|Gordon Jones and Keye Luke|
THE GREEN HORNET (13 chapter Universal serial/1940). Directors: Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor.
Britt Reid (Gordon Jones), who has inherited control of the Sentinel newspaper from his father, wages a war against incredible corruption in his city in the disguise of The Green Hornet. With his faithful butler.chauffeur and action partner Kato (Keye Luke) by his side, the Hornet smashes one racket after another in this episodic serial. The two men ride around in a car called Black Beauty and use a gas gun to put opponents quickly to sleep. The police and many of the crooks believe the Hornet is also a criminal eliminating rivals. Sentinel reporter Michael Axford (Wade Boteler) is one of the Hornet's detractors, convinced he's a bad guy, while Reid's secretary Lenore Case (Anne Nagel) insists that the Hornet is a true hero -- neither has any idea that they're working for the very fellow they're arguing about. There are protection rackets, flight school insurance scams where students are deliberately killed for insurance [an especially heartless business], and other nefarious schemes, headed by a guy named Monroe (Cy Kendall) who spends most of his time sitting behind a desk and -- judging from his size -- eating; he is a colorless antagonist. There are no great Republic-type fist fights [this would have been an even better serial had it been made for Republic studios instead of Universal] but there are some lively scenes, including a bit with a runaway bus, and some thrilling business involving an uncoupled train. Jones and Luke are excellent, with the former affecting a more dramatic voice when he puts on the mask of the Hornet [some sources say the Hornet's voice was actually supplied by Al Hodge, who played the character on the radio, but he is uncredited]. Boteler is amusing in his exasperation, and Nagel [The Secret Code] -- although not beautiful in the conventional Hollywood sense -- classes up this production as she does so many others. Alan Ladd and Anne Gwynne [Honeymoon Deferred] have bit parts. Ann Doran [The Man They Could Not Hang, among many others] plays a woman who pretends to be the dead men's fiancee in the flight school chapter. Gene Rizzi makes an impression as one of the mobsters.[NOTE: The Green Hornet first appeared on the radio, then appeared in comic books [as he still does today] then was made into two serials, a TV show, and finally a dreadful Hollywood feature film.
Verdict: More than acceptable serial fun; much better than the 2011 Hollywood version. ***.