In the late 30's/early 40's movie serials fully embraced the comic/pulp hero. Starting with The Spider's Web (1938) the screens were flooded with superhero chapter plays including Mandrake the Magician (1939), The Shadow (1940), The Adventures o f Captain Marvel (1941), and The Phantom (1943), to name a few. Universal's 1940 hero serial, The Green Hornet did so well that the following year they brought back most of the original cast for a sequel, The Green Hornet Strikes Again. VCI has just released this fun action/adventure show with a nicely restored print and some fun extras.
For a little bit of information about the origin and background of the Green Hornet, check out my review of the first serial here.
Britt Reid (Gordon Jones) is the publisher of a large metropolitan newspaper. He's a bit of a playboy and a slacker, shunning the hard-hitting editorials that his father would publish pointing out corruption in the city, Britt's happy to print a more sedate paper that doesn't make waves. This only proves that Britt is not nearly the man his father was to his secretary Lenore Case (Anne Nagel).
In the evenings however, Reid donned a mask and gas gun and turned into the Green Hornet! With his loyal manservant Kato (Keye Luke), a Korean1 who Reid rescued from certain death in the Orient, he hunts down the racketeers and organized mobsters who are beyond the law. The Hornet is armed only with a gas gun that shoots pellets that explode on impact and temporarily knocking out his target. He also has Kato, a master at martial arts who comes in very handy in a fight (though he sometimes forgets that fact and allows himself to be easily overcome when the plot calls for it.) Kato also designed the Green Hornet's car, the Black Beauty. It's capable of going 200 miles per hour and makes the sound of an angry bee when it speeds by. (This can be turned off when the Hornet and Kato need to sneak up on somebody however. Which begs the question: Why turn it on?)
As this serial starts, Reid and Kato are vacationing in
Returning to the mainland The Hornet and Kato expose one racket after another over the 15 chapters of this serial always inching just a little bit closer to Grogan. During that time however, the crooks try to kill the crime fighting duo by shooting at them, blowing them up, running them down, and causing a plane crash. Also a boat explosion, car wrecks, bombing the Hornet from a plane, and much, much more. As the one-sheet exclaims, there are "15 All New Exciting Chapters".
I enjoyed this serial just a tad more than the original. Several of the chapters were reworked radio scripts brought to life, and the adaptations worked well. Warren Hull, who stared as The Spider in The Spider's Web (1938) and the title character in Mandrake the Magician (1939), was comfortable putting on a strange costume to fight evil by this time. He does a good job and is a little bit more convincing than his predecessor.
One drawback that this series has is that it reuses a lot of footage. None of the shots of the Black Beauty cruising through the city streets were new (at least I didn't notice any that weren't in the previous serial) and a lot of the exotic places were just stock film. That does make the serial a bit stale, especially when watching several episodes in one sitting. "Oh wow, they're driving by that building for the third time this episode!"
This 15-chpater serial is presented on two DVDs housed in a single width DVD case.
The two channel DD mono soundtrack sounds good for a serial this old. The dialg is easy to hear and while there isn't much in the way of dynamic range the audio is fairly clear, especially for a title this old.
This serial looks just as good as the first one, it's an excellent looking DVD set. The full frame image is very clear with great contrast and deep blacks. Spots are scratches are minimal and the black and white image is very, very good. The picture isn't perfect, some details are lost in dark areas, but I can't see any serial fans complaining about the presentation on this disc.
There is a nice selection of bonus materials, though not as much as on the first serial, all included on the second disc. I really enjoyed the two GH radio shows: Paroles for
The other extras include a photo gallery, a text biography of Keye Luke (Kato), and a short before-and after demonstration of the restoration that was done on the serial.
There's also a 9-page printed history of the serial and a listing of the cast members on an insert included with the discs.
Like the first Green Hornet serial, this was a fun action romp. When all is said and done it was enjoyable and entertaining, but it doesn't have that quality of suspense or imaginative traps that the top-tier serials do. Even so it's easy to recommend this amusing cliffhanger.
1) In the radio series Kato was from the