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On a scientific expedition to Siam young Billy Batson is given the ability to change himself into the super-powered Captain Marvel by the wizard Shazam, who tells him his powers will last only as long as the Golden Scorpion idol is threatened. Finding the idol, the scientists realize it could be the most powerful weapon in the world and remove the lenses that energize it, distributing them among themselves so that no one would be able to use the idol by himself. Back in the US, Billy Batson, as Captain Marvel, wages a battle against an evil, hooded figure, the Scorpion, who hopes to accumulate all five lenses, thereby gaining control of the super-powerful weapon. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN CARTOONLAND BECOMES THE STRONGEST MAN ON THE SCREEN! All others pale in the light of this human fortress who finds no barrier too great in his amazing fight for justice. See more »
This was the first depiction of a comic book super hero on film. See more »
While a prisoner of the Scorpion, Betty manages to grab a gun and fire a shot that creases the villain's hand. Informed of this, Billy manipulates the expedition's members into showing their hands, and only one man's hand shows an injury. However, subsequent events prove he is not the Scorpion. How the real villain had no injury is never hinted at, and there's precious little said about the wound that was found: After Billy escapes a death trap at the latter man's home, the two have a conversation that is joined in progress, with Batson admitting that he could believe the scientist's story (told completely off-screen) about the cause of his injury if he could explain other things that had happened. Perhaps that trap was originally intended to be a chapter-ending cliffhanger and the explanations were lost in re-editing to eliminate a chapter here. See more »
[sound of a huge gong omninously echoes down the valley]
What's that, Mr. Howell?
Howell [Ch. 1]:
I don't know, Billy - let's find out. What do you make of that cymbal, Malcolm?
I don't know, Howell. Does it mean anything to you, Tal Chotali?
The men of the hills are gathering. The cymbal says that the white men are to be driven from the Valley of Tombs.
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This serial has a reputation, that of being the greatest serial ever made, that is a greatly deserved one. The plot is complex, but not muddled, the actors are extremely competent, and the characters(this is very rare in serials)take on a life of their own. Most serial fans are familar with the plot, and besides, it is posted right here on the internet, so I will go on to the cast. Tom Tyler, probably more familar to film buffs as Luke Plummer in John Ford's classic STAGECOACH, looks the part of Captain Marvel to perfection. He has relatively few dialog scenes in the serial, however, and to some people this is an added bonus, as his extremely gravelly voice is not to everyone's taste Young Frank Coghlan Jr. is remarkably good as Billy Batson, and deserves additional acclaim as Republic's only juvenile serial hero. The incomparable William Benedict provides unobtrusive comedy relief, as he was to do the following year in NYOKA AND THE TIGERMEN. Benedict is my all-time favorite serial sidekick, even though he only did these two. Louise Currie, who was also to make a return date three years later in THE MASKED MARVEL, is a very likable heroine, and as for the Scorpion, he has got to be the best villain in serials, thanks largely to Gerald Mohr's voice. His closet competitors are probably Dr. Satan(Eduardo Cianelli), Captain Mephisto(Roy Barcroft) from MANHUNT OF MYSTERY ISLAND) and Jim Belmont(George J. Lewis) from FEDERAL OPERATOR 99. Kenne Duncan gives a good performance as Barnett, the Scorpion's chief henchman, and Reed Hadley also stand out as Rahman Bar, the Scorpion's Siamese cohort. The supporting cast includes silent serial great Jack Mulhall, and, as suspects for being the Scorpion, Harry Worth, Robert Strange, George Pembroke, Bryant Washburn, Peter George Lynn, and the wonderful scene-stealer John Davidson as the superstious Siamese, Tah Chotali. The special effects are positively astonishing, and hold up a lot better than modern high-tech effects do. After watching the serial, you simply have to conclude that Captain Marvel CAN fly. This certainly deserves its reputation as the greatest serial ever made. SHAZAM!
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