Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, January 11, 2008

CAPTAIN VIDEO, MASTER OF THE STRATOSPHERE


CAPTAIN VIDEO, MASTER OF THE STRATOSPHERE (1951). 15 chapter Columbia serial. Directed by Wallace A. Grisell and Spencer Bennet.

Captain Video (Judd Holdren) and his Video ranger (Larry Stewart) are up against Vultura (Gene Roth), the tyrannical ruler of Atoma, who not only wants to conquer the planet Theros but the Earth as well. A renowned earth scientist named Tobor (George Eldredge) is assisting him and trying to thwart or destroy the good Captain at every turn. Our heroes dodge a mass of cosmic debris, are frozen stiff as a board, thrown out of flying platforms (to land delicately on Earth due to a sonic air cushion), defeat a spreading radioactive liquid called planenite, and have to deal with some very fast moving mechanical men. The spaceships are just cartoon animation; the planet Atoma is tinted red while Theros is tinted green (Earth is in the usual sepia). There is no love interest or supporting female character. Holdren and Stewart are adequate as the good guys, but they have little humor and virtually no personality. Stewart and Roth (with his big belly comically clad in a tight uniform) are dull villains – Vultura is certainly no Ming the Merciless – and Roth is a particularly poor actor [at least in this; he was fine in Earth vs. the Spider and other films], not even on the same planet as Ming’s Charles Middleton. Tobor’s cackling sinister assistant is more on the mark.
Verdict: This is not a great serial, but it is fun in a minor fashion. **1/2.

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