In the 1930sand 40s, the main feature in a movie house would often be preceded by a short film that constituted one chapter of an ongoing series. Popular serials included Flash Gordon, Radar Men From The Moon, The Phantom Empire, Fighting Devil Dogs, and even comics characters like Batman and Superman. Republic Pictures was the most prolific producer of serials. Many of them are currently available on video.

Serials conformed to a rather strict formula.

The beginning would be the unravelling of the "cliffhanger" that ended the previous episode. In the very first serials, silents, it would be an actual scene hanging over a cliff, often of the heroine, sometimes called Pearl Pureheart, but also of the hero.

The remainder of the episode would be the buildup to the new crisis. Each crisis, when unravelled, was not the same as the one built up to. How could it be? It was inescapable!

it is extremely interesting to watch a whole serial back to back to back. Seeing the subtle changes made in both editing, and content--the movie magic that permits escape. Some of these serials had two editors; they needed them.

Much of the modern language of action movie editing grew out of serials.

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