Did Barbour Even Like Serials? And Other Books On Cliffhangers...

AndyFish
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AndyFish
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March 30th, 2018, 5:55 pm #1

Picked up some vintage books on serials and in waiting for their arrival I re-read Alan Barbour's book on them and was struck again how biased he was in terms of serials; essentially if it was a Republic Picture it was a classic if it was anything else it was likely junk. His disdain for some of the Columbia output seems totally unwarranted.

One of the other books arrived and it's 1972's GREAT MOVIE SERIALS by Don Glut and Jim Harmon-- I gave it a quick glance through and it's loaded with inaccuracies. They didn't seem to know that the Batcave makes it's first appearance in Columbia's BATMAN and it found its way into the comics shortly after that. They continually refer to director Lambert Hillyer as Hillyear and they not only spoil the ending of NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN they get the villain's ID wrong!

It was interesting to read summaries on serials that many times hadn't been seen since their original showing-- THE PHANTOM seems to be described from still photos they had access to, and hearing that "It's impossible to see today" really makes you realize we are in the Golden Age of Home Video.

Coming up in another shipment is a book on B-Movies as well as Serials-ly Speaking, which I've wanted to read for a long time.
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Frank Hale
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March 30th, 2018, 9:38 pm #2

I stumbled on the Harmon and Glut book in a bookstore when it came out in 1972, and I've read it twice. What I knew about serials at the time was pretty much from WPIX and WNEW in New York.

I can't comment on any inaccuracies, but I found it an affectionate and humorous look backwards.

If you can approach it that way, rather than as a reference book, I think you'll enjoy it.
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Laughing Gravy
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March 31st, 2018, 1:05 am #3

Great Movie Serials is probably my favorite serial book; like many film books of the time, they simply didn't have access to screen a lot of the stuff they were writing about. As anecdotal and just as a read, it's wonderful.

As for Mr. Barbour, luckily I didn't use him as a guide - we quickly discovered that the Columbia serials were way, way better than he'd said they were, so we used his book as a list of what was out there and to check out the pretty pictures.

I'm told after he wrote the book he revised his opinion.

"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Sgt King
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March 31st, 2018, 10:43 am #4

I talked with Alan Barbour twice on the telephone about 2 years before he died. His favorite serial was Spy Smasher with Captain Marvel 2nd. I bought several of his books, newsletters and poster books. His e-mail was: cyclotrode@aol.
Alan Barbour wrote a couple nice serial articles way back in the 1950’s which I managed to find and then scouring Cleveland & Columbus libraries, I have a couple hundred ORIGINAL serial reviews from newspapers. Yes, Mr. Barbour was partial to Republic serials . . . and I am too.
I’ve been collecting, watching, reading and comparing serials since they become available on VHS since about 1980. I believe I have every serial book published. I rate serials as 1 star: poor, 2: routine, 3: good 4: excellent.
Columbia - the highest I can give is *** to only 2 serials: The Secret Code and The Spiders Web.
Universal - only 1 rates ****: Flash Gordon with *** going only to Ace Drummond, Jungle Jim, Tailspin Tommy, and Tim Tyler’s Luck.
Mascot – The only one to reach ***: The Devil Horse.
The Glut/Harmon book is pretty bland, IMHO, because all it does is relate plot, facts and stats with almost no critical comments, thoughts or comparisons on why a serial may be good or bad.
I love reading about serials almost as much as watching them.
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Frank Hale
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March 31st, 2018, 8:47 pm #5

Alan Barbour had a video review column in Films in Review during the VHS and laserdisc days, and his enthusiasms went far beyond serials. He was always the one I turned to first when a new issue arrived.

The general trend of his reviews was "yes, it's nice to see that Bette Davis weepie coming out, but where the heck are those Abbott & Costello, Maria Montez, and Vera Hruba Ralston epics I want to see ???!!! "

Now how can you dislike a guy like that? Clearly he would have been right at home on this site.

One didn’t have to agree with him to admire his good-natured energy, and that's certainly how I look at his various serial and second-feature books.
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riddlerider
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April 1st, 2018, 7:03 pm #6

This is the second time in recent weeks I've had to take pen in hand (or, rather, take a seat behind the keyboard) to defend one of my old friends and colleagues. I was swallowing a mouthful of coffee and damn near did a spit take when I saw the title of this thread. My first thought was, "Really? Is this a serious question?"

Not to put to fine a point on it, Alan Barbour was the best friend that serials—and serial fans—ever had.

Only Sam Sherman and Bob Price, writing in Screen Thrills Illustrated during the early Sixties, took the form seriously at that time. But when STI folded they both moved on to other pursuits. Alan, who like Sam and Bob was part of the NYC film-collecting scene, attempted to fill the void with his semi-pro magazine Screen Facts (the first issue of which, as I recall, had two articles on serials). By 1968 he had already published numerous books and zines devoted solely to serials. None of the subsequent books on chapter plays—Weiss and Goodgold's To Be Continued, Harmon and Glut's Great Movie Serials, Stedman's The Serials, and the rest—would have been commercially viable had Alan not found and nurtured that market niche. So let's start there.

