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

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Kirk Alyn and Carol Forman
BLACKHAWK (aka Blackhawk, Fearless Champion of Freedom/15 chapter Columbia serial/1952). Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet; Fred F. Sears.

Having already played Superman twice, Kirk Alyn  was the perfect choice to play another DC Comics hero (albeit without actual super-powers), Blackhawk, who headed a team of international freedom fighters. The Blackhawk comic, beautifully drawn by Reed Crandell (who gets credit in the serial), and created by Will Eisner (who does not), had been published since the early 1940's. There were some changes made from the comic: the Chinese cook Chop Chop (Weaver Levy) was less caricatured, and Andre (Larry Stewart) was no longer French. Stanislaus, portrayed as a gruff, gray-haired middle-aged man in the comics, has an evil twin in the serial, and is played by Rick Vallin, The villainess is hard-as-nails Laska (Carol Forman), who is given an unflattering hairstyle and is in no way as glamorous as she was in other serials, such as her headliner The Black Widow. She reports to an unseen (but hardly unknown) "Leader," who keeps asking her to give more, more -- including her life -- to the "party." Laska's main henchman is Aller, played by serial regular Marshall Reed [Gunfighters of the Northwest]. When handsome Aller tires to get familiar with Laska -- "nice drivin', baby," he tells her -- she snaps, "The name is Laska!" Blackhawk is full of exciting cliffhangers, even if none of them are resolved in a clever manner -- Blackhawk simply rolls out of the way of several oil drums, or jumps out of a hay wagon that has caught on fire. In other sequences Stan is tied to a pole with a plane's propeller rushing towards him; Blackhawk's car is pushed onto the tracks just as a train arrives; fiery derricks topple like tenpins; a cartoon "flying saucer" hits our hero's plane; and Blackhawk's parachute fails to open so he has to ride piggyback on the shoulders of one of his comrades. Laska and her gang have several headquarters, all of which look exactly the same. Noting this, Blackhawk wonders about it and says, "they must have a reason for that." although it's never determined what it is (the budget was the reason, of course). Michael Fox plays one of Laska's confederates, and William Fawcett [Batman and Robin] is a scientist who has created a destructive ray machine. A lot of the action has to do with the theft and retrieval of "element X." Plenty of exciting fisticuffs in this.

Verdict: Blackhawk is a lot of fun. ***.


Gary R. said...

The fact that the serial Blackhawks spend more time driving cars than flying planes must've disappointed many of the comic book's devout fans. On the other hand, the serial was probably wise in not retaining the team's weird battle cry of "Hawk-a-a-a!" when charging the enemy. I can't imagine the actors keeping a straight face doing that.

William said...

You said it! Yes, it was essentially an aviation comic at first and planes figured heavily in the action, so I'm sure a lot of fans were very disappointed. Otherwise, it's a fun serial. Thanks for your comment!