Distressed Damsels and Masked Marauders: Cliffhanger Serials of the Silent-Movie Era

by Ed Hulse

The motion-picture serial, routinely dismissed, overlooked, or undervalued by mainstream film historians, finally gets the attention it deserves in this meticulously researched and 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, helped make moviegoing a weekly habit for millions of Americans during the Teens and Twenties.

Author and film historian Ed Hulse, the editor of publisher of BLOOD 'N' THUNDER magazine, opens the book with a 25,000-word overview of this unique film form, debunking old myths and putting the silent serial in its proper historical context. The bulk of the book is devoted to Path Exchange, the company that employed the most popular stars (serial queens Pearl White, Ruth Roland, and Allene Ray) and released the most successful and influential chapter plays (THE PERILS OF PAULINE, THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, THE TIMBER QUEEN, THE GREEN ARCHER).

Hulse presents a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at Path's output, impeccably sourced and featuring first-hand recollections from people who were part of those halcyon days. DISTRESSED DAMSELS AND MASKED MARAUDERS has more than 250 illustrations: rare movie stills, posters, advertisements, lobby cards, candid on-set snapshots, even frame captures from the films themselves.

Most of these have never before been reprinted. Hulse has in painstaking detail recaptured this remarkable period in motion-picture history, and even those film buffs with limited interest in serials will be fascinated by this evocative history of the chapter play.


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