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DON WINSLOW OF THE NAVY: Finally, a Good-Looking DVD!

Posted in Serials on June 7, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

Props to the good people at Hermitage Hill Media for their new, bargain-priced DVD edition of Don Winslow of the Navy, a 1942 Universal serial based on the once-popular comic strip by Frank V. Martinek and Leon Beroth. It features brawny, iron-jawed Don Terry as the intrepid Winslow, Walter Sande as Don’s sidekick Red Pennington, Claire Dodd as love interest Mercedes Colby, and Kurt Katch as the strip’s principal villain, The Scorpion. Shot in the fall of 1941 with scenes laid in and around Pearl Harbor, this well-remembered chapter play anticipates impending conflict with the Axis powers without naming names, as was Hollywood’s habit in the months leading up to our entry into World War II. There’s more than a little stock footage of America’s mighty fleet (before much of it was destroyed on December 7, 1941), but also plenty of action. Serial fans have joked for years that Winslow is one of the most ineffective scrappers in chapter-play history because he seems to lose every fight — and there are plenty of them. But that hasn’t prevented the serial community from lamenting the unavailability of a high-quality video transfer.

Don Terry (foreground) and Walter Sande.

Existing 16mm prints of Don Winslow of the Navy, struck for non-theatrical use and early TV syndication, are not particularly crisp, and the jury-rigged transfer systems employed by bootleggers aren’t capable of yielding a sharp, properly timed image. Hermitage Hill has made something of a speciality of working with problem prints of rare serials to come up with more-than-acceptable transfers, and frame-by-frame comparison of their Winslow with others shows that they’ve hit pay dirt again. It doesn’t look as good as commercial DVD releases mastered from pristine 35mm film elements (such as master positives struck from the original camera negatives), but it’s clearly superior to anything video-era serial buffs have seen to date on this title. Moreover, you can’t beat Hermitage Hill’s prices and service. Highly recommended!

Kurt Katch as The Scorpion.


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