Film Festival Highlights 2010

2010 Windy City Film Program

In keeping with the theme of this year’s convention, all daytime movies — with one exception, noted below — are based on stories that originally appeared in the “Dean of the Pulps,” Adventure. Just like the magazine itself, this selection of films offers plenty of variety: Western action, historical swashbucklers, South Seas intrigue, Foreign Legion escapades, and Far East exploits.


12:00 — The Red Rider (1934), Chapters 1-7. Adapted from W. C. Tuttle’s “The Redhead from Sun Dog” (March 1—April 1, 1929), this action-packed serial finds cowboy star Buck Jones playing Brick Davidson, a two-fisted lawman determined to prove that his pal, Silent Slade (Grant Withers), has been framed for murder. Marion Shilling and Walter Miller (as a marijuana-smoking heavy) round out the principal players.

02:00 — Captain Calamity (1936). Adapted from Gordon Young’s “Cap’n Calamity” (September 1, 1934), this seafaring saga stars erstwhile opera singer George Houston as Cap’n Bill Jones, just about the fightin’-est swab what ever sailed the South Seas. We showed a black-and-white 16mm print of this film in our first Windy City film program, but this year we’re running the extremely rare color version, mastered from the only surviving 35mm print.

03:15 — Sabatini Silents: Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk (both 1924). Rafael Sabatini’s classic swashbucklers made their American debuts in the pages of Adventure, with “Captain Blood” running in 1921 as a series of connected novelettes from June 3 to October 20, and “The Sea Hawk” as a five-part serial from October 20 to November 30, 1922. Unfortunately, the first film version of Captain Blood does not survive in its entirety, but we’re proud to present a compilation of scenes that maintains the basic narrative in a fast-moving half-hour. Nickelodeon-era matinee idol J. Warren Kerrigan plays Peter Blood. The Sea Hawk has been magnificently restored and is one of the silent screen’s most impressive films. Milton Sills plays the title role. Both films have musical accompaniment; The Sea Hawk features a newly recorded performance of the original 1924 organ score.

05:20 — Pulp Fiction: The Golden Age of Sci Fi, Fantasy & Adventure (2010) – this is a new documentary on the pulps

Following Friday-Night Auction — Durango Valley Raiders (1938). Adapted from the Harry F. Olmsted novelette of the same title in the June 1936 issue of Star Western. Battlin’ Bob Steele tangles with a mysterious outlaw known as, believe it or not, The Shadow. There’s action a-plenty in this fast-paced Republic “B” Western.


09:00 — The Red Rider (1934), Chapters 8-15. The second half of this wild-and-woolly Universal serial finds Davidson drawing ever closer to the murdering outlaw he’s sworn to capture. Our guess is he’ll get `er done before that fifteenth chapter fades out.

12:00 — We’re in the Legion Now (aka Rest Cure, 1936). J. D. Newsom wrote many of the best Foreign Legion stories published in the pulps. The one on which this movie is based, “Rest Cure,” appeared in Adventure’s April 1934 issue. Reginald Denny and Vince Barnett play ex-racketeers who join the Legion in a bid to escape rival mobsters who have orders to rub them out. A trio of comely females—Esther Ralston, Claudia Dell, and Eleanor Hunt—lends able support in this breezy action-comedy. Turned out by the same man who made Captain Calamity, Legion also was produced in color, and we’re showing a DVD mastered from the sole-surviving print.

01:30 — The Man from Painted Post (1917). Adapted from Jackson Gregory’s “Silver Slippers,” which ran in Adventure’s November 1916 issue, this breezy Western is an early outing for Douglas Fairbanks, whose cheery personality and unbridled athleticism makes him perfect in the role of a cattle detective who poses as a dude to investigate rustling on a big ranch. With musical accompaniment.

03:00 — The Black Watch (1929). This is the cheat we referred to above. But it’s not that much of a cheat. Black Watch is a John Ford-directed early talkie adaptation of Talbot Mundy’s “King, of the Khyber Rifles,” which was serialized in Adventure’s sister magazine, Everybody’s, from May 1916 to January 1917. But as Mundy is closely associated with Adventure and this story’s leading characters subsequently appeared in its pages as well, we figured you wouldn’t mind. Besides, Black Watch is an incredibly rare film, never made available on TV, pay cable, or home video. Unfortunately, the sole surviving print is a poor one, and our DVD transfer leaves much to be desired. But it was this or nothing, so we chose to give you the opportunity of seeing the film for what may very well be its last public screening. Victor McLaglen plays King, and a young Myrna Loy co-stars as the alluring Yasmini.

Following Saturday-Night Auction — Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1939). Warner Brothers’ Torchy Blane mysteries ostensibly adapted the MacBride-Kennedy series written by Frederick Nebel for Black Mask. The first entry, Smart Blonde, stuck pretty close to Nebel’s “No Hard Feelings” but replaced Kennedy with a female reporter, Torchy Blane. Thereafter Warner Brothers quit adapting Nebel’s pulp yarns. This late entry, the last to co-star Glenda Farrell as Torchy and Barton MacLane as Steve MacBride, is actually based on “The Purple Cipher,” a Murray Leinster mystery published in the March 1, 1920 issue of Snappy Stories. Amazingly, this was the third cinematic go-round for Leinster’s yarn, first adapted to the screen in 1920 under its original title, and then in 1930 as Murder Will Out. The 1939 version is the only one that survives, and although it was heavily reworked to accommodate the Torchy Blane format, it’s a very entertaining little movie—fast and funny, just what you’ll want to see after what promises to be a long auction.

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