THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1941). Directors: William Witney; John English.
Noticing and envying the success of Superman, in the 1940's Fawcett Comics came out with their own super-strong guy and named him Captain Marvel. This character's tremendous success made DC Comics (publisher of Superman, Batman etc.) nervous, so they initiated a law suit, which was initially dismissed. Eventually it was Fawcett's lack of faith in the continuing viability of super-hero comic books – and the enormous court costs -- that wiped the good captain and his “marvelous” associates off the newsstands. Fawcett settled out of court and discontinued its entire comic book line. But not before Republic pictures made a serial based on the comic book. [Ironically, decades later DC Comics acquired the rights to all the Fawcett Comics' characters, including Captain Marvel, and began publishing new adventures of the character, making it clear once and for all that they should never have won that law suit.] In the comic books the facial features of Captain Marvel were based on Fred MacMurray's, but MacMurray was too big a star at the time to appear in a Republic serial so “B” western player Tom Tyler got the job while Frank “Junior” Coghlan got the plum assignment of the captain's young alter ego Billy Batson.
Adventures of Captain Marvel, despite the usual assortment of dumb moments and lapses in logic, is a stupendously entertaining chapter play that moves quickly and features some outstanding sequences (the best of which has Captain Marvel about to be sizzled in a flash flood of molten lava at the end of the fifth chapter out of twelve). The identity of the villain, The Scorpion, isn't telegraphed, and some suspense is worked up over his unmasking. The stunts, fisticuffs, and other action scenes (courtesy of co-director William Witney) are all first-rate. Now available in a crisp DVD print, this is highly recommended for super-hero and action fans, and kids of all ages.
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Verdict: One of the great classic cliffhangers! ***1/2.