Don Winslow of the Coast Guard
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Don is sent to track down spy activity along the shores of the Pacific Northwest. Based on the comic strip by Frank V. Martinbek, which was also approved by the U.S. Navy. The serial contains actual combat footage shot during the early days of WWII. Product Specs: DVD9; Dolby Digital 2.0; RT - 240 minutes; B&W; Aspect Ratio - 1.33:1/4x3; Year - 1942; SRP - $19.99
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Top Customer Reviews
This time, Winslow has been assigned to the Coast Guard owing to evidence that enemy forces are organizing an attack on the West Coast, and Winslow's old nemesis, The Scorpion is believed to be involved. Arriving in Seattle, after successfully fighting off an attack while flying there, Don and his pal, Lt. "Red" Pennington (Walter Sande) immediately get into action and stock footage when there is a report of a Japanese submarine in the shipping lanes, attacking a tanker. Soon they find evidence of an enemy base, not far from Puget Sound, and not only is The Scorpion (Nestor Pavia) involved, he has his female cohort, Tasmia (June Duprez) to aid in his neferious schemes.
Winslow's girl friend, nurse Mercedes Colby shows up, this time played by Elyse Knox. Winslow and Pennington are aided by CPO Ben Cobb (Edgar Dearing) of the Coast Guard, while The Scorpion's chief underlings are Reichter (Lionel Royce), Hirota (Philip Ahn), Heilrich (Henry Victor) and Mussanti (Charles Wagenheim). In minor roles are several actors well known from serials, including Stanley Blystone, Richard Cramer, Al Ferguson, and Frank Hagney, with stunts done by Fred Graham, Chuck Hamilton, George Magrill and Dale Van Sickel.
As was done in "Adventures of the Flying Cadets" the opening titles are accompanied by a rousing male chorus, this time singing "Full Speed with Guns Up" by Milton Rosing and Everett Carter, the title set to music quite similar to "Frosty the Snowman," though that classic didn't appear until 1950. Of its time, the serial has the expected derogatory comments about the Japanese, though not at the vitriolic level found in Columbia's "Batman" serial of the same year. Less care was used than with the first Don Winslow serial, which had a greater variety of situations and support characters, but the earlier film was made before the attack on Pearl Harbor so the goals were different. The Scorpion is less-impressive as a physical presence than he was as a mysterious image on a surplus Flash Gordon space-o-graph screen, but it allows Tasmia to annoy him by noting their failure in dealing with Winslow, a subtle comic touch. There are no complications of the type seen in the first Don Winslow serial with characters who might be spies for The Scorpion, so the plot is reduced to a more direct confrontation between Winslow and the Scorpion's agents. And it is a very uneven contest; the Scorpion doesn't seem to get anywhere, Winslow having anticipated his schemes. Most of the special effects are no better than in other Universal serials of the era with boats in bathtubs and air battles using model airplanes swinging in on strings, though at least these are mixed with genuine stock footage. And some of the model work is quite good; the bad guys have an impressive island hideout, with the sea entrance hidden in a waterfall. The cliffhangers depend less on good stunt work than on integrating stock footage; one of them even gets repeated, at the ends of chapters four and ten, with the same scene of Don and Red in a boat getting blown out of the water. There are imaginative geographical details; in one chapter Don and Red drive from Seattle to the southern California coast in a couple hours when a plan to attack an oil field is discovered. Maybe the location was changed when the writers found there weren't any oil fields on the Washington coast. But serials aren't watched for accurate details; such errors add to the "charm" and while lacking in many ways, the plot has no shortage of action. The story moves along, if not always in the same direction, through all thirteen chapters in a lively manner, and is quite tolerable in doses of one chapter at a time.
There were a few editions on VHS, including one from VCI, who now has the first "restored" version on DVD, their catalog number 8706 on a double-layer disc. The image is reasonably sharp, in terms of a good 16mm reduction print. In the opening titles the smaller lettering goes a little soft toward the edges of the screen, though it is hardly a problem in normal viewing of the film. The opening titles are all from Chapter One, with MPPDA certificate number 8671, though the sound seems to be from the actual chapters. The titles open with "Filmcraft Presents," doubtless from a post-war reissue, and for some reason Universal's 1942 copyright shows up for only a few frames as the main cast is displayed. This has nothing to do with VCI's editing; it is also that way on an old VHS edition from another vendor, and in several chapters there is a glitch in the audio at this point, likely from film editing. But of importance, the gray scale is decent, and the image has been cleaned up of most scratches and dirt. The sound sometimes has a slight amount of distortion, heard mostly in the opening chorus, but not obvious in the rest of the film. Restraint was used with noise reduction; while some background "hiss" is present, high-frequency response is maintained, and there are no annoying dropouts of sound at low levels to blur the clarity of the dialogue, as is sometimes done in transfers of old films.
There are only two "extras" on the disc, a before/after restoration example that shows they had a good print with some minor dirt and scratches, and the "Don Winslow Trailer" -- but for "Don Winslow of the Navy," the earlier serial.
While showing a lot of faults of Universal's serials of the 1940's, there is enough action, stock footage or otherwise, to keep it entertaining when watched one chapter at a time. VCI's edition is quite good, a fine addition to their catalog.
I enjoyed watching this serial, as I had seen it on television when I was growing up. Although the transfer to DVD is not the best quality, it is still very watchable. If you pick up Don Winslow of the Navy and watch it first, you will be introduced to many of the characters appearing in this serial.
Watch especially the performance of Philip Ahn, playing the nefarious Hirota, henchman of the Scorpion. He was a celebrated actor of Korean descent and appeared in many movies.
For a look into the past, when serials were king and designed to get movie goers to return to the theater the following week to see the next thrilling installment, you can't go wrong watching a chapter a week. I know that I still do!
The finesse of the talent in this film is superb. The character of the nurse, played by Elyse Knox with a purity and style. She had attended the Traphagen School of Fashion in Manhatten and is a talented portraitist and realist and went on to work as a designer for Vogue were she would sit in on photo sessions when models failed to report for work. Subsequently, one of her fashions photographs was seen by someone in Hollywood and invited her there. She and her mother made the long train ride out west, and she made three dozen movies including this one, "Don Winslow of the Coast Guard." She had met her future husband, Tom Harmon, at the Bing Crosby radio show. He had just graduated from University of Michigan, and gone of to war earning both the Purple Heart and Silver Star. Returning home they married and Tom worked as a sports broadcaster. They're family reminds me of my own family, and she strongly resembles my paternal grandmother whom passed away before I was born.
This is a perfect movie for all ages, and especially for school children learning about the second world war in the Pacific. With it's many depths and complexities with that freedom is not free; those magic words of: duty, honor, and country will always prevail.