Tuesday, July 21, 2009

THE GREEN HORNET

Originally created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker for a dramatic radio program in the 1930s, the masked vigilante known as the GREEN HORNET appeared in two Universal serials during the 1940s, and later headlined comic books and a 1966 television series co-starring Bruce Lee.

In the first 13 episode chapterplay from 1940, the Hornet’s unnamed city is faced with a rising crimewave of increased racketeering activity. In an effort to bring order to the chaos, intrepid newspaper editor Britt Reid (Gordon Jones) becomes the masked crime fighter called the Green Hornet. As far as the police are concerned, the Hornet is himself a criminal; a misunderstanding that enables Reid to operate outside the law to battle criminals and racketeers. Working alongside the Hornet is his brilliant inventor/sidekick Kato (the legendary Keye Luke), the only living person who knows the true identity of the hero.

Since these particular serials were contractually obligated to get approvals on script and casting from the original radio creators, Universal Studios’ GREEN HORNET serials are among the most faithful adaptations of a super hero from one medium to another. Individual chapters are frequently based directly on radio episodes, and in this first serial, radio star Al Hodges actually redubbed all of Gordon Jones' lines during the scenes where he wore the Hornet's mask.

VCI’s new 2-disc DVD presents the classic 13 chapter serial with a solid, full-frame 1.33:1, B&W transfer. I have to say that this is among the best transfers I have seen from VCI. For years, they've been pretty much the only mainstream outfit releasing classic cliffhangers regularly on DVD, but frequently the source material on these old chapterplays is in pretty rough shape. VCI usually makes a solid effort to make them presentable, but often the best material they have to work from are old, beat-up 16mm prints.

Bonus materials include extensive and informative liner notes by author Martin Grams Jr., two vintage radio episodes of the Green Hornet radio show, a photo gallery, and trailers for other VCI serial releases.

BUY: Green Hornet, The