Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Adventures Of Captain Marvel (1941)

Starring Tom Tyler, Frank Coghlan Jr., William Benedict, Louise Currie, Robert Strange
Directed by William Witney & John English
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Young radio broadcaster Billy Batson is given the power to change into the mighty Captain Marvel, and uses it to protect his friends from a masked villain after an ancient and powerful weapon.

One of the all-time great movie serials, this production is tremendously entertaining, with an Agatha Christie-like plot in which the suspects are killed off one by one, and fantastic special effects from Howard and Theodore Lydecker, who combine a convincing dummy with excellent stunt work by David Sharpe to convey the illusion of Captain Marvel leaping into flight.  Although Coghlan is a bit too old to accurately represent the Billy Batson of Captain Marvel's comic book adventures, his youthful voice and natural charm make him a fine protagonist who transforms into the super-powered Tyler with the classic cry of "Shazam!" in a well-executed puff of smoke.  Not much else is adapted from the comics, but the Scorpion, the masked villain bedecked in a silken robe and possessing a delightfully sinister voice is among the finest to oppose any serial's hero.  Although directors Witney and English helmed many worthy serials, to me this is by far their masterwork, with each chapter bringing forth new excitement and suspense.  Be forewarned that fans of today's superheroes may be a bit shocked as Captain Marvel does not show much mercy to the villain's henchmen.

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