Thursday, March 25, 2010

THE GREEN ARCHER (Blu-Ray)

The 1940 Columbia serial, THE GREEN ARCHER, loosely based on a novel by Edgar Wallace, and long a staple of public domain video, receives the "Super Restoration" treatment from boutique outfit Restored Serials, as well as a hi-def presentation on Blu-Ray.

Michael Bellamy (B-Western star Kenne Duncan) inherits Garr Castle, a medieval edifice that has been moved from Europe brick-by-brick and reassembled in America. Michael's a good guy, but his conniving brother, Abel (James Craven), frames him for a crime, and after the poor sap's imprisoned, takes possession of the castle instead. When Michael's wife, Elaine (Dorothy Fay), fails to return from visiting Abel, her sister, father, and a private detective named Spike Holland (Victor Jory, THE SHADOW serial), rent the place next door, intent on discovering what happened to her. Abel worries that they'll discover his criminal activities, and proceeds to try and have them all bumped off, but a mysterious figure dressed like the Green Archer (legendary protector of the Bellamy family) foils each murder attempt....

THE GREEN ARCHER's a pretty fair serial, with a lot of running up and down castle corridors and unrelenting melodramatics. Director James W. Horne had been directing films since the silent days, including a number of Laurel and Hardy shorts, so it's all competently put together. Not the most exciting chapterplay, but if you're a serial fan, it's worth checking out.

I wish I could report that Restored Serials' new Blu-Ray is a stunner, but I can't. The 15-chapter serial is presented windowboxed in the Academy ratio at 1080p resolution, and definitely looks better than any previous version I've seen. The company has meticulously cleaned the image, digitally repaired damage, and removed any frame jitter. Unfortunately, I noticed a lot of aliasing in dark areas and shadows, creating an unpleasant two-tone effect and obliteration of detail, which became very distracting very quickly. This effect was particularly noticiable on the dark suits worn by most of the characters. The Dolby mono audio is relatively clear of background hiss, though the dialogue seemed somewhat muffled.

The Blu-Ray edition also comes with a second CD-ROM disc, containing pdf files of the original 1940 pressbook and lobby cards. This disc also includes a pdf of the script for a lost Edgar Wallace serial, TERRIBLE PEOPLE.

So, is it worth picking up? Well, as I said, the restoration is generally pretty good, and this is the cleanest print of THE GREEN ARCHER I've seen. The aliasing issue with the shadows can definitely be distracting, though. If you're a serial fan, and Blu-Ray equipped, you might want to check it out for yourself. Maybe I've got something calibrated incorrectly. The serial is also available in standard DVD format, but I haven't seen that version.

BUY: The Green Archer Restored (Blu-Ray)