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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great 1930's Atmosphere
This is one of two serials of the same name, the second being in 1945 with a different plot and cast. "Secret X-9" was a popular comic strip of the day, based on characters created by the great writer of detective fiction Dashiell Hammett.

This was probably the best serial made as early as 1937 until William Witney came along at Republic Studios and raised the...
Published on January 8, 2006 by S. D. Lothrop

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Scott Kolk is too weak an actor for this lead action role. Other serial actors might have made this work.
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. Sadly, I'm going to go with his portrayal. Because why would you make a detective kind of character annoying? Didn't watch but a few minutes because of that. They are supposed to be respectable,...
Published 21 months ago by choirboyme


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great 1930's Atmosphere, January 8, 2006
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
This is one of two serials of the same name, the second being in 1945 with a different plot and cast. "Secret X-9" was a popular comic strip of the day, based on characters created by the great writer of detective fiction Dashiell Hammett.

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.

Blond and beautiful Jean Rogers (looking a little like Jean Harlow) is even more attractive as the well-dressed, enigmatic Shara Graustark than she was in her role a year earlier as the scantily-clad Dale Arden in "Flash Gordon," although that was the role that made her a serial icon. Monte Blue is far better in the dual role of Baron Karsten, and the criminal known as Brenda disguised as Karsten, then he was when he chewed up the scenery in "Undersea Kingdom." But Henry Brandon ("Drums of Fu Manchu") steals the bad-guy honors as the master criminal known as Blackstone--it's a shame he doesn't get as much screen time as Blue does. Brandon was a fine actor who separated himself from most other serial actors by underplaying his part. Makes you wonder why he never became more famous.

I love the chases in this because of the great 1930's cars involved--beautiful old automobiles. And I hate the wimpy ending.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Historically Interesting Serial., August 17, 2005
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
Leonard J. Kohl, in his book "Sinister Serials" (2000), declared that this serial "is officially considered lost". Well, thanks in large part to the great collector and preserver of old radio shows and movies, Fred Shay, we now have a clear, clean print of this "lost" serial.

"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.

Oh sure, sometimes a scene or two is a bit dark, and the framing of the picture is not always perfect, and the crispness of a print made from the original nitrate negative may not be present, still, all in all, this is a top-notch version of a serial that is no longer "lost".

A great addition for anyone collecting old serials, but newcomers to this form of entertainment may wish to begin with one made by Republic Pictures. Now THEY knew how to make a serial!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CLASSIC UNIVERSAL SERIAL, AT LAST!!!, March 22, 2009
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
Though this may not be on anyone's top 10 serial list this is certainly a top-notch serial by anyone's standards!
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!!!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!!!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No-Nonsense Crime-Busting 1930's Universal Serial, October 9, 2010
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
Secret Agent X-9 is a 13-chapter serial from Universal, released in 1937, based on the newspaper comic strip created by Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond, often mentioned in connection with this serial, but credited in the film to Charles Flanders. The film stars Scott Kolk in the title role and was directed by Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith. Universal made another serial with the same title in 1945.

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. The search for the jewels involves not only Brenda's men and the FBI, but also Belgravian Baron Karsten (Monte Blue) and his associate, Shara Graustark (Jean Rogers) who was working in the Art Shop, and they seem unwilling to cooperate with the FBI.

The plot has the usual complexity of those from Universal in the late 1930's, and in this one the object of pursuit, the Crown Jewels, has aesthetic as well as monitary value, so the chase itself provides more interest than is often the case, further enhanced by requiring that the receipt be found first. The antagonistic attitude of Baron Karsten and questionable loyalties of Shara Graustark in the earlier chapters help keep up a sense of mystery. The acting, by serial movie standards, is fine. While Scott Kolk does not make a strong impression, one would hardly expect a "secret" agent to run around dressed and acting like Spy Smasher. He and the rest of the cast tend to underplay their roles, as would be expected of Henry Brandon. Even Monte Blue is fairly reserved, and the "comic relief" is kept within reason by David Oliver as Pidge, a taxi driver who assists X-9. The restraint helps give a feeling of "reality" and the plot moves along very well, with no sense of "padding" anywhere in the twelve chapters. There are a few lapses of logic, such as why known gang hangouts aren't guarded once they have been identified, but nothing unusual for serial movies, which rely on being watched one chapter at a time to help cover such minor issues.

