Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom, Chapter One

Welcome to the first of twelve chapters of Undersea Kingdom, the classic Republic serial from 1936.

I don't think I can give a better description of this serial than Jim Harmon and Donald F. Glut did in their 1972 book The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury:

In this Flash Gordon-type epic of a mad dictator and his arsenal of zap guns and the same robots which proved experimental models for those later used by Dr. Satan, an expedition of surface dwellers led by Ray "Crash" Corrigan (name sounding suspiciously like "Flash") arrived in Atlantis by supersubmarine.
Atlantis, like so many supercivilizations... relied heavily on superscience.  Miracle inventions, such as space vehicles, deathrays, and mechanical men, were often used when the characters were not otherwise engaged in sword battles on horseback....

The thing I love about these serials is how they're so unabashedly goofy with a straight face.  If it were produced today, the filmmakers would probably take one of three tacks on it:

1) Make it grim and gritty and no fun at all,
2) Make it a hero's journey with Levels of Deep Meaning and character arcs for everyone, or
3) Place their tongue firmly and obviously in cheek so as to put protective ironic distance between themselves and the product.

Now, perhaps I shouldn't sound so complaining about that, because I wrote an adapted screenplay recently (about which, possibly more at some unspecified future date), and did feel the need to do some character-arc work to make the story work better as a movie.  But it wasn't, before or after, like a serial, where the sugar-buzzed craziness of it was just perfect for crazy, sugar-buzzed kids of all ages.

(One bit of sugar-buzzed craziness I especially enjoy in this episode is that everyone treats the historical existence of Atlantis as an unquestionable fact.)

I don't think anyone who made Undersea Kingdom felt the need to apologize for it.  It's kind of stupid.  It's a little repetitive now and and again.  It's silly; oh, God, is it silly.  But it's entertaining.  And why the heck not, I say.

All told, this double-length introductory chapter runs nearly 31 minutes.  I cut into three segments, mistakenly thinking I had a limit on my YouTube videos of fifteen minutes and 2GB.  Once I started uploading, I found YouTube had lifted both limits.  But rather than have a full-length version take about 24 hours to upload, I kept in three pieces.  I hope you don't mind.  Incidentally, when I have to split a video, I usually try to find something reasonably cliffhanger-ish to go out on, as I did with Part 1.  With Part 2, though, I just couldn't resist the little joke of ending with that line, followed by the caption.

And if you're wondering what happened to The Phantom Creeps... well, I can't find my files.  I'll see what I can do about putting that one up next (and posting higher-quality versions of the first three episodes).

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