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Mandrake the Magician
Mandrake the Magician
Actors: Warren Hull, Doris Weston, Al Kikume, Rex Downing, Edward Earle
Directors: Norman Deming, Sam Nelson
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2003     3hr 35min

The Wasp, the crafty head of an underworld gang, is on the hunt for a radium-energy machine developed by Professor Houston. The Wasp will stop at nothing to steal the scientist's invention. His evil machinations to obta...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Warren Hull, Doris Weston, Al Kikume, Rex Downing, Edward Earle
Directors: Norman Deming, Sam Nelson
Creators: Jack Fier, Basil Dickey, Joseph F. Poland, Lee Falk, Ned Dandy, Phil Davis
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Superheroes, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Vci Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 05/13/2003
Original Release Date: 05/06/1939
Theatrical Release Date: 05/06/1939
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 3hr 35min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Presto-Chango Serial-O Okay-O
Laughing Gravy | Sacramento, CA United States | 11/14/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Okay, I'm going to start this review by admitting that I never liked heroic magicians in fancy suits, top hats, and tails. Even Zatanna, who had great legs, grated on me. So MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN began with a strike against it. On the other hand, it has Warren Hull, who was so excellent in THE SPIDER'S WEB (and pretty good in THE GREEN HORNET STRIKES AGAIN, too). And of course Mandrake himself was created by Lee "The Phantom" Falk, so that's a third hand. And if you think that's impossible, well, he IS a magician.

A mysterious arch-criminal known as "The Wasp" (he actually wears a rather effeminate silk mask and cape, not a fierce-looking wasp get-up, unfortunately) is after a new invention that can... well, it can do something pretty terrible, I'll bet. Into the fray stumbles Mandrake, who, with his faithful giant African manservant Lothar, foils the various machinations of Mr. Silky Drawers. Only Lothar is, not a muscular ebon giant, but instead a rather doughy guy who looks like a Philippino and dresses like an extra in a Sinbad picture.

I liked the first couple of chapters; Mandrake does a magic trick or two, and occasionally tosses those nifty little smoke capsules and then sprints out of the room, leaving the villains wondering how the heck he did that. It gets tiresome, however, and pretty soon even Mandrake loses interest, tossing the capsules and then just standing there, waiting for the smoke to clear and the fisticuffs to continue. Not long into the serial, the magic angle is completely forgotten, the eveningwear goes in the closet, and for all intents and purposes Mandrake turns into Dick Tracy.

Ultimately, the darn thing is disappointing. A Mandrake serial should have done more with the mystical aspect of the character, even if only having its hero pull bunnies out of his hat to throw at the villains. It runs out of steam midway through, and - although at 12 chapters, it's the shortest of the 57 Columbia chapterplays - becomes rather tedious in the second half. Co-directors Sam Nelson and Norman Deming did one more serial together (OVERLAND WITH KIT CARSON) and then Columbia dumped them and handed over the serial reins to James W. Horne, who directed the next ten Columbia serials all by his lonesome.

VCI's DVD is good, not great. Some of the soundtrack of chapter one has decayed over the years, and voices were overdubbed for the DVD release, but if you cared about stuff like that, you wouldn't have read this far into the review anyway. Bonuses include a poster gallery, biographies, and serial trailers.