Universal's serials lacked the polished look of what Republic was making, even in 1937. The city in the background of the studio "rooftop" set has obvious seams and some dirt, and grainy stock footage is used for many of the street scenes. But the gang's hideout, the waterfront "pirate ship" attraction is effective, as is the mansion of the "Raymond Estate" with its secret passage to the boat house.

VCI's edition on DVD, # 8341, is supplied on two discs. The image is mostly good, sharp and clear, and while a couple chapters are a bit dark it is never much of a problem. It is easy enough to read even the small print in the credits. The top of the picture bends slightly; this may vary with the TV set used, and appears to be caused by the Macrovision copy-protection. The sound has a little distortion, mostly noticed in the title music of some chapters and not uncommon on transfers from existing prints, but the frequency response is fairly good; there is no problem in understanding the dialogue except when the language is "Belgravian."

This is not a serial to watch when an "over the top" experience is desired, but it is a good example of Universal's serials from the late 1930's; a different feel, not simply better or worse than those from Republic or Columbia, here in an excellent transfer, well worth the price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SAX-9 cures the blues!, February 9, 2013
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
Anyone who knows this type of film knows that they were made on the cheap---"B" minus, minus movie status. so, a lot of production vaues---like sets, costumes etc---were at a bare minimum. Despite this handicap, serials managed to entertain with energetic action---one serial director was quoted as saying; "Walk into a room, have a fight. Walk out of a door, have a chase." Thrills in the air, on the roads, and thrills in fast moving boats. I enjoyed serials as a boy, sixty plus years ago, and I still enjoy them. If you just give in to the flow, pocket your critical eye, the way you might give in to a rolloer-coaster ride you can have blast.
A mark of a good "chapter play" is the appeal of the hero, and Secret Agent X-9 is likable. His morality and ethics are within grasp of the child in us withou cheapening them: as adults today we want to believe such naive values if only because of the absence of them in contemporary times. That's what makes them so appealing. SAX-9 makes them clear to us by his impassioned crime fighting, AND important, important enough for us to want to help stop the shenanigans of the bad guy.
Penny for penny this is the best bang for one's tough to come by buck. The picture and sound are good, the action exiting, the dialogue is crisp. This is a five-bags-of-popcorn quality 'movie'.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "from the King of Serials on DVD...VCI Entertainment ~ 1937 Secret Agent X-9", October 2, 2005
This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
VCI Entertainment and Universal Pictures present Dashiell Hammett, Alex Raymond and Charles Flanders comic strip from King Features Syndicate "Secret Agent X-9 " (1937) (Dolby digitally remastered), 12 Chapters of vintage serial loaded with action sequences...the story line opens with daily strips in the style of Alex Raymond but drawn by Charles Flanders at the beginning of each episode...can Secret Agent X-9 stop the notorious jewel thief "Brenda" from stealing the crown jewel of Belgravian...will the evil "Blackstone" hide the stolen jewels in a safe place that will never be discovered...will speedboat chases ever become an American past time after watching this serial...can the Baron Michael Karsten with the help of X-9 unmask the mysterious "Brenda"...the writers of this 12 Chapter Universal Serial must have been burning the midnight oil, cause it's down to the wire cliffhanger...high production and great stunt work from Universal's serial department...there is a great deal of entertainment here for the cliffhanger fans out there.

