The Mail Must Go Through
Scott Lothrop | Tampa, FL, USA | 01/19/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Lon Chaney, Jr. appeared as a minor character in several serials, but he turns up here as the lead in a Western serial. He's as good an actor as most serial leading men, but somehow he doesn't quite fit the part. Although he rides well and has a nice horse (that looks like Trigger), romantic he's not. He's best known, of course, for his classic "The Wolf Man"--in fact, he's the only person ever to have played all four classic movie monsters--the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, and the Mummy. I give him an A for effort here, but the movie would have been better served with a more traditional leading man.
Ford Beebe was Universal's best serial director, and he did a lot of them. He was a real workhorse, directing in every film genre. He even supervised live-action sequences in Disney's "Fantasia" (1940). Most of the good Universal serials were directed by Beebe.
One interesting thing he did in this one is pairing the Beerys, Sr. and Jr., as characters on opposite sides of the law. Noah Jr. plays the hero's sidekick, Sierra Pete, while his dad plays the dirty rotten scoundrel who's trying to wreck the Overland Mail service. Noah Beery, Sr. made a wonderful heavy, my favorite in serials (see "Zorro Rides Again," "Red Ryder"). They first appear in the same scene in Chapter 4, and not too frequently thereafter, though at one point the father (real-life, that is) tries to get the son hanged by the mob. (That must have caused some guffaws on the set.) Noah Jr. was also a serial staple ("Ace Drummond," "Three Musketeers," "Riders of Death Valley").
Helen Parrish plays the love interest, and though I had never heard of her she does an excellent job. Apparently she had a strong career in the early 1940's, but retired in 1942 when she married. She died of cancer in 1959 at the age of 34.
BIG CHEAT: In Chapter Five Jim Lane and Sierra Pete are trapped on a flimsy suspension bridge which very clearly spans a rock-filled canyon. The phony Indians hurl gigantic rocks down at them, breaking the bridge and hurling the heroes down--into a rushing river! Who turned the rocks into water, I'll never know.
This is a rather typical Western, filled with lots of action. For all that action,however, it's not a very exciting serial. It's too long, the cliffhangers are not very inspired, and frankly the whole movie is rather forgettable."
Wasn't what I was looking for
Robert M. Matthews | San Jose, CA USA | 04/30/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"OK, I only watched 4 of the 15 chapters, so this review is probably not the final answer. You will like this serial if you enjoy watching indians attack white people in wagons. Endless scenes of indians chasing wagons, horses running and guns shooting. Wagons crashing and burning, over and over and over. Sorry, but I had to turn it off. Here we have the standard story line of white men posing as indians, making the indians look bad. I really wanted to like this serial, but the truth prevailed--not all serials are good (or worth watching)."
Another of Universal's sloppy serial production
Robert Jones | Cross Lanes, WV | 11/02/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Universal serials, especially westerns, have the same vices and virtues; a good cast and good concept. The delivery is noisy soundtracks, sloppy film editing, 40% stock footage, repitition os such footage, and poor contunuity. The title music is the same as in Winners of the West, and is very memorable, but wasted by the above mentioed production flaws. Serial fans are very tolerate and are not expecting Hamlet, but this is a sound and a fury signifying nothing."