Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The fine folks at VCI continue to do a service for fans of classic cliffhanger serials with their latest release, the 12-chapter, 1937 cops ‘n robbers serial, RADIO PATROL.

The inventor of a secret formula (this time for "flexible steel") is murdered, and uniformed police officer Pat O’Hara (square-jawed Grant Withers of the original JUNGLE JIM serial and countless B-movies) is assigned to protect the scientist’s son from the gang of international crooks who snuffed his dad and are still out for the formula.

Based on a now long-forgotten King Features newspaper comic strip, RADIO PATROL is a typical low budget-but-polished chapterplay from Universal Studios and boasts a solid, professional cast of studio contract players, including lovely serial vet Kay Hughes (DICK TRACY). Briskly directed by Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith, Patrol provides the requisite number of under-cranked car chases, frantic fist fights and chapter-closing cliffhangers demanded by adolescent matinee audiences (and today’s aging serial buffs). It’s fun stuff.

VCI’s DVD contains all twelve episodes on a single disc. The full-frame transfer is decent for a film of this vintage, but not as quite as nice as the company’s recent GREEN HORNET releases. Picture quality is soft and grainy with poor contrast levels, but, fortunately, scratches and other print damage are minimal. The mono sound is adequate if a bit hissy. Still, for a seventy year-old Saturday matinee throwaway, VCI’s RADIO PATROL looks better than I might have expected.

Serial fans are a small, niche audience, and VCI is virtually the only mainstream, commercial outfit serving that particular niche. While the picture quality may leave a bit to be desired, it is something of a minor miracle that many of these serials survive in a watchable state at all. If you collect cliffhangers, RADIO PATROL would make a fine addition to your collection.

BUY: Radio Patrol