I finished up the 1947 Columbia serial Brick Bradford yesterday. I want to be relatively kind in this review because the VHS copy of the serial that I watched was perhaps the grungiest I've ever tried to view. I don't know the condition of the source materials, but this was washed out and thrashed together. For what I paid for it, I'm not going to complain, but I do want it known that I didn't see the serial under ideal conditions.
This serial is structured like no other that I've come across. It's really three stories in one, three different types of serial in one package. The first five chapters introduce Brick Bradford (Kane Richmond) and his sidekick Sandy Sanderson (Rick Vallin) as well as the striking Doctor Tymak (John Merton) and his two assistants. Also on hand are Professor Salsbury (Pierre Watkin) and his daughter June, Brick's girlfriend. Tymak's scientific breakthroughs are at once the maguffins of these stories as well as the means by which they unfold.
The first several chapters introduce us to Tymak's cosmic door which can transport someone to its counterpart which has been flown to the dark side of the Moon. Tymak goes there to escape the villain Laydron (Charles Quigley) and his henchmen. There Tymak finds a society of Earth colonists who have broken into two groups, one democratic and the other under the heel of a tyrant and a token queen. Soon enough Brick and his associates show up and there is much activity in a distinctly Flash Gordon style.
But then suddenly the story shifts gears and Brick and his amigo find themselves in the Time Top headed back two hundred years to get a treasure from some pirates. They run into some natives, fight some grizzled pirates and get the treasure. When they return the story shifts yet again.
This time the story becomes a more traditional crime serial with a few sci-fi touches such as an invisibility gadget. There is a great deal of running around the countryside and eventually as it must in all serials the situation is put to rights. There are a few twists and turns, but overall this is a pretty predictable story.
And alas I have to say, a pretty dull one. The pacing is the problem here for sure. As in all serials there is a lot of running about, but here that takes a long time it seems and long stretches go on where little if anything is accomplished.
There are a few neat suprises such as Noel Neill showing up in the middle of the story as a native girl. She doesn't get any lines, but she sure is pretty.
The Time Top is a keen gimmick and a wonderful prop/set. It's too bad they didn't focus on it more in the last few chapters where most of the dullness sets in. The movie seemed to lack some funds. It had a pretty large cast overall, but some of the costuming was pretty meager.
Kane Richmond does his usual as a hero, but there's surprisingly little for him to do. The fights are pretty ho-hum and as I said, a lot of the time of this serial was taken up by running to and fro.
Brick Bradford might be better under ideal viewing circumstances, but the big storytelling issues aren't going away. It's only marginally recommended for serial purists.
If you're interested in the comic strip by William Ritt and Clarence Gray that inspired this serial, check out this link.