Secret Agent X-9 (1937)
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This was probably the best serial made as early as 1937 until William Witney came along at Republic Studios and raised the bar for the genre, and the best Universal serial until the 1940's. It has the look and feel of a "real" movie, not all stops and starts like so many other serials. It seems more like a typical mystery film of the 1930's, what "Gang Busters" could have been, perhaps. With the action usually continuing right on through the cliffhangers, it has a tight story and is well acted, with endless switcheroos as to who has the jewels or the paper that will lead to them. The sets are very good, especially the waterfront scenes and the pirate ship in the harbor. The fights, which are fairly short though not well choreographed, are less important than the plot, a welcome change from most serials. Unfortunately the chapter endings are not very remarkable, except for one which has a remarkably bad cheat: Chapter 5 ends with X-9 being shot by a hidden gun in a bookcase--he clutches his stomach and keels over to the floor. In Chapter 6 the gunshot misses him completely and instead knicks his pal Pidge.
Scott Kolk had been a Broadway actor who went to Hollywood with the advent of sound. He became a Universal contract player, and was elevated to a title role for the first time in this serial. But stardom eluded him, and not even a name change to Scott Colton could do the trick; he left films in 1938.Read more ›
"Secret Agent X-9" began as a newspaper comic strip drawn by Alex Raymond, who had also created "Flash Gordon". Although Dashiell Hammett was apparently hired to help with the plot, he ended up contributing very little. Too bad, because this is one very boring serial. (Universal was just not very good at producing effective stories for this very tricky genre.) The plot has to do with a mysterious jewel thief, the crown jewels of some imaginary country, examining paintings with a ray-beam device to find a bank receipt, boat chases, G-men, etc. It's all rather ho-hum, if you ask me. However, the serial gains in historical significance much of what it lacks in entertainment value, for one of the minor characters is a thug named Marconi who is played by none other than Lon Chaney, Jr. Two years after this serial was released, Chaney would portray Lennie in the movie and stage versions of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men", and he would go on to become a very popular B-movie star who would also make some significant A-movies.
Each episode on this two-DVD set begins with the serial's titles and credits and, starting with episode 2, a comic strip that outlines what happened during the last episode. This is exactly the way serials were shown in theaters in the "old days", and the way they should be watched today.Read more ›
UNIVERSAL, a studio noted for overly-plotted serials trimmed down this one for fan consumption. Chapters 1-8 consist of finding a painting that holds the clue to a fortune in jewels! Needless to say, the painting switches back and forth throughout all 8 chapters. Then we get to the grist of things when chapters 9-12 deal with badguy Brenda trying to make his getaway with the booty, pirate booty, as much of the serial deals with a pirate ship attraction "THE JOLLY RODGER" as the hideout for the baddies.
This is not a great lost serial. Yes, it's lots of fun in the traditional serial fashion. VCI's edition is OUTSTANDING!!!!! by all standards! However, if it only had Kane Richmond or Ralph Byrd or even Herman Brix as the star... but, Scott Kolk???...He's not bad, actually he's pretty good, but rather...forgettable.
Monte Blue, Jean Rogers, Lon Chaney Jr., and especially Henry Brandon (who steals the show!!!)are all on hand throughout the UNIVERSAL stock footage and excellent location shooting!
This is not a serial to be missed.
A MUST-HAVE for fans of such things (like me) and a welcomed addition to the genre, especially in such a beautiful transfer!!!
An international jewel thief, Victor Brenda, who recently robbed the National Bank of Belgravia (not to be confused with any real places of that name), is believed to be in the U.S. when his close associate Blackstone (Henry Brandon) is spotted. Secret Agent X-9 (Scott Kolk), who goes by the name "Dexter" in this serial, is assigned to the case, turning over his "routine" task to a young agent. The "routine" task is to accompany shipment of the Crown Jewels of Belgravia, which had been on display in the U.S., back to their home country. While the jewels might seem like a potential target for Brenda, they are being guarded on the ship by a squad of Marines and the Federal agent is considered a formality. But though his door was guarded and the portholes closed, the bad guys drilled a hole from the adjoining cabin, killing the young agent with poison gas. They manage to steal the jewels, which are placed in a safe deposit box by one of Brenda's men, the proprietor of an Art Shop. Through good detective work Blackstone is temporarily captured, and a bag he was carrying is traced to the Art Shop. The proprietor ends up getting killed, and nobody else knows the location of the jewels, other than that the receipt for the safe deposit box was hidden beneath the pigment of an oil painting.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you like pulps and old B&W movie serials you will enjoy this. Not the best one every made but watchable.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Totally boring. Stopped watching it after several chapters.Published 12 months ago by Jay D. Finglass
Excellent Product, Excellent Price And Excellent Delivery.Published 14 months ago by CRAIG W GUNDERSEN
As serials go one of the better ones.Story excellent would definitely recommend to others hope this title stays in circulationPublished on October 29, 2013 by Ira Kaplan
His acting doesn't have enough presence for this. You need more of your typical lead man in this role. Either his portrayal or his character is too unlikeable and annoying. Read morePublished on April 19, 2013 by choirboyme
Anyone who knows this type of film knows that they were made on the cheap---"B" minus, minus movie status. Read morePublished on February 9, 2013 by sonny4all
One of the best serials put onto dvd. The resolution and sound were of high quality acting great. A thoroughly good time.Published on April 17, 2009 by John D.