Many movie serials are public domain. The RetroFilm Vault is the source for broadcast quality masters for movie serials. RetroFilm is not a home video distributor. Visit RetroFilmVault.com by clicking on link above or view a list of Movie Serials available for broadcast.
Serials were very popular in the 1910ís through mid 1950ís. A serial consisted of a series of unfinished chapters or episodes that revolved around one central plot. The last episode would bring the story to its final conclusion. The words "To Be Continued" were used to end each individual chapter, leading to the final installment.
Serials were first introduced France in 1908. Even though the American release of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1910 was broken into 3 parts, The Adventures of Kathlyn,which began in December of 1913, is considered the first real serial. The first American produced sound chapter play was the Ace of Scotland Yard, a 10-episode chapter play released by Universal Studios in 1929. Universal, Columbia, Mascot and Republic, as well as some independents, were the only studios producing serials. The "Big Five" - MGM, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and RKO did not venture into the market.
Each episode would last about twenty minutes. It would normally be presented after the cartoon shorts and before the feature presentation. The chapters would be shown in sequential order usually on a weekly basis, until reaching its final "spine-tingling" climax.
There were a total of 231 sound chapter plays produced from 1929 until 1956. Batman, Buck Rogers, Captain Marvel, Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon, and The Shadowwere just some of the more popular chapter plays. By World War II, the popularity of serials diminished. In 1946, Universal released is final chapter play, The Scarlet Horsemen. Republic continued producing chapter plays until its final release in 1955, King of the CarnivaL Columbia Pictures released its last one, Blazing the Overland Trail, in 1956.
An example of the story line to a popular series known as Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe goes like this: In this 12-episode chapter play, Flash Gordon and crew start a new adventure when Ming the Merciless, an extraterrestrial terrorist from the planet Mongo, sets the Purple Plague upon the people of planet Earth. The plague kills people horribly, leaving behind a purple scar on their forehead as the only evidence of what happened to them.
With Buster Crabbe as the flaxen-haired space warrior Flash with a penchant for disguising himself as the enemy to gain access to their inner chambers, this series from 1940 begins with the evil Ming detaining thousands of people in concentration camps and a mad scientist planning to experiment on them with his death dust. With the assistance of allies from various regions of Mongo, Flash uses his wits, his charm, and a ray gun to best Ming and bring peace back to the universe.
The End of the Movie Serials
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