DISCOVER--the Republic serials, 1935--1955

Before television, a trip to the cinema might include a cartoon, a newsreel, and a serial along with the main feature/s. The serials--nicknamed cliffhangers, for their tendency to leave the hero in dire straits (such as, say, hanging from a cliff)--ran between twelve to fifteen chapters, and were deliberately designed to lure the audience back to the next show to see the outcome.

There were three major suppliers of serials (or chapter plays, as some like to call them), and these were Universal (best known for Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers), Columbia (the cheapest outfit, offering Superman, Batman, and Jungle Jim), and Republic (briefly known as Mascot), widely regarded as the best of the three.

The following is a chronological checklist of all the Republic serials. Whether westerns, detective dramas, espionage thrillers, or pulp sci-fi, they all basically had the same plot, but ya know what? They were so energetic and full-on, it never got old... There were many returning two-fisted, square-jawed leading men, but the real stars were Howard and Theodore Lydecker, who did the model work and special effects, and the small army of regular recurring stunt-men, who smashed up the sets in fights that seemed to last forever (or at least until the last unbroken stick of furniture).

If you've never seen one, try one drected by John English and William Witney from the late '30s/early '40s when they were at their peak, and then you'll be dipping into this list like a box of chocolates... Mmm--mm.
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1.
Darkest Africa (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A 15-episode serial in which Beatty goes to darkest Africa to rescue the Goddess of Joba, who is being held by the high priest. (269 mins.)
 
2.
Undersea Kingdom (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  
Crash Corrigan, a recent graduate of Annapolis, and Diana, a go-getting reporter, join Professor Norton... (226 mins.)
 
3.
The Vigilantes Are Coming (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A masked hero called "The Eagle" leads California ranchers in a struggle against Russian Cossacks who are plotting to take over California and turn it into a Russian colony. (229 mins.)
“ Also known as The Vigilantes Are Coming. ” - jonabbott56
 
4.
Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A 14-episode serial in which Mala, a Polynesian in the employ of U.S. Intelligence investigates sabotage on Clipper Island... (256 mins.)
“ Also known as Robinson Crusoe on Clipper Island. ” - jonabbott56
 
5.
Dick Tracy (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A master criminal called The Spider puts the famous detective's brother under a hypnotic spell and turns him against Dick. (290 mins.)
 
6.
The Painted Stallion (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
The period is the 1820's and the first wagon train leaves Independence heading west to Santa Fe. In order to maintain his power... (212 mins.)
 
7.
SOS Coast Guard (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
A mad scientist tries to sell his formula for a dist integrating gas to foreign powers. (224 mins.)
 
8.
Zorro Rides Again (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
The California-Yucatan Railroad, being built for the good of Mexico, is under siege by a gang of terrorists... (212 mins.)
 
9.
The Lone Ranger (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
CHAP. 1, HI YO SILVER: An outlaw leader planning to take control of Texas after the Civil War kills Colonel Jeffries... (264 mins.)
 
10.
The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The US marine corps must battle a would-be world conqueror who uses electricity as a weapon. (204 mins.)
 
11.
Dick Tracy Returns (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Dick Tracy battles spies and saboteurs in his efforts to bring to justice the Stark gang, a criminal family led by the vicious Pa Stark. (260 mins.)
 
12.
Hawk of the Wilderness (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
An expedition arrives on an uncharted jungle island to rescue the local natives, led by a jungle boy, from a volcano that is about to erupt. (213 mins.)
 
13.
The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Homesteaders are moving into the valley settled many years ago by rancher Craig Dolan. He wants to keep... (263 mins.)
 
14.
Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Using a diabolical disguise, Harry Crowel embarks on a vengeful career of destruction...opposed by three heroic daredevils. (211 mins.)
 
15.
Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A mad doctor named Zanoff uses a drug to bring himself back from the dead after his execution in prison. Dick Tracy sets out to capture Zanoff before he can put his criminal gang back together again. (302 mins.)
 
16.
Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
The masked hero leads a fighting force to fight a villian who plots the conquest of The Republic of Mexico. (212 mins.)
 
17.
Drums of Fu Manchu (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a... (269 mins.)
 
18.
Adventures of Red Ryder (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Mesquite banker Calvin Drake plans to profit from the Santa Fe Railroad's acquisition of right-of-way by gaining control of the land in the territory... (205 mins.)
 