Under director's Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith, producers Ben Koenig, Barney A. Sarecky and Henry MacRae with screenplay by Charles Flanders, Dashiell Hammett, Wyndham Gittens, Leslie Swabacker, Norman S. Hall and Ray Trampe...the cast include Scott Kolk (Agent Dexter, X-9), Jean Rogers (Shara Graustark), David Oliver (Pidge), Henry Brandon (Blackstone), Monte Blue (Baron Michael Karsten), Henry Hunter (FBI Agent Tommy Dawson), Larry J. Blake (Chief FBI Agent Wheeler), Lon Chaney Jr (Maroni - primary henchman), Robert Kortman (Trader' Delaney), Eddy Waller (Lawyer Carp), Eddie Parker (marine guard, FBI Agent and Henchman), George Magrill (freighter crewman), Tom Steele (Policeman, FBI Agent, Henchman - stuntman)...great stunt work by George Magrill, Eddie Parker and Tom Steele...stayed tuned and don't miss each exciting chapter...another great serial provided by Universal Pictures during their heyday in the early '30s...by the way musical score by Franz Waxman (scored "Bride of Frankenstein"), Charles Previn (father of Andre Previn), Karl Hajos, Arthur Morton, Edward Vaughan, Sam Perry...also must make mention that Henry Brandon as Blackstone was always one of my favorite villains had the lead in the 1940 serial "Drums of Fu Manchu"...Brandon was often cast as an Indian Chief as in "The Searchers" (1956) and "Two Rode Together" (1961)...Brandon was quite the versatile actor of his day.

CHAPTER TITLES: (Disc One)
1. Modern Pirates
2. Ray That Blinds
3. Man of Many Faces

SPECIAL FEATURES: (Disc One)
BIOS:
1. Scott Kolk
2. Jean Rogers
3. Ford Beebe (Director)

VCI CLIFFHANGER COLLECTION (Disc One) (now available on DVD from VCI)
1. The Adventures of Red Ryder (Don "Red" Barry)
2. Winners of the West (Dick Foran & Harry Woods)
3. Gang Busters (Kent Taylor, Robert Armstrong & Ralph Morgan)
4. Tailspin Tommy (Maurice Murphy, Patricia Farr, Noah Beery Jr, Walter Miller & Grant Withers)

CHAPTER TITLES: (Disc Two)
4. Listening Shadow
5. False Fires
6. Dragnet
7. Sealed Lips
8. Exhibit "A"
9. Masquerader
10.Force Lie
11.Enemy Camp
12.Crime DOES NOT Pay

SPECIAL FEATURES: (Disc Two)
BIOS:
(Same as Disco One)

VCI CLIFFHANGER COLLECTION (Disc Two) (now available on DVD from VCI)
(Same as Disc One)

Own them now on DVD....if you crave action, drama and plenty of adventure then this is the place for all of the above...also check out another release from VCI Entertainment (King of Serials) and Columbia Pictures present Lee Falk and Phil Davis comic strip King feature "Mandrake the Magician" (1939) (Dolby digitally remastered), 12 Chapters of our favorite magician doing battle with "The Wasp", who is out to steal another scientist invention...will our villain of villains succeed in taking the radium energy machine and use it against Mandrake...can good triumph over evil...don't pass this one up.

Great job by VCI Entertainment for releasing "Secret Agent X-9" (1937), the digital transfere with a clean, clear and crisp print...looking forward to more high quality releases from the vintage serial era...order your copy now from Amazon or VCI Entertainment, stay tuned once again with top notch action and adventure from the "King of Serials" VCI...just the way we like 'em!

Total Time: 235 mins on 2 DVD's ~ VCI Entertainment 8341 ~ (1/07/2003)
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5.0 out of 5 stars fun serial very well presented, October 29, 2013
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
As serials go one of the better ones.Story excellent would definitely recommend to others hope this title stays in circulation
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2.0 out of 5 stars Scott Kolk is too weak an actor for this lead action role. Other serial actors might have made this work., April 19, 2013
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
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. Sadly, I'm going to go with his portrayal. Because why would you make a detective kind of character annoying? Didn't watch but a few minutes because of that. They are supposed to be respectable, capable and sharp and possibly witty. Ralph Byrd's portrayal of Dick Tracy works fine. He's a respectable character. He would have been fine as an actor. Many other serial actors might have made a serial with this interesting concept really work. Might be a neat remake as a film.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Serial on DVD, April 17, 2009
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
One of the best serials put onto dvd. The resolution and sound were of high quality acting great. A thoroughly good time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, November 20, 2014
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This review is from: Secret Agent X-9 (1937) (DVD)
Excellent Product, Excellent Price And Excellent Delivery.
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Secret Agent X-9 (1937)
Secret Agent X-9 (1937) by Ford I. Beebe (DVD - 2003)
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