Saturday Breakfast Serial 015 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 3: Doom Patrol

dt3Welcome back! It’s Saturday morning again which means it’s Saturday Breakfast Serial Time! This week, it’s Chapter Three of Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (You can find Chapter One here and Chapter Two here.)

Last week, we looked at King of the Kongo, the first partially talking serial, which was produced by Mascot Pictures. Today I thought we’d begin a look at some of the different studios that produced serials during the so-called Golden Age with a look at Mascot itself.

Mascot was formed in 1927 by producer Nat Levine, who had already independently produced his own serial, The Silent Flyer, in 1926. At first the studio simply rented its working space and equipment, but by 1933 its serials had become so popular and profitable that they were able to rent, and subsequently purchase Sennet Studios after its founder, Mack Sennet went bankrupt.

Unfortunately, by 1935, Mascot (along with a number of other studios) was so in debt to their film developer, Consolidated Film Industries, that they were forced by that company’s owner, Herbert Yates, to consolidate with CFI, Monogram Pictures, Liberty Pictures, Chesterfield Pictures and Invincible Pictures to form Republic Pictures. At that point, Mascot was reduced to being the serial and B-Western arm of the company.

mas1Mascot was responsible for discovering a number of actors who went on to have extensive careers in film, including Smiley Burnett, Gene Autry, and John Wayne. The company was also responsible for popularizing the concept of the “singing cowboy”, which, while virtually unknown (except probably to film aficionados) today was once a very popular genre. They produced a number of quite well known and extremely popular serials, including The Shadow of the Eagle, The Hurricane Express, The Three Musketeers, The Lost Jungle, The Phantom Empire, The Adventures of Rex and Rinty, and The Fighting Marines.

Okay, let’s move on with the next chapter of Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc.

Next time: Chapter 4: Dead Man’s Trap, and more serial history.

Saturday Breakfast Serial 014 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 2: The Prisoner Vanishes

dt2Welcome 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.

kk1Here’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.

Saturday Breakfast Serial 013 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 1: The Invisible Trail

dt1Welcome back! It’s Saturday morning again which means it’s Saturday Breakfast Serial Time! Today we begin a new serial, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc.

This was actually the fourth and last of Republic’s Dick Tracy serials, and is largely considered the best of them all. Ralph Byrd stars as Tracy, who here is portrayed as an FBI agent rather than a police detective, who must take on his most elusive foe yet: The Ghost – who is not only the head of a criminal syndicate, but also appears to have the incredible power to turn himself invisible.

In general, the Dick Tracy serials were incredibly well received at the time, and are considered some of the best of Republic’s serial output. This one consisted of a total of 15 chapters and was originally released toward the end of 1941, carrying over into 1942.

Byrd, who had already appeared as Tracy in Republic’s three previous serials, would go on to play the character in two follow-up full length motion pictures, and in a later television series which only lasted for one season due to the untimely death of the star.

Okay, let’s get things kicked off, shall we? I’ll be back next week to continue our overview of the history of movie serials, but for now let’s just dive (and I do mean dive!) right into the action:

Next time: Chapter 2: The Prisoner Vanishes