GOVERNMENT AGENTS VERSUS PHANTON LEGION, from 1951, is, like virtually all Republic Pictures product (up through 1955, at least), a competent and fast-moving and professional piece of work, but piece of work it is. Even the title has a generic feel to it, and almost every aspect of the serial suffers from a similarly generic, non-specific, non-interesting quality. The hero is bland and uninteresting. The lady who works with him is completely undeveloped as a character and is even more bland. The head of the phantom legion(one of four businessmen is a saboteur, the question is which one) is bland, and even his henchmen show a lack of imagination, trotting out the same old crashing cars off cliffs and staging fires. The federal agency the hero works for is ill-defined (I thought for a moment I was watching a David Mamet piece!), the nature of the materials hijacked and stolen is ill-defined, etc. On the plus side, the action is fast-moving, there are the usual well-staged cliffhangers, constant fist fights, and a number of car chases, and an excellent supporting cast of western-film veterans. Unlike some Republic serials, I don't think I could watch all of this one in an afternoon---I saw an episode or two a day over a week's time. By this time, Republic could produce a solid, professional serial in their sleep, and for this film it seems that they did. Personally, I find a number of Republic serials that came after this to be much more entertaining--Canadian MOUNTIES VS ATOMIC INVADERS is quirky and fun, and even the last two serials KING OF THE CARNIVAL and TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS have elements of plot and setting and atmosphere and supporting characters that make them more interesting than GOVERNMENT AGENTS. In short, a solid professional piece of work, and not bad to kill time with on a rainy day, but lacking inspiration and not a good introduction to Republic serials, unless you were out to make fun of them and point out their limitations and clichés.
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