Friday, September 27, 2019

Universal Studios Cliffhanger Classics

Fans of cliffhanger serials may have noticed new releases from VCI Entertainment, filmed chapter plays released to DVD in superior picture quality and sound. The company is going to the added expense of digital restoration in 2K from the studio's 35mm masters. For decades fans of cliffhanger serials could only enjoy these gems from the 1930s and 1940s from 16mm print transfers, which were usually floating about in collector hands and varied in quality. Those same 16mm prints circulated on eBay, while collectors did their own transfers to VHS (and later DVD). 

It has been a journey of over 40 years, but fans of the genre are now being rewarded for the long wait.  Back in the 1970s, VCI Entertainment acquired the "non-theatrical" distribution rights to 48 serials from Universal Studios through a third party. After an arduous struggle with "chain-of-title" documentation, Universal has finally turned over the original film elements to 38 of those serials and is currently working on tracking down archival materials for the remaining ten. VCI Entertainment plans to bring all 48 to the collector market as either 2K or 4K scans from either the original negatives or remaining fine grain elements. 

Yours truly purchased a case of each of the four serials released so far: The Red Rider (1934), The Roaring West (1934), The Vanishing Shadow (1934) and Lost City of the Jungle (1946). The intention is to give away these serials to friends and family who might otherwise not seek interest, and to resell a number of them to those not on the Internet and would not otherwise know they exist. The intent is to boost numbers because, if these newly-released serials sell well, VCI will continue beyond the initial intention of releasing one every month like clockwork. (The Mysterious Mr. M has a November release date.) 

More importantly, having reviewed these serials, I can verify that the picture and sound is better than it has ever been and will no doubt be the final word on picture clarity. The spine of each DVD release displays "Classic Cliffhanger #" prominently so you can keep track of each release by volume number. So if you are seeking upgrades to your cliffhanger serial collection, or want to see the entire Universal Studios cliffhanger serial library released to DVD and BluRay, do yourself a favor and buy one of each today. I provided cover scans of the first five releases to avoid confusion and ensure you purchase the correct ones.