19.
King of the Royal Mounted (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Canadian Tom Merritt has discovered a substance, Compound X, that will cure infantile paralysis, which he extracts from a mine at Caribou... (211 mins.)
 
20.
Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A mad scientist plots the domination of America and only the masked hero, The Copperhead, can stop him. (267 mins.)
 
21.
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
To protect a magic talisman from being used for evil, a teenage boy named Billy Batson is given the power to become an adult superhero, Captain Marvel, with a single magic word: "Shazam!" (216 mins.)
 
22.
Jungle Girl (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Dr. John Meredith has been driven from civilization by the criminal activities of his twin brother Bradley Meredith... (267 mins.)
 
23.
 
24.
Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Dick Tracy goes up against a villain known as The Ghost, who can turn himself invisible. (263 mins.)
 
25.
Spy Smasher (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Alan Armstrong, aka Spy Smasher, battles a Nazi villain known as The Mask, who heads a gang of saboteurs determined to spread destruction across America. (215 mins.)
Director: William Witney
 
26.
Perils of Nyoka (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
It's intrepid Nyoka and her friends versus Vultura, Queen of the Desert, on a quest for the Golden Tablets of Hippocrates. (261 mins.)
Director: William Witney
 
27.
King of the Mounties (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The chapter-crunched version of this 196 minutes, 12-episode serial from Republic finds Canada being... (196 mins.)
Director: William Witney
 
28.
G-Men vs. The Black Dragon (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
American, British and Chinese secret agents battle the Japanese Black Dragon Society, a secretive ring that smuggles enemy agents into the U.S. disguised as mummies. (243 mins.)
 
29.
Daredevils of the West (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Foster (Charles Miller (IV)', owner of the local stagecoach line in Canyon City in the 1880s, has received... (196 mins.)
Director: John English
 
30.
Secret Service in Darkest Africa (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An American secret agent travels to Africa to infiltrate a Nazi spy ring. (243 mins.)
Director: Spencer Bennet
 
31.
The Masked Marvel (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A superhero called The Masked Marvel battles Japanese saboteurs intent on blowing up America. (197 mins.)
 
32.
Captain America (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Superhero Captain America battles the evil forces of the archvillain called The Scarab, who poisons his enemies and steals a secret device capable of destroying buildings by sound vibrations. (244 mins.)
 
33.
The Tiger Woman (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Greedy oil speculators, led by Morgan, are trying to force Tiger Woman and her band of warriors from their jungle home. Allen Saunders of Inter-Ocean Oil wants to develop the oil, too, but fights with Tiger Woman to stop the bad guys. (196 mins.)
 
34.
Haunted Harbor (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A sea captain about to be hanged for a murder he didn't commit is rescued from the gallows by two of his crewmen... (243 mins.)
 
35.
Zorro's Black Whip (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Hammond, owner of the town's stagecoach line and a leading citizen, is opposed to Idaho becoming a state... (211 mins.)
 
36.
Manhunt of Mystery Island (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A young couple journeys to Mystery Island to rescue the girl's father, who is being held prisoner by the evil Captain Mephisto... (219 mins.)
 
37.
Federal Operator 99 (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Crime lord Jim Belmont escapes FBI custody and begins a reign of thievery that is thwarted at every turn by Jerry Blake, the FBI's Operator 99. (169 mins.)
 
38.
The Purple Monster Strikes (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A Martian spacecraft crash-lands near the observatory of Cyrus Layton, designer of Earth's first spaceship... (201 mins.)
 
39.
The Phantom Rider (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A reservation's new doctor masquerades as the legendary Indian god, "the Phantom Rider", to catch gang looting the reservation, unaware the leader is a phony Indian Agent. (167 mins.)
 
40.
 
41.
Daughter of Don Q (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
When the unscrupulous Carlos Manning discovers that an old Spanish land grant recently unearthed will... (167 mins.)
 
42.
The Crimson Ghost (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A criminal mastermind known as The Crimson Ghost is out to steal a device called the Cyclotrode, which can short-circuit all electrical current on the planet. (167 mins.)
“ This is the guy who adorns all those biker t-shirts... ” - jonabbott56
 
43.
Son of Zorro (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A man returning home after having fought in the Civil War discovers that corrupt politicians have taken... (100 mins.)
 
44.
Jesse James Rides Again (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Outlaw Jesse James and his friend, on the run from Missouri, ride into a town where a gang is trying... (180 mins.)
 
