DISCOVER--the Columbia serials in chronological order

One of the three main players alongside Republic and Universal, Columbia entered the serials game relatively late, moving in when the competition had thinned out a little bit. Many of their titles were taken from earlier films made in the silent era. They were the cheapest and most slapdash of the three, in a genre not known for its largesse and attention to detail in the first place, but they got lucky early by securing the rights to Superman and Batman, and many of their serials were built around comic strip characters and popular culture icons of myth and legend. Their stories are also the most ridiculous of a wild lot, but of course with hindsight that makes them more fun today. However, we shouldn't make the rookie mistake of assuming the audience was as dumb as the product; Republic and Universal were acknowledged by public and industry alike as superior. Still, we'd be worse off without most of the following...
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
The Phantom (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Professor Davidson (Frank Shannon) and his daughter Diana (Jeanne Bates) search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz... (299 mins.)
Director: B. Reeves Eason
“ This entry is just a place-holder so we have a picture. The list starts below... ” - jonabbott56
 
2.
Jungle Menace (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
In the Asian province of Seemang where the Bay of Bengal meets the jungle, Chandler Elliott (John St. Polis)owns... (308 mins.)
 
3.
The Mysterious Pilot (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.9/10 X  
A 15-episode serial in which our hero, Jim Dorn helps hide Jean McNain from a man she can implicate in a murder. (300 mins.)
 
4.
The Secret of Treasure Island (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.5/10 X  
In the Prologue, pirates hide a treasure on an island off the Mexican coast. And the pirates, the map... (300 mins.)
Director: Elmer Clifton
 
5.
The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A short plot summary finds Wild Bill Hickok (Bill Elliott), the U.S. Marshal in Abilene, Kansas, opposing the Phantom Raiders...
 
6.
The Spider's Web (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A crime fighter known as The Spider battles a villain called The Octopus, who is out to sabotage America and install his own government. (300 mins.)
“ Many consider this fellow to be the partial inspiration for Marvel's Spider-man character and costume and when you look at his design, it's difficult to argue... ” - jonabbott56
 
7.
Flying G-Men (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Columbia's 6th serial (following "The Spider's Web" and preceding "Mandrake the Magician") is a pre-WW II sabre-rattler that has planes crashing... (257 mins.)
 
8.
Mandrake, the Magician (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Columbia's 7th serial (between Flying G-Men and Overland With Kit Carson)was based on the King Features... (215 mins.)
“ An early newspaper strip character of the King Features Syndicate, this uninspired magican later turned up in comic books and cartoon shows. This is the only Columbia serial not to run to fifteen parts; it's only twelve episodes long. ” - jonabbott56
 
9.
Overland with Kit Carson (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Western settlers are being driven off their homesteads and ranches by a combination of Indian raids and attacks by bands of mysterious outlaws... (300 mins.)
 
10.
The Shadow (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
The Shadow battles a villain known as The Black Tiger, who has the power to make himself invisible and is trying to take over the world with his death ray. (285 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
“ The popular radio character, brought to life by the great Victor Jory. ” - jonabbott56
 
11.
Terry and the Pirates (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Dr. Herbert Lee (John Paul Jones), an archaeologist seeking to decipher ancient Mara inscriptions, is aided by his son... (300 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
“ Another popular newspaper strip. ” - jonabbott56
 
12.
Deadwood Dick (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Columbia's 11th serial (between "Terry and the Pirates" and "The Green Archer") and the first western serial that James W... (285 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
“ Deadwood Dick was a pulp novel character from the late 19th century whose name was appropriated by several real-life individuals at that time. Needless to say, this serial is one of those fictions. ” - jonabbott56
 
13.
The Green Archer (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Columbia's 12th serial of 57 total (following 1940's "Deadwood Dick" and ahead of 1941's "White Eagle")... (285 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
 
14.
White Eagle (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
White Eagle is the son of a massacred army officer, who has been raised by an Indian tribe and believes himself to be the son of the tribal chief... (290 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
 
15.
The Spider Returns (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
The evil and masked "Gargoyle" is sabotaging all of America's industrial plants. It is up to the Spider to save the country. (300 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
“ More crime-fighting fun with the original webbed hero... Busy Warren Hull returns to the role... ” - jonabbott56
 
16.
The Iron Claw (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Miserly old Anton Benson once recovered a treasure in gold from a sunken Spanish galleon, and in his... (289 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
 
17.
Holt of the Secret Service (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A murderous gang of counterfeiters has kidnapped the government's best engraver and is forcing him to print virtually undetectable phony money. The Secret Service sends its toughest agent, Jack Holt, and a female partner after the gang. (278 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
 
18.
Captain Midnight (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Secret Service Major Steel (Joseph W. Girard), is one of the few men in America aware of the fact that... (270 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
“ Later a TV series in the 1950s. ” - jonabbott56
 
19.
Perils of the Royal Mounted (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Columbia Pictures 18th serial (between "Captain Midnight" and "The Secret Code"). The trading post of Sitkawan... (275 mins.)
Director: James W. Horne
 
20.
The Secret Code (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A superhero known as The Black Commando battles Nazi agents who use explosive gases and artificial lightning to sabotage the war effort. (275 mins.)
 
