JUNIOR G-MEN (1940). 12 chapter Universal serial. Directed by Ford Beebe and John Rawlins.
In this serial a few members of the Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys basically play variations of their usual personas. Billy Barton's (Billy Halop) father, a colonel and an “inventive genius,” has come up with a formula that is coveted by enemy agents. With this formula, vibrations from explosions can set off other explosions within a range of 100 miles! Colonel Barton is kidnapped, and the enemy agents keep trying to kidnap Billy so that they can threaten him with harm to make his father comply. Billy and his buddies, including “Gyp” (Huntz Hall) and Terry (Gabriel Dell), not only get involved with real FBI men [headed by Jim Bradford, played by Joan Crawford's ex Phillip Terry], but also commingle with Junior G-Men led by Bradford's nephew Terry (Kenneth Howell). The enemy group is called the Flaming Torch and Billy and Gyp refer to the members of the outfit as “torchies.” The lead torchie is the same chubby guy who played head villain Monroe in The Green Hornet, Cy Kendall. The serial takes a while to get going but before long there are exciting cliffhangers involving a collapsing fire escape and a descending elevator cage. The theme music is good and there is absolutely no sign of Leo Gorcey.
Verdict: Not top-notch by any means but slightly better than the typical Universal entry. **1/2.