|Mar 17 2010
You may not have heard of The Manhunt of Mystery Island, but this is one of the few Republic serials you can probably rent or buy. The legendary Republic Pictures made sixty-six serials, consisting of short chapters ending with cliffhangers resolved at the beginning of the next chapter, usually by means of an improbable escape. Each chapter would play at a theater for one week as a sort of opening act to the A-feature, the next chapter would run for seven days, and so on until the story was completed.
Watching a movie over the course of three months might not seem like the best way to attract customers to the cinema, but it actually worked quite well because some of the serial characters and actors were immensely popular. If you’ve never seen a serial, in complete form it would look a lot like Raiders of the Lost Ark, and there’s a reason for that—Steven Spielberg fell in love with serials when he was young and deliberately set about to make a modern version.
The plot of The Manhunt of Mystery Island is a bit convoluted to summarize here. Let’s just say it involves a scientist, a pirate, bodyshifting, and lots of fights. Or, by way of summation, consider its alternate title: Captain Mephisto and the Transformation Machine. Sounds good, right? The version we saw was back in the late 90s on VHS, but we remember it well and recommend it highly. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.