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. ***.