Cover image for Science fiction serials : a critical filmography of the 31 hard SF cliffhangers : with an appendix of the 37 serials with slight SF content
Science fiction serials : a critical filmography of the 31 hard SF cliffhangers : with an appendix of the 37 serials with slight SF content
Kinnard, Roy, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, [1998]

Physical Description:
vi, 217 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.9.S26 K56 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Destination Moon; George Pal's 1950 Technicolor epic, is generally cited as the first noteworthy science fiction film. Usually ignored or casually dismissed in genre histories are the serials, the low-budget chapterplays exhibited as Saturday matinee fare and targeted almost exclusively at children. Lacking stars and top-notch writers or directors, the serials went largely unnoticed and unacknowledged by either critics or by the film industry. Yet serials were financially important to the Hollywood studios, and were often free to exploit risky or outlandish subjects that producers of distinguished movies would not touch.Influential serials such as The Phantom Empire (1935) and Flash Gordon (1936) finally brought science fiction themes to the big screen. Those serials and 29 others are exhaustively covered in this work, which provides complete cast and credit information along with plot descriptions and historical commentary for each serial. Video distributors (if available) are also listed.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

A generation of kids with free Saturdays enjoyed movie serials, 15^-20 minutes of action and cliffhanger endings. Especially with the advent of popular SF writing, science fiction serials were a big draw and presaged the science fiction craze of the 1950s. Covering all 31 SF serials, from The Vanishing to Panther Girl of the Congo this book is the result of in-depth research and commitment. Author Kinnard was able to get valuable information from Buster Crabbe and Jean Rogers (of Flash Gordon fame) and other actors, film curators, and librarians. Serial entries are arranged in order of original release and include the following: production crew, cast, chapter titles, story (from one to three pages), commentary, and present-day distributor. At least one stock photo accompanies each entry; up to four black-and-white photos or posters may be included. Probably the most interesting section is the comment one in which Kinnard discusses (and sometimes editorializes about) production and studio details, actors' backgrounds and future careers, and off-shoot films and TV programs. He notes how footage and costumes were shared among series; applauds Henry MacRae, who produced the Flash Gordon series, for revitalizing serials for the sound stage; and derides Superman producer Sam Katzman, who helped push the serials toward their demise. The Board has only two complaints. The story line for each serial is presented uninterrupted, so the reader cannot tell where individual episodes begin and end. On a more minor note, Kinnard is especially generous in his appraisal of actress Linda Stirling and her beauty--but doesn't include any pictures of her. The writing is clear and succinct, and occasional opinions are backed up with sufficient evidence. An appendix lists 37 additional serials with incidental science-fiction elements. This is followed by a brief bibliography and an index. For the academic or public library with a strong SF or serious film readership, this volume is an entertaining and useful, though not vital, addition to the field.