Category Archives: movie serials

The Mercury Men

Aside from the occasional mini-series, a Saturday night Asylum movie just for laughs, and of course, “Warehouse 13,” I don’t watch all that much Syfy Network anymore. I gave “Alphas” a momentary spin but it just didn’t keep my interest.

I do however have the Syfy app on my iPhone and there were some very cool previews on there. The one I was most excited about was a black and white movie serial-ish thing called “The Mercury Men.” I couldn’t wait for this thing to air, as I would be riveted in front of my TV. Sadly as the airdate got closer, I discovered it was a webseries, not for TV. Disappointed a little, I was still excited.

So when the day came I watched each five to ten-minute installment with anticipation. It was everything I thought it would be – black and white movie serial goodness. The brainchild of writer/director Chris Preksta, The Mercury Men is a wonderful sci-fi adventure in the style of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers or any of the rayguns and rocketships serials back in the day.

When a off hours office worker is attacked by glowing men who shoot lightning from their hands and is turn saved by a cross between Indiana Jones, Buck Rogers and Airboy – the rollercoaster of action and suspense begins and doesn’t stop. Have I mentioned how much I love this?

Right now, you can see “The Mercury Men” here, or OnDemand, although I wish Syfy would just put it on the air, or better yet, make it a regular series. How about it? In the meantime, everyone else check out this great web series.

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Mandrake the Magician

Mandrake the Magician is perhaps one of the first of the comic strip superheroes. Created by Lee Falk (who also created the Phantom) in 1934 and based on a real life stage magician of the same name, Mandrake was the template for the comic book magicians that proliferated in the comic books of the 1930s and 40s. Mandrake and his faithful companion Lothar adventured for decades in the comic strips, books, stage and screen. The year 1939 brought the Magician to the silver screen in a twelve-part movie serial from Columbia.

Warren Hull was a veteran of the hero business in the movie serials having also played the Green Hornet and the Spider. His Mandrake unfortunately comes off as the most dull of the three. Al Kikume, who played Lothar, is also no stranger to the heroic serials, having parts in the Captain Marvel and Nyoka ones respectively and later appearing on Superman on television. It’s kind of odd though that Lothar who was probably the first non-stereotyped African-American in comics is portrayed here by a Hawaiian. Their chemistry when it happens is a highlight, but a rare one indeed.

The plot of this serial is an old one and has been quite recycled in the genre. Scientist builds a device to benefit mankind and villain steals it to use as a weapon against the world. In this case, the villain is the Wasp, and in another old serial cliché, we have to guess from episode to episode which of our cast is really the Wasp in disguise. It has some good action and suspense, but suffers in comparison to today’s offerings and even to its contemporaries – Adventures of Captain Marvel being the best of the genre.

Much like the Phantom on Syfy, and Flash Gordon recently before that, Hollywood will soon be raping, um, sorry, I mean ‘re-imagining’ Mandrake for an upcoming production starring Hayden Christensen and Djimon Hounsou, possibly for the big screen. Yep, I’m already cringing. Should make this movie serial seem like gold though.

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Young Sherlock Holmes

A JUMP BACK INTO YESTERYEAR

A Video Review of Young Sherlock Holmes

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Producer Steven Spielberg has always been a fan of the old movie serials. This is evident from his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark. So in 1984 in the aftermath of the phenomenal success of that film he sought to revive the movie serial in modern times. Young Sherlock Holmes was the result of this project.

Unfortunately the logistics of doing a weekly, bi-weekly or even a monthly multi-part serial in theatres playing several films by several different studios and distribution companies proved impossible so Young Sherlock Holmes became simply a feature film. It is interesting to note however it is broken up into nearly precise intervals of cliffhangers – as if it had been broken up like a serial.

It is the charming and actually pretty scary and intense story how Holmes (Nicholas Rowe) and Watson (Alan Cox) met and solved their first case involving an ancient cult and a hidden pyramid. Although lovingly written by Chris Columbus it is full of plotholes but it moves fast like a roller coaster so you don’t really notice until afterwards. This may also be in tribute to the old serials but I think that might be giving Mr. Columbus too much benefit of the doubt.

There are a couple of tidbits to look for. With apologies to Barry Levinson the E.T. flying across the moon homage was directed by Spielberg. The stained glass knight was the first fully CGI character and it was animated by Pixar. And wait through the final credits for a surprise.

All in all it’s a good film and retains that old movie serial flavor that was its original intent. Check it out.