla Warfare (sound disc for reel 2 survives)
Chapter 5 (two reels) • Danger in the Dark (full sound survives, restoration finished 2013)
Chapter 6 (two reels) • The Fight at Lions Pit (both discs survive) National Film Preservation Foundation project begins Fall 2014
Chapter 7 (two reels) • The Fatal Moment (sound disc for reel 2 survives)
Chapter 8 (two reels) • Sentenced to Death (sound disc for reel 2 survives)
Chapter 9 (two reels) • Desperate Choices (sound disc for reel 1 survives)
Chapter 10 (two reels) • Jungle Justice (National Film Preservation Foundation restoration project going on as of 6/14)
Here’s a short clip from chapter 5 of the serial with the sound restored:
One other thing that should be noted about King of the Kongo is that one of its stars, unlike many silent movie actors, went on to have a very successful career in talking pictures as well. That actor? None other than horror film legend Boris Karloff!
Okay, time to move on with our own ongoing serial, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. After last week’s rather explosive ending, it’ll be interesting to see where our heroes have wound up!
Next time: Chapter 3: Doom Patrol, and a look at the studio that produced King of the Kongo, Mascot Pictures.