Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Secret Agent X-9 |
Actors: Monte Blue, Henry Hunter, Scott Kolk, Jean Rogers, William Royle
Director: Ford I. Beebe
Genres: Action & Adventure, Television, Mystery & Suspense
When the crown jewels of Belgravia are stolen, Secret Agent X-9 (Scott Kolk) is sent to investigate. With the help of Shara Graustark (serial icon Jean Rogers) our hero soon discovers this to be no ordinary heist but th... more »
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Great 1930's Atmosphere
Scott Lothrop | Tampa, FL, USA | 01/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of two serials of the same name, the second being in 1945 with a different plot and cast. "Secret X-9" was a popular comic strip of the day, based on characters created by the great writer of detective fiction Dashiell Hammett.
This was probably the best serial made as early as 1937 until William Witney came along at Republic Studios and raised the bar for the genre, and the best Universal serial until the 1940's. It has the look and feel of a "real" movie, not all stops and starts like so many other serials. It seems more like a typical mystery film of the 1930's, what "Gang Busters" could have been, perhaps. With the action usually continuing right on through the cliffhangers, it has a tight story and is well acted, with endless switcheroos as to who has the jewels or the paper that will lead to them. The sets are very good, especially the waterfront scenes and the pirate ship in the harbor. The fights, which are fairly short though not well choreographed, are less important than the plot, a welcome change from most serials. Unfortunately the chapter endings are not very remarkable, except for one which has a remarkably bad cheat: Chapter 5 ends with X-9 being shot by a hidden gun in a bookcase--he clutches his stomach and keels over to the floor. In Chapter 6 the gunshot misses him completely and instead knicks his pal Pidge.
Scott Kolk had been a Broadway actor who went to Hollywood with the advent of sound. He became a Universal contract player, and was elevated to a title role for the first time in this serial. But stardom eluded him, and not even a name change to Scott Colton could do the trick; he left films in 1938.
Blond and beautiful Jean Rogers (looking a little like Jean Harlow) is even more attractive as the well-dressed, enigmatic Shara Graustark than she was in her role a year earlier as the scantily-clad Dale Arden in "Flash Gordon," although that was the role that made her a serial icon. Monte Blue is far better in the dual role of Baron Karsten, and the criminal known as Brenda disguised as Karsten, then he was when he chewed up the scenery in "Undersea Kingdom." But Henry Brandon ("Drums of Fu Manchu") steals the bad-guy honors as the master criminal known as Blackstone--it's a shame he doesn't get as much screen time as Blue does. Brandon was a fine actor who separated himself from most other serial actors by underplaying his part. Makes you wonder why he never became more famous.
I love the chases in this because of the great 1930's cars involved--beautiful old automobiles. And I hate the wimpy ending."
An Historically Interesting Serial.
Concerned About Movies | SC, USA | 08/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leonard J. Kohl, in his book "Sinister Serials" (2000), declared that this serial "is officially considered lost". Well, thanks in large part to the great collector and preserver of old radio shows and movies, Fred Shay, we now have a clear, clean print of this "lost" serial.
"Secret Agent X-9" began as a newspaper comic strip drawn by Alex Raymond, who had also created "Flash Gordon". Although Dashiell Hammett was apparently hired to help with the plot, he ended up contributing very little. Too bad, because this is one very boring serial. (Universal was just not very good at producing effective stories for this very tricky genre.) The plot has to do with a mysterious jewel thief, the crown jewels of some imaginary country, examining paintings with a ray-beam device to find a bank receipt, boat chases, G-men, etc. It's all rather ho-hum, if you ask me. However, the serial gains in historical significance much of what it lacks in entertainment value, for one of the minor characters is a thug named Marconi who is played by none other than Lon Chaney, Jr. Two years after this serial was released, Chaney would portray Lennie in the movie and stage versions of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men", and he would go on to become a very popular B-movie star who would also make some significant A-movies.
Each episode on this two-DVD set begins with the serial's titles and credits and, starting with episode 2, a comic strip that outlines what happened during the last episode. This is exactly the way serials were shown in theaters in the "old days", and the way they should be watched today.
Oh sure, sometimes a scene or two is a bit dark, and the framing of the picture is not always perfect, and the crispness of a print made from the original nitrate negative may not be present, still, all in all, this is a top-notch version of a serial that is no longer "lost".
A great addition for anyone collecting old serials, but newcomers to this form of entertainment may wish to begin with one made by Republic Pictures. Now THEY knew how to make a serial!"
CLASSIC UNIVERSAL SERIAL, AT LAST!!!
Richard J. Oravitz | 03/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though this may not be on anyone's top 10 serial list this is certainly a top-notch serial by anyone's standards!
UNIVERSAL, a studio noted for overly-plotted serials trimmed down this one for fan consumption. Chapters 1-8 consist of finding a painting that holds the clue to a fortune in jewels! Needless to say, the painting switches back and forth throughout all 8 chapters. Then we get to the grist of things when chapters 9-12 deal with badguy Brenda trying to make his getaway with the booty, pirate booty, as much of the serial deals with a pirate ship attraction "THE JOLLY RODGER" as the hideout for the baddies.
This is not a great lost serial. Yes, it's lots of fun in the traditional serial fashion. VCI's edition is OUTSTANDING!!!!! by all standards! However, if it only had Kane Richmond or Ralph Byrd or even Herman Brix as the star... but, Scott Kolk???...He's not bad, actually he's pretty good, but rather...forgettable.
Monte Blue, Jean Rogers, Lon Chaney Jr., and especially Henry Brandon (who steals the show!!!)are all on hand throughout the UNIVERSAL stock footage and excellent location shooting!
This is not a serial to be missed.
A MUST-HAVE for fans of such things (like me) and a welcomed addition to the genre, especially in such a beautiful transfer!!!