Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders


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Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders: Cliffhanger Serials of the Silent Movie Era by Ed Hulse

Trade Paperback – Murania Press – 2014 – 282 pages

The silent-era movie serial——routinely dismissed, overlooked or undervalued by film historians——finally gets the attention it deserves in this meticulously researched, lovingly written book.

Drawing on the well-established conventions of pulp fiction and blood-and-thunder stage melodrama, the motion-picture chapter play thrilled viewers of all ages and, more importantly, made weekly moviegoing a habit for millions of Americans during the Teens and Twenties.

Ed Hulse, editor and publisher of Blood ‘n’ Thunder magazine, opens this deluxe trade paperback with a 25,000-word overview on the silent serial’s development, debunking old myths and putting the chapter play in its proper historical context. The bulk of the book is devoted to the output of Pathé Exchange, the production/distribution entity that employed the most popular stars (including serial queens Pearl White, Ruth Roland, and Allene Ray) and released the most successful and influential serials (The Perils of Pauline, The Exploits of Elaine, The Lightning Raider, The Timber Queen, and The Green Archer, to name a few). This company history has been impeccably sourced and even features first-hand recollections from people who were part of serial-making in those halcyon days.

Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders has more than 200 illustrations: rare stills, posters, advertisements, lobby cards, candid on-set photos, even frame captures from the film themselves. Most of these have never been published.

Hulse has recaptured this remarkable period in film history in painstaking detail, and even those film buffs or pulp fans with limited interest in serials will be fascinated by his evocative chronicle of the early chapter plays.


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