Todd Gault's Movie Serial Experience

Todd Gault's Film Serial Experience: Movie serials, cliffhangers and reviews. A gallery of movie serial stars.
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"Dick Tracy", 1937

During the thirties, when Republic needed a creepy looking guy to stand next to their serial villains and offer sinister scientific advice, they always turned to John Piccori. Though he was would become forever associated with the role of mad scientist side kick, Piccori’s first serial for the company was as a power hungry witch doctor trying to usurp Mamo Clark for tribal leadership in “Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island” (1936). His next serial was the one he is most remembered for, “Dick Tracy” (1937). Outfitted with a hump on his back and continually carrying a black cat around with him, Piccori played an evil surgeon who operated on the brain of Dick Tracy’s brother and turned him into a sociopath henchman for mystery villain, The Lame One.

That same year Republic gave Piccori a slight change of pace. “SOS Coastguard” (1937) had him playing an almost good guy. Looking natty in a three piece suit and mustache, Piccori was a respectable chemist who Bela Lugosi blackmails into reluctantly helping him due to a past indiscretion that Piccori thought had been covered up. Piccori’s final serial, “The Fighting Devil Dogs” (1938) had him return to form, and his fake hump, playing another demented scientist helping mystery villain The Lightning take over the world.

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