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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Lost in the shuffle between Flash Gordon and Busk Rogers, Buster Crabbe's only mystery serial is an unfairly neglected serial romp made during Universal's hey day. Based on William Gould's comic strip about a San Francisco police detective stationed in Chinatown, Crabbe plays the title character on the trail of stolen bonds needed for Chinese War Relief. Also after the bonds are Tong Warlord Quong Lee (Frank Lackteen), exiled Russian Countess Natacha (Edna Sedgewick)who feels they are her rightful property, and dilettante detective Valentine Vane (Hugh Huntley)who just wants to show up the cheerfully dogged police detective. The serial is an action packed, thrill ride filled with fist fights, shoot outs and car chases. The first eight chapters are the best with Crabbe constantly matching wits with Lackteen and besting Huntley at every turn, but then it takes a serious misstep in Chapter Eight when it is revealed that Lackteen is really a disguise for another character and Lackteen disappears while the rest of the serial is a repetitive back and forth between the characters as first one gets the bonds, loses them to someone else, only to recover them and lose them again in the next chapter. Still and all an enjoyable film to watch on a lazy summer day off.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Universal's 40th of 69 sound serials. In 1936, the studio entered into an arrangement with King Features Syndicate to bring a number of newspaper comic strip heroes to life on the screen. Most notable, of course, was Flash Gordon. But other Universal/King Features' successes included Ace Drummond, Jungle Jim, Radio Patrol, Tim Tyler's Luck, Buck Rogers, Don Winslow, Secret Agent X-9, Smilin' Jack and Red Barry.

    COMMENT: The comic strip may have been rather crudely drawn and naively plotted, but this screen adaptation presents more fascinating twists of story and intriguing turns of action than a dozen dime novels. By serial standards, acting too is particularly impressive, with one of my favorite character actors, Philip Ahn, giving his greatest performance ever. Plus felicitous studies in villainy from William Ruhl and Frank Lackteen, whilst alternate hero Hugh Huntley projects a dashingly ingratiating Philo Vance clone.

    Aside from the repetitious theater footage, splendid use is made of stock material, the action spots being well integrated. Undoubtedly the more inventive Alan James handled the theater scenes, plus all the menace in darkened corridors, secret passageways, etc, whilst Beebe directed the more routine stuff.

    This serial is admirably choked full of action, which doesn't let up right through to the final reel. True, a couple of weak or cheating cliffhangers detract, but most are thrilling. The story proceeds in a nice straight line, all the complications being cleverly worked in by having no less than two sets of rival heroes and four teams of rival villains. Effective surprises abound in a well-characterized script, one of the most striking being the death of Barry's buddy.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    WITH THE FILMING and release of this 13 Chapter Serial, Universal brought us the 3rd one of 5 to star Clarence Linden (aka Larry) "Buster Crabbe.* It followed the first 2 of the 3 FLASH GORDON'S and also predated BUCK ROGERS. It would appear the the gang at Universal were puting Mr. Crabbe to good use, especially that he was under contract to Paramount and a loaned commodity.

    THE SUBJECT MATTER and tone of RED BARRY widely deviates with the sci-fi base others and even though its plot lines do get a trifle fanciful and far-fetched, it still maintains a felling of contact with reality. The hero,a plainclothes Detective for an unnamed City's Police Department, was a rugged loaner, who managed to get all of the biggest and toughest assignments.

    THE TONE AND scenario of the 13 chapters manages to remain faithful to this format and does so by honoring the time tested elements of the "Chapter Play", "the Cliff-Hanger" and any and all types of serialized fiction then popular in all of the weekly magazines. It also keeps the setting right up to date with its inclusion of the conflicts that plagued China from Imperial Japan in the 1930's.

