Friday, May 18, 2012

THE PERILS OF PAULINE

Another classic cliffhanger has recently made its way to DVD courtesy of VCI Home Entertainment (and Film Chest). This time, it's the 1933 version of THE PERILS OF PAULINE, a 12-chapter adventure serial starring Evalyn Knapp.

The serial opens with Pauline (Knapp, SINNER'S HOLIDAY) is in Indochina with her scientist father Dr. Hargreaves (James Durkin) searching for the missing half of an ivory disc that contains the lost formula for an ancient, poison gas. Unfortunately, Pauline and her dad aren't the only ones looking for it - the sinister Dr. Bashan (John Davidson, THE DEVIL BAT) is also looking for it, and will go to any lengths to get his evil hands on the formula.

Inspired by the 1914 silent serial of the same name, the 1933 version has a completely different plot from its predecessor. As an early sound serial from Universal, THE PERILS OF PAULINE is an enjoyable and fast-paced chapterplay, briskly directed by Ray Taylor, with an appealing lead in the pretty, pouty Ms. Knapp. The first few chapters are especially exciting as Pauline and her father race through a war-torn Southeast Asian city as bombs fall around them, searching ancient temples and battling Bashan's agents. John Davidson is especially entertaining as the malevolent Bashan, and makes a terrific villain.

The new DVD from VCI features a digitally restored B&W transfer by Film Chest, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with all 12 chapters on a single disc. Considering the age of the original materials, it looks pretty decent. Contrast is isn't bad, but extensive noise reduction appears to have been applied, which virtually eliminates fine details and textures. I think I might have preferred a slightly "dirtier" presentation, but it's certainly watchable. Audio is a noisy but acceptable Dolby Digital Mono. No extra features are included.

Overall, it's another welcome cliffhanger release from one of the very few companies catering to serial fans. As to be expected with a niche product of this vintage, the picture and audio quality is somewhat less than stellar, but considering how lucky we are to have these old chapterplays around anymore at all, it's definitely acceptable. Serial fans should check it out.

BUY: The Perils of Pauline