THE GREEN ARCHER (1940). 15 chapter Columbia serial. Director: James W. Horne.
Victor Jory adds a little class as the star of this cliffhanger, but The Green Archer can in no way be compared to the far superior Shadow, which also starred Jory. Jory doesn't play the title role this time, which is another problem. The story revolves around an old castle full of secret passages and trapdoors where a smooth villain named Abel Bellamy (James Craven) has framed his brother and taken over the place as headquarters for his nefarious activities. He even goes so far as to wreck the train taking his brother to prison in order to kill him. Bellamy imprisons his sister-in-law and spends the next fourteen chapters trying to outwit, confound or murder his brother's friend Spike Holland (Jory), an insurance investigator. In the meantime there are not one but two masked archers who are up to mischief. One, whose identity we know, is working for the bad guys. The other, whose identity is secret [although anyone over the age of five can figure out who it is] mysteriously shows up on the side of the angels now and then. There are some good scenes in The Green Archer, but it never quite recovers from the fact that the title character – unlike Batman, Superman, The Shadow etc. -- is a complete and rather colorless cypher. Highlights include a very well-done sequence featuring a most uncomfortable-looking Jory trying to stay well beneath some descending spikes; his fall out of a high window, which is broken by an awning; and an underground trap that rapidly fills with water. The exciting conclusion has most of the good guys trapped on a slowly crumbling shelf atop a fiery pit! There's a feisty lady gang member who doubles as a housekeeper, and a likable gunsel named Dinky. [In fact The Green Archer benefits from a large cast of talented character actors; Iris Meredith is the heroine.] Based on a novel by Edgar Wallace.
Verdict: Not one of the all-time great serials but not entirely without merit, either. **1/2.