Blood ‘n’ Thunder’s Cliffhanger Classics, Vol. 2

By Ed Hulse

For nearly 50 years the motion-picture chapter play was a vibrant part of our country’s pop-culture scene. Following their favorite serials turned moviegoing into a weekly habit for millions of Americans. During the silent-film era, episodic thrillers were marketed to adults and children alike, but their emphasis on base melodrama and contrived thrills appealed more to kids. Those youthful habitués of Saturday matinees faithfully followed serials and retained fond memories of them. Subsequent generations discovered cliffhanger classics via later broadcasts on TV and reissues in collectable home-video formats.

This sequel to 2012’s well-received Blood ‘n’ Thunder’s Cliffhanger Classics offers history and analysis of such popular and influential silent serials as The Perils of Pauline (1914), The Million Dollar Mystery (1914), The Diamond from the Sky (1915), The Riddle Rider (1924), and the four 1914-17 chapter plays of Francis Ford and Grace Cunard. Notable talkie-era serials covered at length include Tarzan the Fearless (1933), The Return of Chandu (1934), The Lost City (1935), Radio Patrol (1937), Red Barry (1938), The Spider’s Web (1938, and its 1941 sequel The Spider Returns), Hawk of the Wilderness (1938), Adventures of Red Ryder (1940), and Secret Service in Darkest Africa (1943).

A special essay titled “Anatomy of a Serial,” taking an approach not previously attempted by any chapter-play historian, chronicles the making of fan favorite Spy Smasher (1942) from the licensing of the character rights in June 1941 straight through to the film’s national release in April 1942. All aspects of the production are detailed with facts and figures from Republic Pictures records, as well as the recollections of director William Witney, star Kane Richmond, supporting player Tris Coffin, and stunt ramrod Dave Sharpe.

The essays in Cliffhanger Classics are not the typical puff pieces generally found in books on this subject. Each article has been carefully researched and supplemented with first-hand recollections of people who worked in the serials being examined, including leading men Buster Crabbe, Kane Richmond, Herman Brix, and Rod Cameron; leading ladies Jacqueline Wells, Iris Meredith, Kay Hughes, Vivian Coe; veteran serial writer Barry Shipman; stuntmen Dave Sharpe and Tom Steele; and directors Ford Beebe, William Witney, and Spencer Gordon Bennet. Their input makes this second volume of Cliffhanger Classics a valuable addition to the historical record, as well as an entertaining read.

The book is profusely illustrated with more than 60 pages of rare stills, posters, and lobby cards from the serials under examination.


Cover Art by Chris Kalb
ISBN-13 978-1546881032
302 pages, trade paperback, 6x9

Price: $25.00