21.
The Valley of Vanishing Men (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Wild Bill Tolliver and Missouri Benson ride into the territory of New Mexico to search for Bill's father... (280 mins.)
 
22.
Batman (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Japanese spymaster Prince Daka operates a covert espionage organization located in Gotham City's now-deserted Little Tokyo which turns American scientists into pliable zombies. (260 mins.)
Director: Lambert Hillyer
“ The first live-action Batman, marred by anti-Japan sentiment that was more than understandable at the time but embarrasses today. ” - jonabbott56
 
23.
The Phantom (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Professor Davidson (Frank Shannon) and his daughter Diana (Jeanne Bates) search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz... (299 mins.)
Director: B. Reeves Eason
“ Another King Features comic strip hero revived for comic books and cartoons, plus a live action feature in 1996 that bombed. Lead Tom Tyler had been Captain Marvel for Republic. ” - jonabbott56
 
24.
The Desert Hawk (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Evil Hassan slips back into his native land of Ahad and plots to overthrow his twin bother, Kasim, who has just been crowned the Caliph... (285 mins.)
Director: B. Reeves Eason
 
25.
Black Arrow (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
With a plot line mostly lifted from 1941's "White Eagle", Columbia's 24th serial (following "The Desert Hawk-1944" and ahead of 1945's "Brenda Starr... (270 mins.)
Director: Lew Landers
 
26.
Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Chapter 1 finds Daily Flash newspaper reporter Brenda Starr (Joan Woodbury), and her photographer... (243 mins.)
Director: Wallace W. Fox
“ Based on the popular syndicated comic strip that began in 1940, this is the first of four screen incarnations, to be followed by two unsold TV pilots in the '70s and a little-seen film in the late '80s. ” - jonabbott56
 
27.
The Monster and the Ape (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
At the Bainbridge Research Foundation, Professor Franklin Arnold, displays his creation, the Metalogen Man... (295 mins.)
“ Bonkers barnstormer about a murderous scientist who has a secret tunnel from his house to a giant gorilla's cage in the local zoo and designs on a mechanical man he wants to use for evil intent. Future second Batman Robert Lowery is the hero, a very young George MacReady the villain (the raspy voice and craggy visage sadly not yet in place!). ” - jonabbott56
 
28.
Jungle Raiders (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Ann Reed travels to a mysterious land following her father who disappeared into its interior many years ago...
Director: Lesley Selander
 
29.
Who's Guilty? (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Walter Calvert (Davison Clark) calls upon his brother Henry (Davison Clark) at his eerie old house and demands a share of the family fortune...
“ Old dark house mystery. ” - jonabbott56
 
30.
Hop Harrigan America's Ace of the Airways (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Hop Harrigan (William Bakewell) and his pal "Tank" Tinker (Sumner Getchell)operate a small airport and flying service...
Director: Derwin Abrahams
 
31.
Chick Carter, Detective (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Detective Chick Carter (Lyle Talbot)finds himself on his most exciting case when Sherry Martin (Julie Gibson)... (228 mins.)
Director: Derwin Abrahams
“ Not a short film, a Columbia serial. ” - jonabbott56
 
32.
Son of the Guardsman (1946)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
England, 12th century. David Trent is a nobleman who forms an outlaw group to combat his evil uncle Sir Edgar Bullard...
Director: Derwin Abrahams
 
33.
Jack Armstrong (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, battles the evil Dr. Grood, who has placed a death ray aboard his spaceship orbiting Earth. (279 mins.)
Director: Wallace Fox
“ Future Lone Ranger John Hart stars. ” - jonabbott56
 
34.
The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Columbia's 33rd serial (made between "Jack Armstrong" and "The Sea Hound") was based on the character that first appeared in "Action Comics" No... (285 mins.)
Director: Wallace Fox
“ Ralph Byrd, better known to serials fans as Dick Tracy, stars. ” - jonabbott56
 
35.
The Sea Hound (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Columbia's 34th serial production starring Buster Crabbe, the Serial King himself, who had the lead in five from Universal and two for Columbia... (240 mins.)
“ Buster Crabbe of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers fame stars. ” - jonabbott56
 
36.
Brick Bradford (1947)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
An adventurer travels to the moon to stop a madman from getting hold of the Interceptor Ray, a weapon that could destroy Earth. (257 mins.)
“ Insane science-fiction jumble with Spy Smasher Kane Richmond. ” - jonabbott56
 
37.
Tex Granger: Midnight Rider of the Plains (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Columbia's 36th sound-era serial (following "Brick Bradford" and preceding "Superman") was based on... (270 mins.)
Director: Derwin Abrahams
“ With Duke the Wonder Dog!! ” - jonabbott56
 
38.
Superman (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Superman comes to Earth as a child and grows up to be his home's first superhero with his first major challenge being to oppose The Spider Lady. (244 mins.)
“ Kirk Alyn premieres as the first live-action Superman. Great stuff. ” - jonabbott56
 
39.
Congo Bill (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A girl is about to inherit a fortune, but she is missing in Africa. Only then, family charges Congo Bill, an adventurer, to find her, and bring her back to civilization. He follows a legend about some White Queen, but his path is full of difficulties, by an inhospitable jungle, and the man who will lose the fortune if the girl is found alive. (270 mins.)
 