It's true Alan was a Republic partisan. As a kid growing up in Oakland during the early Forties, he saw lots of serials during their initial theatrical releases, beginning with Mysterious Doctor Satan. I can't imagine how any kid experiencing Captain Marvel, Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc., Spy Smasher, Perils of Nyoka, G-Men vs. the Black Dragon, Daredevils of the West and others could not come to the conclusion that they were superior to the Horne serials by every measure important to an adolescent boy. When he quit following serials in 1947, Universal was gone, Columbia was mired in cheapo Katzman quicksand, and even Republic was getting stale. He didn't see any more chapter plays until the early and mid Fifties, when they started appearing on television. He fell in with 16mm collectors in the later Fifties and early Sixties, when his passion for serials was well and truly reignited.

But in the late Sixties, when Alan started writing what became Days of Thrills and Adventure, he still hadn't seen most of the Columbias, so he relied heavily on childhood memories rather than recent research. Hence the near-idolatrous coverage of Republic, especially the early and mid Forties titles.

As someone who bought everything he published beginning with 1965's The Serials of Republic, I gave considerable weight to his judgments, and it was many years before I recognized the extent to which his authoritative writings on serials and B Westerns had been colored by the rosy glow of nostalgia. During the Seventies and Eighties, when I saw Alan frequently and became more friendly with him, I often kidded him about the Republic-worship in his books. It was the advent of home video and the proliferation of pirated VHS tapes of old serials and Westerns that turned him around somewhat on Columbia, Universal, and even Mascot. He'd always been reluctant to buy them on 16mm, because getting complete serials was very expensive and he didn't want to gamble hundreds of dollars on something he might not like. But by the time you could get a serial on VHS for $20 he was willing to take more chances, and he often confessed to me that he'd not been fair to this or that Columbia. He even got to enjoy the Horne serials for their wackiness, which as a kid he despised.

As Frank points out, Alan's tastes went far beyond serials and Westerns, and he became a forceful advocate of film-preservation efforts. When I started writing professionally about movies and video releases he was very supportive and complimentary, and I sure wish he'd lived long enough to read my own books on serials.
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Jerry Blake
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April 1st, 2018, 8:43 pm #7

Amen and amen, RR; all I can add is that Barbour's influence on serial research and serial fans lasted long after his death. My own website wouldn't even exist if I hadn't got Barbour's 3-in-1 book Saturday Afternoon at the Movies out of the library; as someone who'd seen a lot of serials on VHS but who had only a very hazy and inaccurate impression of their history and the people behind them, it was like finding the Rosetta Stone. The title of this thread is so off the mark that it ain't even funny.
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The Batman
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April 2nd, 2018, 6:38 pm #8


OK, being intrigued by this thread, I realized that though I've known of Alan Barbour for about 20 years, I've never actually read any of his books.

One of the "general knowledge" things I have repeatedly heard was his disdain for any serial that was not a Republic. It's nice to see that misconception addressed by those more knowledgeable about the situation.

What compels me to post, however, is my desire to seek clarification on his authorial output.

I popped over to GoodReads, after reading this thread, to ascertain which books were under his authorship only to discover that not only is he credited with several serial and/or film related books, but also the author of several tomes on Lyme disease.

Is this true? Or have two men named Alan Barbour been inadvertently combined on the GoodReads site?

The full listing has his name as Alan G. Barbour. And checking online, there is an Alan G. Barbour responsible for the Lyme disease books, however, he appears to still be alive and working at the University of California.

Alan G. Barbour - University of California

And, to my surprise anyway, there is no Wikipedia page for our Alan Barbour. Surely someone as influential in the serial world as Mr. Barbour would have generated a Wiki page?

So, in the interests of correcting this misjustice, I would ask if anyone could contribute the following:

1) A list of books written by Alan Barbour. ISBN's and page counts would be most helpful, but not expected.

2) The man's full name, is it Alan G. Barbour, or something else?



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The Batman
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April 2nd, 2018, 7:27 pm #9


So, doing a search, I found this tribute to Mr. Barbour, from one Les Adams (a name I am not familiar with, can anyone add some info?).

Remembering Alan G. Barbour

What I found most intriguing in the article was the following paragraphs. Does anyone know anything about these interviews and are they available in some way or another?

We also were together again at several film conventions, scattered across the country, over the next few years. It was at some of those that I was fortunate enough to get all of the stars in attendance to agree to doing video-taped interviews in a private one-on-one setting where we had set up lights and camera --- thanks to Dr. Dennis Harp of Texas Tech's Mass Communication Department --- and I was also bright enough to ask Alan to act as the interviewer on a great many of them. Which he graciously agreed to do. Actually, to be truthful, getting Alan in front of a camera was not that hard of a task.

Of the 200 or so video-taped interviews I've done over the years, ranging from thirty minutes to two hours in length, some of the best are those one-on-ones with Alan Barbour with people such as Bill Witney, Don Barry, Kay Aldridge, Yakima Canutt and others. His sense of humor, his thorough knowledge of the people and their work and the complete trust, respect and mutual admiration they all had for Alan shines through in all of them.


These interviews would be fascinating to listen to.

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Frank Hale
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April 2nd, 2018, 9:05 pm #10

Book-wise, this author page on Amazon should help you, Mr. Bats.

https://www.amazon.com/Alan-G.-Barbour/e/B001KJ268O

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