Monday, October 06, 2008

iPod fodder -- Killer serials

Sure, there's all kinds of short-form content available for your iPod (or another MP3 player) out there, but for my money (that is, for free), some of the old movie serials are hard to beat.

There's a good selection over at What makes movie serials great for an iPod? Pretty much the same thing that made them great for the movie theater.

Movie serials told their story over the course of a series of chapters, shown at the rate of once a week. There were usually twelve chapters, so it would take about three months of viewing. Because of this, there was always a quick synopsis to get everyone up to speed, and a thrilling cliffhanger at the end to ensure the audience would return next week.

I generally watch a serial chapter about once a week, and the synopsis and cliffhangers work just fine. Plus each chapter is only about 15-20 minutes in length, so it's pretty easy to find some viewing time. They were shot primarily in a 4:3 ratio, so they fit really well onto an MP3 player's screen. And because they're in black and white, there's a lot of contrast in the small image.

And did I mention that they're free?

Many of these serials from the 1930's and 1940's have fallen into public domain, which means they're readily available for download. Because I haven't spent any money, I have no problem deleting them when I'm done.

And what a lot of fun. If you liked any of the Indiana Jones movies, well, consider going to the source. George Lucas has never made a secret that these movie serials were the point of inspiration for the franchise.

Some, such as the Republic serials, are top-notch film-making. Others, such as productions from Mascot Pictures, are more uneven in quality. But even the bad ones can provide entertainment -- especially if you're a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan.

Sure, "Lost," Battlestar Galactica" et al. are great shows, but sometimes I want something different. And somehow these serials from a more innocent time fill the bill.

- Ralph

Day 113 of the WJMA Web Watch.

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