45.
The Black Widow (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
The Daily Clarion hires detective story writer Steve Colt to investigate the deaths of a group of scientists... (180 mins.)
 
46.
G-Men Never Forget (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
G-Man and a female detective sergeant pursue racketeers, unaware that her police commissioner is actually a gang boss altered by plastic surgery. (167 mins.)
 
47.
Dangers of the Canadian Mounted (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  
Crooks discover a Genghis Khan treasure ship on the Canada-Alaska border but the treasure is hidden somewhere on land... (156 mins.)
 
48.
Adventures of Frank and Jesse James (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Jesse James returns to Missouri, and he and brother Frank come to the aid of a young woman who owns a gold mine... (180 mins.)
 
49.
Federal Agents vs. Underworld, Inc. (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
The female leader of an international crime ring steals a valuable artifact that can give her the power to control men's minds. Federal agents are dispatched to get it back and stop her evil plans. (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
50.
Ghost of Zorro (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
It's 1865 and the telegraph is heading west. George Crane, wanting to keep law and order out of his territory... (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
51.
King of the Rocket Men (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Jeff King in his experimental rocket suit battles the evil Dr. Vulcan. (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
52.
The James Brothers of Missouri (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
The James Brothers go undercover to help a former member of their gang, who is now running a respectable... (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
53.
Radar Patrol vs. Spy King (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.7/10 X  
The war lords of a potential enemy of the US has the spy ring, led by John Baroda, the Spy King and his aide Nitra... (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
54.
The Invisible Monster (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.1/10 X  
Evil villain plots to take over the world using an army of invisible soldiers. (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
55.
Desperadoes of the West (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A group of ranchers, led by Colonel Arnold and Ward Gordon, are drilling an oil well but getting fierce opposition from an unknown gang of outlaws... (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
56.
Flying Disc Man from Mars (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
A single-handed hero sets himself against Martians trying to assume control of Earth. (136 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
57.
Don Daredevil Rides Again (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
(167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
58.
Government Agents vs Phantom Legion (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  
Two federal agents battle a gang that hijacks trucks carrying materials vital for the security of the country and sells them to foreign powers. (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
59.
Radar Men from the Moon (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.5/10 X  
Strategic targets on Earth are being destroyed by an unknown weapon. Government security head Henderson... (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
60.
Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
The invaders come to Earth to create an H-bomb to blast Earth out of orbit so that Mars can take its place. (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
61.
Jungle Drums of Africa (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
The daughter of a medical missionary in Africa carries on her father's work after he dies. She befriends two adventurers prospecting for uranium... (167 mins.)
Director: Fred C. Brannon
 
62.
Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
A villain named Marlof attempts to set up secret missile bases inside Canada so he can launch missiles at the U.S. The Canadian Mounted Police dispatch agents to try to stop him. (167 mins.)
Director: Franklin Adreon
 
63.
Trader Tom of the China Seas (1954)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
The United Nations has island trader Tom Rogers (Harry Lauter) and Vivian Wells (Aline Towne), daughter of a schooner captain... (167 mins.)
Director: Franklin Adreon
 
64.
Man with the Steel Whip (1954)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Saloon owner Barnet wants the Indian reservation land on which he knows there is gold, and organizes a gang... (167 mins.)
Director: Franklin Adreon
 
65.
Panther Girl of the Kongo (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  
Jean Evans of an international wildlife foundation has made herself at home in Africa as the elephant-riding... (167 mins.)
Director: Franklin Adreon
 
66.
King of the Carnival (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.0/10 X  
Treasury agents go after a ring of counterfeiters operating out of a traveling carnival. (167 mins.)
Director: Franklin Adreon
“ One of the best bit players in the business, Harry Lauter, got his only starring role, in this, the very last of the Republic serials.


Jon is not on Facebook, but can reply to comments here, at the base of this list.


Obsessed with the popular culture of the 1960s and surrounding decades, Jon Abbott has been writing about film and TV for over thirty years in around two dozen different publications, trade, populist, and specialist. He is the author of several books, including

Irwin Allen Television Productions 1964-1970,
Stephen J. Cannell Television Productions: A History of All Series and Pilots,
The Elvis Films,
Cool TV of the 1960s: Three Shows That Changed the World,
and Strange New World: Sex Films of the 1970s.

See his Amazon author's page, and his other lists on the IMDB, all under the pre-fix DISCOVER. ” - jonabbott56