Tuesday, June 22, 2010


In-between outer space jaunts as comic strip heroes Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, Olympic swimming champion-turned-movie-star Larry "Buster" Crabbe headlined another action-packed cliffhanger serial based on a classic newspaper comic: RED BARRY (1938).

Crabbe portrays the titular Barry, a two-fisted, rule-breaking cop whose beat is Chinatown (which means, of course, lots of occidental actors in Asian make-up and rather offensive pidgin English). The plot is typical chapterplay hokum with various factions (the Mob, Chinese agents, Russians, etc.) all trying to steal - and then keep - two million dollars in bonds. There's the requisite number of car chases, fistfights and shootouts, and throughout it all, the charismatic Crabbe remains a tough and impressively athletic hero.

Based on the popular, but now nearly-forgotten, comic strip of the same name, created by cartoonist Will Gould as a competitor for Chester Gould's (no relation) more famous Dick Tracy, RED BARRY was the fortieth sound serial produced by Universal Studios, and the third of five in which Crabbe starred. It's ably directed by veterans Forde Beebe and Alan James, but falls into the same pattern as most cop & robbers serials, with lots of repetitive action and unproductive running back-and-forth. Still, this is really only bothersome if you try to watch the whole 13 chapters in one sitting -- and that's not how these films were meant to be experienced.

Never before available on disc, VCI's new 2-disc DVD includes all 13 chapters and sports a remarkable 1.331 full-frame transfer from a high quality source. Contrast is good, and the overall quality (aside from some of the stock footage) is excellent. The image is virtually free of blemishes, specks or dirt, and considering the serial's vintage, looks terrific.The only extras are a still gallery, promos for other VCI serial releases, and extensive, informative liner notes by Clifford Weimer.

For Buster Crabbe fans and serial buffs, RED BARRY is highly recommended.

BUY: Red Barry