Ace Columbia cliffhanger; top print but repairs in Chapter 1
Scott MacGillivray | Massachusetts, USA | 02/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Columbia's cliffhangers tend to be campy or silly by serial standards, but this early effort (1939) is a very enjoyable adventure. The personable Warren Hull is excellent in the title role. Movie buffs will recognize many of the cast members from Columbia's "B" pictures and Three Stooges movies. Slick production and good direction by Sam Nelson and Norman Deming (who were usually assistant directors) push this one head and shoulders above the general run of Columbia serials. (Watch for a beautifully staged wrap-up in the last chapter, when the masked villain finally gets his!) A note about this video edition: the soundtrack of Chapter 1 was damaged, so the video producers hired actors and technicians to fake a new synchronized soundtrack. The repair job is rather distracting (the suave, pencil-mustached Kenneth MacDonald suddenly has a twangy Texas tenor), but it only lasts a few minutes; the rest of the serial is fully intact and the source print is in top shape. Picture and sound are excellent. The 2-DVD set also includes a selection of trailers from Mascot, Republic, and Universal serials. Highly typical of Saturday-matinee adventures, and a fine choice for first-time serial viewers or for fans who've never seen this long-unavailable film. (Let's hope VCI or Columbia will release the even better "Spider's Web" serial to home video.)"
"another great feature from the King of Serials on DVD...VCI
J. Lovins | Missouri-USA | 10/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"VCI Entertainment and Columbia Pictures present Lee Falk and Phil Davis comic strip King feature "Mandrake the Magician" (1939) (Dolby digitally remastered), 12 Chapters of vintage serial loaded with action sequences...story line thus far has our favorite magician doing battle with "The Wasp", who is out to steal another scientist invention...will our villain of villains succeed in taking the radium energy machine and use it against Mandrake...can good triumph over evil...with Mandrake's assistance can Professor Hudson keep his invention out of the clutches of the henchman sent to do him in...will "The Wasp" blow up a dam, a power plant, a radio station and the entire sound stage at Columbia Pictures before he's stopped...does Hudson's daughter Betty have her sites set on Mandrake, well that may be more dangerous than "The Wasp" ever was...don't even think about touching that dial...there's more to follow and it gets better with every episode.

Under director's Norman Deeming and Sam Nelson, producer Jack Fier with screenplay by Ned Dandy, Basil Dickey, Lee Falk (comic strip), Joseph F. Poland, original music by Sidney Cutner, Floyd Morgan and Morris Stoloff (musical director)...the cast Warren Hull (Mandrake the Magician), Doris Weston (Betty Houston), Al Kikume (Lothar, Mandrake's Assistant), Rex Downing (Tommy Houston), Edward Earle (Dr. Andre Bennett), Forbes Murray (Professor Houston), Kenneth MacDonald (James Webster), Don Beddoe (Frank Raymond), Dick Curtis (Dorgan - Henchman), John Tyrell (Dirk - Henchman), George Chesebro (Baker - Henchman), Tom London (Mill River Inn - Henchman), Tom Steele (Powerhouse - Henchman)...great stunt work by George DeNormand stunt double for Warren Hull, Eddie Parker stunt double for Al Kikume and Chuck Hamilton who performed all the rest of the stunts...entire cast brings to life the characters based upon the King Features Newspaper...can't wait for next weeks episode at your favorite neighborhood theater.

1. Shadow on the Wall
2. Trap of the Wasp
3. A City of Terror
4. The Secret Passage
5. The Devil's Playmate
6. The Fatal Crash

1. Warren Hull
2. Doris Weston
3. Al Kikume
4. Rex Dowling
5. Sam Nelson (Director)
6. Norman Deming (Director)

(stills from "Mandrake the Magician" serial & Lobby Cards)

1. Zorro Cliffhanger Collection (Reed Hadley, John Carroll & Linda Stirling)
2. Radar Men from the Moon (Clayton Moore & Roy Barcroft)
3. Mysterious Mr. M (Richard Martin, Dennis Moore & Pamela Blake)
4. Dick Tracy's G-Men (Ralph Byrd)
5. The Royal Mounted Rides Again (Bill Kennedy, Milburn Stone & Robert Armstrong)
6. The Hurricane Express (John Wayne & J. Farrell MacDonald)
7. The Shadow of the Eagle (John Wayne)

7. Gamble for Life
8. Across the Deadline
9. Terror Rides the Rails
10.The Unseen Monster
11.At the Stroke of Eight
12.The Reward of Treachery

(Same as Disco One)

(Same as Disc One)

(Same as Disc One)

If you crave action, drama and plenty of adventure then this is the place for all of the above...if you enjoyed this serial check out another release from VCI Entertainment and Columbia Pictures present "Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere" (1951) (digitally remastered), 15 Chapters.finally for the first time on video the really great Columbia Serial that broke the mold...we have everything a serial fan would want...the tinted sequences by Cinecolor and unique inventions that were unlike any other serial out there in the '50s...get out there as they're going fast, this is the one you've been waiting for.

Great job by VCI Entertainment for releasing the digital transfers with a clean, clear and crisp print of "Mandrake the Magician"...looking forward to more of the same from the '30s & '40s vintage serial era...order your copy now from Amazon or VCI Entertainment, stay tuned once again with a top notch serial from VCI...just the way we like 'em!

Total Time: 215 mins on 2 DVD's ~ VCI Entertainment 8349 ~ (4/29/2003)"