Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Emperor Forerunners: Saturday Matinee Cliffhangers - G-Men Vs. the Black Dragon

This classic motion picture serial influenced Charles Lee Jackson II's style and sensibility, as well as those of his celebrated character, The Emperor.

Jackson writes, "B-movies and Saturday matinee movie serials were always interconnected in the "Golden Age" of motion pictures. The best of them combined solid, if shallow, storylines with slam-bang action, and some of the best of these had their influences on my style. B-movies routinely showed that action, romance, comedy, and even music could be mixed to provide great entertainment. Among serials, 1943's G-Men Vs. the Black Dragon (with its non-stop excitement) helped me envision a milieu of heroes, villains, and plots that go beyond those influences but remember their past, and The Emperor owes it and its companion films a tip of the crown."

G-Men Vs. the Black Dragon is not merely a good serial, it is one of the best. Wikipedia hails it as "noteworthy among adventure serials." Rather than relying heavily on stock footage of car chases and melting mountains for its thrills, G-Men Vs. the Black Dragon, perhaps because it was made during the first year of World War II, right after the stunning events of Pearl Harbor, featured an "unusually high number of fistfights, all staged by director William Witney and a team of stuntmen." Filmed as a homeland morale booster, following a series of major U.S. Naval defeats, the temper of the film, like the temper of the times, can best be summed up in the titles of its first chapter and its last. "The Yellow Peril" and "Democracy in Action."

One of the classic Republic chaptershows, G-Men starred that stalwart of the B-movie, Rod Cameron. In fact, it made the then unknown Cameron a star. Universal Pictures immediately hired the tall, rugged young actor to replace their outgoing western star, the likable Johnny Mack Brown, as their newest B-western hero. Later Rod Cameron would star in three early television series: City Detective, State Trooper, and COronado 9. Afterward, a much beloved figure, Cameron appeared in one or two movies or television shows each year, up until very near his death in 1983.

The Emperor's tip 'o the crown to G-Men Vs. the Black Dragon.

 And a tip of the movie serial and pulp magazine hat to The Emperor's adventures. Joe Vadalma, author of The Chronicles of Morgaine the Witch, says, "Reminds me of the old B-movie action."

You can read the first Emperor novel, The Emperor's Gambit, now - only 99 cents for Kindle at Amazon.

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