40.
Bruce Gentry (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Famed aviator Bruce Gentry is working with scientist Andrew Benson, setting out to uncover the origin...
 
41.
Batman and Robin (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
The caped crusaders versus The Wizard, black-hooded mastermind. (263 mins.)
Director: Spencer Bennet
“ The second live-action appearance of Batman and Robin. A great shame that the adversary couldn't have been Joker or Catwoman... ” - jonabbott56
 
42.
The Adventures of Sir Galahad (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Sir Galahad, a knight of the Round Table, searches for the legendary sword Excalibur. (252 mins.)
Director: Spencer Bennet
“ Future second Superman George Reeves stars. ” - jonabbott56
 
43.
Cody of the Pony Express (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
An Eastern syndicate, plotting to gain control of the western frontier, hires a gang led by Mort Black to drive out the settlers... (270 mins.)
 
44.
Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Superman battles Lex Luthor who is using a teleportation device and a new identity as Atom Man in his criminal plans. (252 mins.)
Director: Spencer Bennet
“ Bizarrely, the bad guy gets top billing as Kirk Alyn returns for his second and last flight as Superman. ” - jonabbott56
 
45.
Pirates of the High Seas (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Two ex-Navy buddies travel to a tropical island to help search for a fugitive Nazi and a fortune in diamonds stolen by him during WWII... (260 mins.)
“ With Buster Crabbe and several familiar serials names supporting. ” - jonabbott56
 
46.
Roar of the Iron Horse - Rail-Blazer of the Apache Trail (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Thanks to writer George H. Plympton (who was part of the writer's crew on both serials), Columbia's... (260 mins.)
“ A Jock Mahoney western. ” - jonabbott56
 
47.
Mysterious Island (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Union prisoners use a balloon to escape a Southern prison camp near the end of the Civil War and end up marooned on a mysterious volcanic island with very unusual inhabitants. (252 mins.)
Director: Spencer Bennet
“ The Jules Verne story, with added aliens. Future Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and Commando Cody Richard Crane stars. ” - jonabbott56
 
48.
Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
Space hero Captain Video battles the evil Vultura on the planet Atoma. (287 mins.)
“ Serial version of the popular TV show, with Judd Holdren in the lead. ” - jonabbott56
 
49.
King of the Congo (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
An Air Force captain is assigned to find some missing top-secret microfilm. (252 mins.)
“ With Buster Crabbe in the lead. ” - jonabbott56
 
50.
Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Based on a successful comic book that began in 1941, the Blackhawks were seven flyers who banded together during WW II to fight the Nazis... (242 mins.)
“ Former Superman Kirk Alyn (reunited with Spider Lady Carole Foreman) as another DC Comics character. Good fun. ” - jonabbott56
 
51.
Son of Geronimo: Apache Avenger (1952)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Columbia's 50th serial (between "Blackhawk" and "The Lost Planet") and made during the production season... (240 mins.)
“ Serials regular and future TV Lone Ranger Clayton Moore stars. ” - jonabbott56
 
52.
The Lost Planet (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.1/10 X  
Two newspaper reporters battle a plot by the evil Dr. Grood to conquer the world.
“ Sci-fi insanity with Judd Holdren as the hero and Michael Fox as the villain... Madness... ” - jonabbott56
 
53.
The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The British Admirality assigns two officers, Richard Dale and Alan Duncan, to gather evidence to convict Captain Kidd of piracy in the English courts... (230 mins.)
“ With Richard Crane in the lead. ” - jonabbott56
 
54.
“ Jock Mahoney, Clayton Moore, and Phyllis Coates... ” - jonabbott56
 
55.
Riding with Buffalo Bill (1954)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
Columbia's 54th serial production (of 57) finds long-time villain player Marshall Reed top-billed for...
 
56.
Adventures of Captain Africa, Mighty Jungle Avenger! (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Filled from front to back with stock footage taken from the Columbia serials "The Phantom-1943" and... (225 mins.)
“ This was supposed to be another adventure with the Phantom, but when rights negotiations fell through, future Lone Ranger John Hart found himself cast as newcomer Captain Africa... ” - jonabbott56
 
57.
Perils of the Wilderness (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
In the 56th (and next-to-last serial) made by Columbia Pictures, Montana Deputy Dan Lawson, posing as an outlaw called Laramie...
“ Only Columbia were still making serials in 1956, Universal having thrown in the towel back in 1946, and Republic the previous year in 1955. This was their penultimate offering. ” - jonabbott56
 
58.
Blazing the Overland Trail (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
Utilizing stock footage from several Columbia western serials, primarily 1941's "White Eagle", with...
“ Shed a tear for the last of the movie serials...



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