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Serial films

Related: serial - film

Movie poster for Fantômas (1913 - 1914), a French film serial


The classic sound serial has a first episode of about 30 minutes (approximately three reels in length, and begins with reports of a masked, secret, or unsuspected villain menacing an unspecific part of America. This episode traditionally has the most detailed credits at the beginning, often with pictures of the actors with their names and that of the character they play. Often there follows a montage of scenes lifted from the cliffhangers of previous serials to depict the ways in which the master criminal was a serial killer with a motive. In the first episode, various suspects or "candidates" who may, in secret, be this villain are presented, and the viewer often hears the voice but does not see the face of this mastermind commanding his "spearpoint villain," similar to a sergeant, whom the viewer will see in just about every episode. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial#Early_serial_films [Mar 2006]

American serial film heroines

Lorna Gray, photo unidentified
image sourced here.

Kay Aldridge in The Perils of Nyoka? (1942)
image sourced here.

The serial heroine is one of the many attractions accounting for the popularity of the genre. Menaced by impending doom, or threatened with torture, she is an essential ornament of the serial, and yet, care was taken to make sure she was not too ornamental. Beginning in 1934, the Motion Picture Producers Association began fully enforcing their production code through the Hays Office.

The code's strictures naturally covered the sensitive issues of torture and bondage. Women could be shown after they had been tied up, but it was forbidden to actually show them being tied up. Usually, a cut was made just as the woman was about to be bound, and we would see the smile on a henchman's face as he or another villain cruelly tied knots around their lovely victim. The heroine's attire could not be shown in any disarray so as to expose any cleavage or undergarments.

However, young boys often got a glimpse at a shapely female leg, especially in jungle serials where the heroine wore a skimpy costume. Serial fans still recall with delight the charms of a Linda Stirling or a Cleo Moore, struggling in vain against the tight ropes confining their lovely figures. --http://www.classicimages.com/1999/march99/serialheroines.html [May 2005]

inspired by Cult Movies Stars (1991) - Danny Peary [Amazon.com]

see also serial - damsel

Acquanetta in a publicity shot

Acquanetta (July 17, 1921 - August 16, 2004) was a movie actress best known for her exotic beauty; she was nicknamed "The Venezuelan Volcano".

The actress was born Burnu Acquanetta in Cheyenne, Wyoming and raised in Norristown, Pennsylvania after she was given up by her parents. Burnu means "burning fire, deep water."

Starting out as a New York model, Acquanetta eventually acted in mostly B-movies, including Tarzan and the Leopard Woman, Arabian Nights, Captive Wild Woman and The Sword of Monte Cristo.

In later life, she maintained visibility and a measure of local celebrity in the Phoenix, Arizona area as the wife of a local car dealer.

She succumbed to complications of Alzheimer's disease shortly after 4 a.m. on August 16, 2004 at Hawthorn Court in Ahwatukee, Arizona. She was 83. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acquanetta [May 2005]

inspired by Cult Movies Stars (1991) - Danny Peary [Amazon.com]

The Perils of Pauline

image sourced here.

The Perils of Pauline (1934) - Ray Taylor

The Perils of Pauline was a silent movie serial which debuted in 1914. A second serial of this name ran in the 1930s. There is also a 1947 feature movie which makes reference to the earlier serial.

The Silent Serial
The very popular silent Perils of Pauline was a cliffhanger serial shown in weekly instalments featuring Pearl White as the title character, a perpetual damsel in distress. She was menaced by assorted villains, including pirates and Indians. At the end of each installment she was generally placed in a situation that looked sure to result in her imminent death. The start of the next episode showed how she was rescued or otherwise escaped the danger, only to face fresh peril again.

The serial had 20 episodes. After the original run it was reshown in theaters a number of times, sometimes in edited down shortened versions, through the 1920s.

The successful serial was quickly followed by The Exploits of Elaine, also starring White. Many imitations and parodies followed.

References to it appear in 1960s animated cartoon television shows Dudley Do-Right (where the villain often tied Nell to a railroad track), and The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Perils_of_Pauline [Apr 2005]

See also: damsel in distress

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