Friday, November 23, 2007

The Long Black Friday

For those of you who haven’t ventured out into the stores yet…and especially for those of you who have the good sense not to (our local J.C. Penney opened its doors this morning at 4:00am…four freakin’ A.M.!), I’d like to pass along some information courtesy of the man who swings the mighty flashlight over at In the, Laughing Gravy his ownself:

BLACK FRIDAY SALE! VCI ENTERTAINMENT is offering 40% off all DVDs, even those already on sale, when you order from their website on Friday, Nov. 23 only! Here's YOUR chance to pick up some GREAT old movies for chump change, including wonderful classic serials, westerns, films noir, comedies, and more! Wow! Visit VCIENT.COM and use code ABTGMPDR when you check out. Tell 'em In the Balcony sent ya! It's THAT easy!

Naturally, I would be among the first wave of individuals to capitalize on this incredible offer, except that a) I’m flat broke, and b) I bought a bunch of stuff from VCI a couple of weeks ago. (Though I am sort of disappointed that I’ll be missing out on picking up their Red Ryder and Three Mesquiteers B-western discs for a mere bag of shells, as The Great One used to say.) They have a lot of great stuff available, including a big honkin’ collection of cliffhanger serials, many of which (Captain Midnight, Jack Armstrong) I’ve talked about previously on this blog. Most of them are priced to move at $14.99…so with 40% off that runs to about $8.99 a pop. To give you some suggestions for stocking stuffers—either for yourself or the classic cliffhanger fan in your immediate family—Gravy, the Wise and Powerful, has compiled a list of chapter-plays to chew over (well, he's named after a dog--what else would you expect?):

Here's a dozen serial favorites you should consider; I love 'em all, and some of 'em have bonus material supplied by your Balcony webmaster, but don't hold that against 'em. At $14.99, the sale price is a penny less than $9 for these, most of which are 2-disc sets and feature the serials in impeccable prints. Yeah, I'm shilling for VCI, but what th' heck: they ain't payin' me nothin', I'm doin' it 'cause I love these things!

Captain Midnight: Stuntman Dave O'Brien (Reefer Madness, The Devil Bat) stars in this adaptation of the radio show. Directed by James W. Horne.

Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere: 1950s sci-fi at its looniest; includes a full-color booklet on the history of Captain Video, written by me. The first TV show to be adapted to the big screen.

Drums of Fu Manchu: Not a great print, but all that's available of a great serial full of treachery, monsters, and arguably the greatest serial villain ever who doesn't live on Mongo.

Holt of the Secret Service: Jack Holt, baby: toughest guy in serial history. Makes Flash Gordon look like a sissy.

Jungle Jim: Grant Withers stars in this oft-overlooked chapterplay; note that the castle from Frankenstein - somehow transplanted to Africa - plays a prominent part in the proceedings. Henry Brandon is the Cobra. Our fave jungle serial.

The Lost City: For years, this was considered one of the worst serials ever. In fact, as a good print shows, it's one of the best serials of the 1930s. Can't argue that it's not, shall we say, a bit over the top, though.

Miracle Rider: The great Tom Mix stars in my favorite cowboy serial.

The Phantom: Tom Tyler stars, and he couldn't look more like the Ghost Who Walks.

S.O.S. Coast Guard: Ralph Byrd gets a vacation from playing Dick Tracy, and matches wits with Bela Lugosi in Bela's best serial. But the chapterplay is stolen by Richard Alexander as Thorg, a massive hulk of a man who wears a thong bikini. Not for the weak-stomached serial fans.

Secret Agent X-9 (1945) Skip the boring 1937 version, even though Lon Chaney, Jr. is in it; this version, with Lloyd Bridges, is one of the best 1940s serials.

Terry and the Pirates: The daffiest of all James Horne serials; plays like a 15-chapter Laurel & Hardy comedy, but don't be fooled: some of the best chapter-ending cliffhangers you'll find. And Dick Curtis is a scream as the villainous "Fang"!

Zorro Cliffhanger Collection: Hey, for nine bucks you get Zorro's Fighting Legion, Zorro's Black Whip, and my favorite, Zorro Rides Again. What more could you want?

Gravy has made some sound choices, with the exception of The Lost City, which I personally would recommend you avoid like intestinal flu (substitute either The Adventures of Red Ryder, King of the Royal Mounted, Overland Mail or Riders of Death Valley instead). But remember—this deal is good for November 23 (that’s today) and the 23rd only…don’t let the bargains pass you by!

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