THE PHANTOM RIDER;TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS;THE ADVENTURES OF FRANK AND JESSE JAMES;DON DAREDEVIL RIDES AGAIN | EW.com

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Don Daredevil Rides Again THE PHANTOM RIDER ROBERT KENT, PEGGY STEWART (1946, REPUBLIC, $29.98, UNRATED) TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS HARRY LAUTER, ALINE TOWNE (1954, REPUBLIC, ...Don Daredevil Rides AgainAction/Adventure, WesternUnrated THE PHANTOM RIDER ROBERT KENT, PEGGY STEWART (1946, REPUBLIC, $29.98, UNRATED) TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS HARRY LAUTER, ALINE TOWNE (1954, REPUBLIC, ...1993-06-18

Don Daredevil Rides Again

Genre: Action/Adventure, Western; MPAA Rating: Unrated

THE PHANTOM RIDER ROBERT KENT, PEGGY STEWART (1946, REPUBLIC, $29.98, UNRATED) TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS HARRY LAUTER, ALINE TOWNE (1954, REPUBLIC, $29.98, UNRATED) THE ADVENTURES OF FRANK AND JESSE JAMES CLAYTON MOORE, STEVE DARRELL (1948, REPUBLIC, $29.98, UNRATED) DON DAREDEVIL RIDES AGAIN KEN CURTIS, ALINE TOWNE (1951, REPUBLIC, $29.98, UNRATED) Stallone? Phooey. Schwarzenegger? Feh. If it’s cliff-hangers you want, check out the first action heroes-the he-men of the classic movie serials. Republic Pictures made many of the best (The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Fighting Devil Dogs), but the studio’s legendary production efficiency was a double- edged sword. On the one hand, Republic was able to grind out four-hour, 12- to 15-chapter epics that looked far handsomer than their meager budgets would suggest; on the other, much of the nuttiness (lost cities, superpowered heroes) that people love about serials had, by the late ’40s, been replaced by formulaic predictability. This latest batch of new-to-video postwar Republics (packaged as two-tape sets) pretty much proves the point. True, the action sequences are still well mounted, but the plotting-good guys versus corrupt Indian agents (The Phantom Rider), Commie gun smugglers (Trader Tom of the China Seas), or land-grabbing robber barons (Don Daredevil Rides Again)-is remarkably slack. What’s worse, there isn’t a memorable archvillain (i.e., a megalomaniac decked out in a ridiculous costume) to be found in any of the four, although Republic stalwart Roy Barcroft does ham it up entertainingly in Don Daredevil. In fact, apart from the opportunity to see familiar TV faces in uncharacteristic roles- Gunsmoke sidekick Ken Curtis as a hooded avenger in Don Daredevil, future Lone Ranger Clayton Moore (sans mask) as a bad guy going straight in Frank and Jesse James-there’s really nothing here to get excited about. If you’re new to the genre, this batch is a painless introduction, although cliff-hangers weren’t designed to be viewed at home in one sitting. As usual for Republic transfers, the print quality of all four ranges from good to % excellent. Here’s hoping Republic’s next group of vintage serials has more juice to it (the legendary Drums of Fu Manchu would be a good place to start). All four serials: C