Thursday, September 1, 2011

Classic Serials: Undersea Kingdom, Chapter Six

One of the benefits of a serial under the old studio system was that they provided a place where cast and crew on contract to the studios could hone their skills.  And not just in the farm-league sense of working their way up: some of them worked both in features and in serials, but they could occupy higher positions in serials than they could on big A-pictures.

Director B. Reeves "Breezy" Eason, for example, was second-unit director on such major features as Ben Hur (1926, directing the chariot race), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936-- the same year as Undersea Kingdom --directing the titular charge), and Gone with the Wind (1939, directing the burning of Atlanta).

I imagine "Breezy's" nickname was a play on "B. Reeves," but it almost had to have described his directorial style as well... or else he wouldn't have gotten to direct some 155 serials, features, and shorts, and briefly move into directing television at the tail end of his career.  In fact, considering that serials were hardly the most lavish sort of filmmaking, in budget or schedule, and that Republic was a poverty-row studio, I have to wonder how many times the words "Take Two" were ever spoken on the set of Undersea Kingdom.


2:02 "Crash Corrigan-- turns the tables on Khan and saves Diana from the transforming machine."  Wait, was the title-card writer watching the same cliffhanger as we did last week?

4:24 See?  Next week, they should have a card saying, "Billy Norton-- turns the tables on Khan and saves Diana from the transforming machine."  That'll come somewhere before "Crash Corrigan-- spent most of the last episode unconscious after whizzing his attempted rescue of Diana down his leg."

8:21 Oh, God, grit your teeth: it's the comic relief.  I noticed while editing the short version that you could snip Briny and Salty out of the movie completely, and not affect the plot at all.  I wonder if there's a reason behind that.  Were these scenes written and/or shot after the rest to add a few laughs?  (In which case, boy did they miscalculate.)  Or were the producers looking toward deleting these scenes in a feature version?  (Although, as it happened, there was no feature version of this serial for 30 years.)  Still, it's almost a relief to hear some different music for a couple of minutes.

15:15 So tell me, what is the cable there for?  I mean, besides as a convenience for Crash?

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