    HAVING DESIGNATED AS the central items of interest and corpus delecti of the major crime in the story, the writer/director team has a million dollars worth of bonds, sent via Currier by Nationalist Chinese (Chiang Kai Shek) to America in order to purchase weapons for defense. Well the poor bonds got stolen, recovered and re-stolen countless times in the course of the 13 Chapters, all with Undercover Detective Red Barry's being in hot pursuit. Red manages to shoot, get knocked unconscious, crash several cars, survive fall from a freight train and even gets suspended from the force by the commissioner.

    THE SERIAL MAY seem a little "old hat" and dated, particularly in its lack of "Political Correctness" that we are so steeped in today. With regard to its characters of Oriental race, they are treated as very foreign. Even those who are American seem to be very apart. Characters fro the comic strip share this condition with such names as "Hong Kong Cholly (not Charlie) and some of the big shot gang leaders.

    THAT THE POPULARITY of thc Red Barry Comic Strip was very high would seem to be a no brainer. It was widely read and distributed by the syndicate (Hearst's King Features) to warrant adaption to the screen. That meant Big Buck$ would travel from Universal to King Features. butits popularity with the public and successes all came to a halt shortly after the release of the serial.

    IT SEEMS THAT financial considerations between creator Will Gould and the people at King Features led to his departure and the last case for RED BARRY. Mr. Gould then became a screenwriter and successfully remained so for his lifetime.

    WE ENJOYED OUR viewing of this serial, particularly because Turner Classic Movies ran it the old fashioned way, one chapter a week. This brought us back and, thanks to our DVR, we still have all the chapters.

    IT HAS BEEN said that Buster Crabbe had felt very self conscious about having his hair bleached blonde for his role of Flash Gordon. Although the serials are in glorious B & W, it does appear that they turned his hair Red for the role. (on this matter we can speak with some authority as this writer (me) is a born and bred redhead.

    IN CONCLUSION, WE recommend it for your viewing; if only to see a redheaded Buster without a ray gun or Emperor Ming.
  • You would think Universal/Filmcraft with their top Serial Star Larry 'Buster' Crabbe would be a worth while watch, wrong. Based on the RED BARRY comic strip by William Gould I would expect a strong plot and two-fisted action, that does not occur in this Serial.

    Two/2 Million Dollar$ from China too buy War-Planes is the MacGuffin. Four/4 parties compete for it and like a game of musical chairs it rotates between the four/4. Not much of a plot device and this Serial is almost as boring as HOLT OF THE SECRET SERVICE (1941) Columbia Pictures. Except 'Buster' Crabbe is far more engaging then Jack Holt and Evelyn Brent. Fortunately it runs only 13 Chapters rather then the 15 of H.O.T.S.S.

    For those with a Historical bent, China's motivation for the War-Planes is too help repulse a invader. Though they are not mentioned it is obviously Imperial Japan. The second Sino-Japanese War having started in 1937 and in Chapter one/1 background news-reel footage clearly shows who the aggressor was. It is worth one/1 watch, but solely if you are a Serial fan.
  • The cast is excellent! Buster Crabbe is a pleasure to watch, and he's easy to root for. Same goes for the beautiful Frances Robinson, who adds a nice humorous touch at times. She somehow looks a little different here than she does in Tim Tyler's Luck, the 1937 serial one year earlier than this one. I think she looks even better here. Wade Boteler as Inspector Scott, Buster's boss, is clearly enjoying his role, and you will too. Lots of other good performances.

    Also, lots of plot complications, as we have three different groups fighting for possession of the $2 million in bearer bonds (a huge fortune in 1937, of course!). And that doesn't include the intrepid Red Barry, who is the personification of doggedness.

    The big drawback to this story, is that the bonds bounce from group to group like a crazed ping-pong ball, and that gets to feeling tiresome, especially by about episode 8 or 9 of the 13. I realized that these serial plots work better when the treasure, or the secret formula, etc., doesn't get found until the final episode. Here the desired object literally changes hands multiple times in just about every episode! There is a big plot twist at the end that I didn't see coming at all; that was nicely done. Also, great old 1930's cars! And nice scenes on the Universal back lot. Some filler scenes in a vaudeville theater show some of the greatest juggling you will ever see!