VCI Entertainment has announced the DVD release of two long-anticipated serials: The Green Hornet (1940) and The Green Hornet Strikes Again (1941). The 2-disc sets are due out on July 28th and feature liner notes, radio shows and a photo gallery. Retail for each is $29.99
I just received review copies of both serials, and I have to say that these are among the best transfers I have seen from VCI. For years, they've been pretty much the only mainstream outfit releasing classic cliffhangers regularly on DVD, but frequently the source material on these old chapterplays is in pretty rough shape. VCI usually makes a solid effort to make them presentable, but often the best material they have to work from are old, beat-up 16mm prints.
Both of these Green Hornet releases, however, were prepared with the cooperation of the original studio – Universal – who apparently provided high quality 35mm prints to VCI for the DVD remastering. There are still some specks here and there, but otherwise they look great, with solid contrast and no major print damage.
The Green Hornet (1940)
Originally created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker for an American radio program in the 1930s, the character appeared in two Universal serials. In the first 13 episode serial, the city is faced with rising crime and increased racketeering activity. In an effort to bring order to the chaos, intrepid newspaper editor Britt Reid (Gordon Jones) becomes the masked crime fighter called the Green Hornet. As far as the police are concerned, the Hornet is himself a criminal; this misunderstanding enables Reid to operate "outside the law" to battle criminals and racketeers. Working alongside the Hornet is the brilliant inventor/sidekick Kato (Keye Luke), the only living person who knows the true identity of the Hornet.
Bonus Features: Liner Notes by author Martin Grams Jr., Two Original Radio Episodes of THE GREEN HORNET, Photo Gallery, Trailers. Product Specs: 2-DVD9s; Dolby Digital 2.0; 258 minutes; B&W; 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio; MPAA - NR; Year - 1940; SRP - $29.99.
The Green Hornet Strikes Again!
In this 15 episode follow-up, Britt Reid (Warren Hull) is enjoying a vacation in Hawaii. While he is away, he learns that a crime organization has extended its activities into virtually every industry in the city. Disguised as the Green Hornet, Britt makes forays against the underworld establishment, with each attack bringing him closer to the identity of the syndicate mastermind, an arch crook named Grogan.
Bonus Features: Episode Selection, Liner Notes by Martin Grams Jr., Two Radio Episodes of THE GREEN HORNET, Photo Gallery, Trailers. Product Specs: 2-DVD9s; Dolby Digital 2.0; 293 minutes; B&W; 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio; MPAA - NR; Year - 1941; SRP - $29.99.
Since these particular serials were contractually obligated to get approvals on script and casting from the original radio creators, The Green Hornet serials are among the most faithful adaptations of a super hero from one medium to another. Individual chapters are frequently based directly on radio episodes, and in the first serial, radio star Al Hodges actually redubbed all of Gordon Jones' lines during the scenes where he wore the Hornet's mask.
I'll be writing a fuller review for my column next week, but if you collect old serials, or are a Green Hornet fan, I can recommend these DVDs without reservation.