Okay, gang, it’s Saturday again, and time for another installment of Saturday Breakfast Serial and our ongoing chapter play, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. And, for those of you who may be just joining us, here are the previous posts for this serial: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
Last week we began looking a Columbia Pictures and their serial output which began with the 1937 Louis Weiss produced serial Jungle Menace. This week we’ll take a look at the later part of Columbia’s serial history.
One of the things Columbia was most famous for was its use of previously established heroes for its serials. Drawing from a number of sources, including comic strips and books, radio shows, pulp novels, books, and even television, Columbia produced serials with characters such as Superman, Batman, Terry and the Pirates, Hop Harrigan, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Blackhawk, and even The Shadow. Though mostly aimed at the younger set, Columbia’s serial gained high praise, especially early on, with its 1938 effort, The Spider’s Web, being named the number one serial of the year by exhibitors.
During its later years, when its serial budget became more restricted, the studio turned more towards westerns which were cheaper to produce since they were less special-effects driven and required less in the way of elaborate set design. Another way that Columbia cut corners on their later serials was by using animation to produce their special effects instead of on-set explosions, etc.
By the 1950s, unfortunately these budget cuts had severely affected the quality of the studio’s serial output, and like its competitors, by that point Columbia had turned to reusing a lot of footage from previous serials for it’s effect and cliffhanger sequences, even bringing cast members from those older serials back to the studio to provide at least a bit of continuity between the current effort and the previously shot footage.
Despite all of this, Columbia did manage to outlast its competitors, Republic and Universal, with its last serial being 1956’s Blazing the Overland Trail.
Ok, time to get on with this week’s chapter of Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. Here’s chapter 11, Seconds To Live:
Next time: Chapter 12: Trial By Fire, and we’ll shift our focus again and take a look at the serial output of Universal Pictures.