Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) - Review

Please note: This is NOT part of the Marvel Media Mania series (it's not THAT Captain Marvel)! This is a bonus review of the black and white serialized Captain Marvel adventures from 1941. My research tells me this is the first depiction of a superhero on film.

I expected this serial to be completely corny but it wasn't. The plot is actually quite intriguing. Each episode, of course, ends with a cliffhanger (such as a plane exploding with Billy in it) that actually made me anxious to watch the next installment. The big villain is The Scorpion (there are some other minor bad guys as well). The basic plot is that a mystical artifact of great power is broken into pieces by the men who discover it and the Scorpion is out to collect those pieces. One of the mysteries in the series is the identity of the Scorpion. It's a genuine mystery. I found myself watching each episode for clues and, one by one, the suspects are ruled out. The series pays off in the end with the revelation of the Scorpion's identity and some real surprised.

 One of the things that amused me was the vengefulness of Captain Marvel. At one point, he mows down fleeing men with a machine gun. At another point he throws a defenseless henchmen over the side of a tall building. When Captain Marvel gets into combat, his usual tactic is to simply punch someone, pick them up, and throw them as hard as he can. And you actually get the idea from watching Tom Tyler (who played Captain Marvel) stagger under the weight of these men that he is picking them up unassisted.

The stunt work and visual effects are actually surprisingly good for their time. The flying sequences appear to have been done several ways. The first is with a dummy on a zip line. This looks amazingly real as Captain Marvel goes streaking across open roads and countryside. The second is a close-up of Tom Tyler hanging from a wire. Sometimes these wires are visible but the effect is pretty good nonetheless. The transformations from Billy to Captain Marvel and visa-versa are likewise convincing. Set pieces are detailed and do a good job of getting across that pulp adventure feel.

Overall, this series was extremely enjoyable. I recommend it to any comic book or film buff.

1LR Review - 17 out of 20 - It's a Solid Hit!

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