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

Thursday, October 15, 2015


THE MASKED MARVEL (12 chapter Republic serial/1943). Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet.

This serial borrows a notion from The Lone Ranger in that it isn't the villain whose identity is a secret, but the hero. The Masked Marvel (who never appeared in comics or on the radio) is one of four government special agents who are tracking down the Japanese master spy and saboteur, Sakima (Johnny Arthur), and his traitorous American henchmen, including Martin Crane (William Forrest). Crane is a friend of reporter Alice Hamilton (Louise Currie), but she has no idea of his duplicity. Crane uses a special elevator-chair behind his desk to descend to Sakima's secret headquarters. Part of the sinister schemes include obtaining special industrial diamonds as well as an explosive product called "Nitrolene." The serial has some memorable cliffhangers: MM falling off a water tower into a burning truck that explodes in chapter one; and a train speeding toward a work car full of explosives in the breathless climax of chapter ten. The serial is full of rousing fisticuffs, especially in chapter eight, and some of the beautifully-choreographed fight scenes are almost balletic. While the Masked Marvel is eventually unmasked at the end, he is played [only when masked] not by one of the four actors playing the agents, but by stuntman Tom Steele[Flying G-Men], who is also cast as a hit man in chapter eight! Once you get used to him Arthur is effective as Sakima; Anthony Warde makes an impression as Sakima's henchman, "Killer" Mace; and of the four agents, David Bacon [Gals, Incorporated] is appealing as Robert Barton. [David Bacon was stabbed to death that same year in a homicide that remains unsolved. Rod Bacon, who may or may not have been related to David, and who played another of the agents, was also murdered five years later.] Louise Currie [Three on a Ticket] is acceptable as the female lead; she managed to amass quite a few credits.

Verdict: Scintillating and exciting classic action-serial. ***.


Gary R. said...

To further confuse the serial's audience, Tom Steele's voice as the Masked Marvel was dubbed by radio actor Gayne Whitman.

I agree that the numerous fight scenes in this are a wonder to behold.

There actually was a Masked Marvel hero in comic books prior to the serial, but that character's concept was very different.

William said...

Thanks for the info! Now I'm going to try and track down the comic book Masked Marvel [although they didn't base the serial on him] just out of curiosity. Maybe I can find him at Comic Book Plus, if he appeared in a public domain comic. And yes, those fight scenes are marvelous [no pun intended]!

Gary R. said...

Yes, check out the Comic Book Plus section on Centaur Publications for issues of the Masked Marvel comic (which only lasted three issues), along with the character's appearances in Keen Detective Funnies.

William said...

Thank you, Gary! This will sure make it easier to find! Best, Bill