CLIFFHANGERS! NBC-TV. February 27, 1979 through May 1, 1979. Created by Kenneth Johnson. (I was unable to visually confirm other on-screen credits.)



STOP SUSAN WILLIAMS. 20 minute Chapters. Cast: Susan Anton as Susan Williams, Michael Swan as Jack Schoengarth, Ray Walston as Bob Richards, Albert Paulsen as Anthony Korf.

   Could the old movie serials succeed on network television in 1979? Can you do three different series for one hour program on one budget? What about Cliffhangers’ other two serials? Will science fiction western The Secret Empire, and horror Curse of Dracula remain forgotten? And what truly evil deed was NBC responsible for that left millions searching for answers? For the answer to some of these questions and more, keep reading!

   Stop Susan Williams was a “twelve” chapter serial, that started with Chapter Two (there was no Chapter One). Susan was a talented photographer for the New York “Dispatch”. Convinced her brother’s death was murder, she travels the globe in search of his killer. Susan stumbles across the evil conspiracy behind her brother’s death. It is up to Susan and her friends to save the world before May 15th.


   The series recreated the old cliffhanger style and successfully captured the appeal of the old serials. Susan would weekly escape from such dangers as being pushed out a high-rise apartment window, a snake in the bath, trapped in a pit with a lion and piranhas nipping at her heels.

   But the attempts to update the old movie serial to 1970s failed. The mercenary “hero” was more a weak Sam Spade than the popular true blue serial good guy with his strong yet simple moral code. The 1970s style dialog was cluttered with lame banter that was more irritating than fun.

   Susan Anton did well as the likable heroine. The announcer (probably Paul Frees) was perfect. But the rest of the cast was trapped in one-dimensional characters and a plot more interested in the cliffhangers than the story. Just like the old movie serials.


   It is no spoiler that Susan saves the world, but she failed to stop one evil villain’s plans. NBC scheduled Cliffhangers, with its nostalgic appeal, opposite ratings powerhouses with nostalgic appeal, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.

   But evil NBC was not done. The network (boo! hiss!) canceled Cliffhangers and took Stop Susan Williams off the air before the final Chapter could air. NBC not only stopped Susan Williams, it ended the adventure with the good guys trapped in a mine, the villains celebrating, and the world facing certain doom!

   But all was not lost! Stop Susan Williams, including the unseen final chapter, was edited into a TV-Movie titled The Girl Who Saved the World (1979). Finally the happy ending was revealed, leaving NBC foiled again.

   For this review, I watched all of the chapters including the final chapter at YouTube. The picture quality is poor and the credits have been edited out, but if you enjoy the old movie serials, the YouTube copy is worth watching. Watch for a graphics blooper, when they lose count and number Chapter 6 as Chapter 7. The chapter titles follow:


Chapter 2 “The Silent Enemy”
Chapter 3 “Jungle Death Trap”
Chapter 4 “Thundering Doom”
Chapter 5 “Deadly Descent”
Chapter 6 “Watery Grave”
Chapter 7 “Cauldron of Fire”
Chapter 8 “River of Blood”
Chapter 9 “Wheels of Destruction”
Chapter 10 “Terror From the Sky”
Chapter 11 “The Villain Revealed”
Chapter 12 “Crypt of Disaster”