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, 11, 12, 13.
Ah, Universal. As a studio, they are perhaps best known in popular culture for their iconic early horror films. So much so that the phrase “Universal Monsters” is one that even those who aren’t film history aficionados will generally recognize as referring to the studio’s 1930s and 40s interpretations of characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf-man, etc., but the studio was built on much more than that, and one of those building blocks was their status as an early leader in the field of movie serials. As a matter of fact, Universal actually produced more serials than any of its competitors with an official total of 137, beginning with 1914’s Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery and ending with 1946’s The Mysterious Mr. M, and that number doesn’t include some of the earlier efforts made by those producers who would eventually become a part of the studio proper.
Lucille Love is actually a very interesting example of the lengths to which Universal would go both to produce and promote their films and serials.
During the production of the 15 chapter serial more than 300 tribes people were brought to California from their native Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc.) and were housed on the Universal Studios Ranch. Also, a Chinese village was built at a cost of almost $5,000 and was then only used in the filming of two scenes.
Meanwhile the story of the film was being serialized throughout newspapers across the country, often accompanied by offers of a reward for information regarding the whereabouts of the missing titular adventuress.
Once the serial was released, it was often done so with much fanfare, including full-page color advertisements taken out in local newspapers, and individual theaters were also highly encouraged to arrange their own special promotions in order to draw more people in to see the series.
All of this publicity definitely proved worthwhile to the studio, which saw enormous ticket sales and profits from the series, as it not only had a hugely successful first run, but also was run a second time in many locals, and was even in some places re-run in a one or two chapter per day format for its second run, thus allowing the public to view the entire serial over a one or two week period, and extending the life of the serial far into 1915 and in some cases even 1916, something that was generally unheard of at the time when most serials were not considered to be main attractions, but simply something to encourage movie goers to return to the theater each week to take in the feature film.
So where would Universal go from there? Well, I guess that’s something to take a look at next time. Meanwhile, let’s see what’s in store for our master criminologist in the penultimate chapter of our own serial, shall we?
By the way, once again I should note that we’re nearing the end of this serial, and I’m looking at which one to feature next. I’m definitely open to any nominations or requests, so if you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know about them in the comments here or over on the DMM Facebook page.
Next up: wrapping up Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. with Chapter 15: Retribution, and more Universal serial history.