Tuesday, April 4, 2006


VCI recently sent me their latest cliffhanger serial release, the comic strip-inspired TIM TYLER'S LUCK (1937), starring Frankie Thomas and the lovely Frances Robinson.

The 37th sound serial made by Universal Pictures, and directed by veterans Ford Beebe (FLASH GORDON) and Wyndham Gittens, TIM TYLER'S LUCK is 12 action-packed chapters of exciting jungle adventure, based on a newspaper strip by cartoonist Lyman Young. Tim Tyler is a 16-year-old kid who sets out into the African brush in search of scientist father. Over the course of his quest, he becomes involved with a criminal known as "Spider" Webb, befriends a young heiress, rides with the Ivory Patrol, battles the most ridiculous gorillas ever seen on film, and is nearly run down repeatedly by the villains' armored "jungle cruiser."

It's great stuff… hell, I got hooked and actually watched all twelve chapters in one day! Serial fans tend to think that Republic Studios made the best cliffhangers, and in terms of production value and stunts, they're probably right. But I find that Universal's chapter plays had better scripts and more variety to the action, and TIM TYLER'S LUCK is a good example of that studio's high quality.

VCI's two-disc presentation is okay. The source material is in rough shape, looking pretty bleached out and battered. There's a lot of debris and damage, but considering the age and rarity of the material, they've done the best they could. The sound is Dolby mono, but there's considerable distortion and hiss. Dialogue is mostly clear, though. VCI also includes a 2005 video interview with star Thomas, the original theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers for a handful of other VCI serials.

It may not look as good as I'd like, but for cliffhanger fans and collectors, it's definitely worth picking up.