TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK: Old-time Movie Serials worth watching!

by Tony-Scheinman | created - 05 Feb 2018 | updated - 22 Feb 2018 | Public

Films like the STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES sagas are tributes to the classic chapter-play serials from the 1930's, 40's and early 50's. The art of the classic movie serial is rarely seen nowadays due to their seeming hokey and out-of-date with often over-the-top costumed villains, fist-fights that completely wrecked rooms and furniture (but never caused the fighters' hats to come off) and cheesy special effects (although it was attempted on TV in 1979 with the NBC series CLIFFHANGERS!), but here, in no particular order, is a list of some of the best movie serials that are worth a look even more than half a century later.

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1. Flash Gordon (1936)

Approved | 245 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Alexis Zarkov visit the planet Mongo to thwart the evil schemes of Emperor Ming the Merciless, who has set his planet on a collision course with Earth.

Directors: Frederick Stephani, Ray Taylor | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson

Votes: 1,980

2. The Green Hornet (1940)

Approved | 258 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama

A newspaper publisher and his Korean servant fight crime as vigilantes who pose as a notorious masked gangster and his aide.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Ray Taylor | Stars: Gordon Jones, Wade Boteler, Keye Luke, Anne Nagel

Votes: 453

3. The Green Hornet Strikes Again! (1940)

Approved | 293 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

A wealthy publisher uses a disguise and calls himself the Green Hornet to fight crime in his city.

Directors: Ford Beebe, John Rawlins | Stars: Warren Hull, Wade Boteler, Anne Nagel, Keye Luke

Votes: 298

4. Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)

Passed | 216 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

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!"

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Tom Tyler, Frank Coghlan Jr., William 'Billy' Benedict, Louise Currie

Votes: 1,000

5. The Green Archer (1940)

Passed | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The struggle over the Bellamy estate ends with Michael Bellamy accused of murder and killed on the way to prison, while his brother, Abel Bellamy, takes control of the estate for his own nefarious plans.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Victor Jory, Iris Meredith, James Craven, Robert Fiske

Votes: 123

6. G-Men vs. The Black Dragon (1943)

Passed | 243 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

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.

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, William Witney | Stars: Rod Cameron, Roland Got, Constance Worth, Nino Pipitone

Votes: 103

7. The Phantom (1943)

Passed | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Professor Davidson and his niece Diana Palmer search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz, reputed to be the source of a large hidden treasure. Also searching is a local crook, Singapore Smith... See full summary »

Director: B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Tom Tyler, Jeanne Bates, Ernie Adams, John Bagni

Votes: 333

8. The Lone Ranger (1938)

Approved | 264 min | Western

CHAP. 1, HI YO SILVER: An outlaw leader planning to take control of Texas after the Civil War kills Colonel Jeffries, a man empowered to levy taxes, and assumes his identity. His men then ... See full summary »

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Silver King the Horse, Chief Thundercloud, Lynne Roberts, Stanley Andrews

Votes: 164

9. The Masked Marvel (1943)

Passed | 197 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

A mysterious detective called The Masked Marvel battles Japanese saboteurs intent on blowing up America.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: William Forrest, Louise Currie, Johnny Arthur, Rod Bacon

Votes: 142

10. The Phantom Creeps (1939)

Approved | 265 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

A military intelligence officer and a pretty reporter try to find a scientist whose inventions can destroy the world.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind | Stars: Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley

Votes: 765

11. The Secret Code (1942)

Approved | 275 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

A police detective goes undercover and joins a gang of Nazi agents using explosive gases and artificial lightning to sabotage the war effort, whom he battles in disguise as The Black Commando.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Paul Kelly, Anne Nagel, Trevor Bardette, Rudolph Anders

Votes: 43

12. Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940)

Passed | 267 min | Adventure, Action, Crime

A mad scientist plots the domination of America and only the masked hero, The Copperhead, can stop him.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Eduardo Ciannelli, Robert Wilcox, William Newell, C. Montague Shaw

Votes: 185

13. Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938)

Approved | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

When a deadly Nitron ray strikes Earth, Flash Gordon and his friends travel to Mars to battle Ming the Merciless and his new ally Queen Azura.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Robert F. Hill, Frederick Stephani | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Frank Shannon

Votes: 805

14. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

Approved | 220 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov return to the planet Mongo for an antidote to the Purple Death, which wreaking destruction on Earth. However, Ming the Merciless has other plans for them.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Ray Taylor | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Carol Hughes, Charles Middleton, Anne Gwynne

Votes: 1,154

15. Buck Rogers (1939)

Approved | 237 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

A 20th Century pilot named Buck Rogers and his young friend Buddy Wade awake from 500 years in suspended animation to find that the world has been taken over by the outlaw army of Killer Kane.

Directors: Ford Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Constance Moore, Jackie Moran, Jack Mulhall

Votes: 711

16. Dick Tracy (1937)

Approved | 290 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

A master criminal called The Spider puts the famous detective's brother under a hypnotic spell and turns him against Dick.

Directors: Alan James, Ray Taylor | Stars: Ralph Byrd, Kay Hughes, Smiley Burnette, Lee Van Atta

Votes: 518

17. Dick Tracy Returns (1938)

Approved | 260 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

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.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Ralph Byrd, Lynne Roberts, Charles Middleton, Jerry Tucker

Votes: 343

18. Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939)

Passed | 302 min | Action, Mystery, Crime

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.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Ralph Byrd, Irving Pichel, Ted Pearson, Jennifer Jones

Votes: 282

19. Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939)

Passed | 212 min | Action, Adventure, History

The masked hero leads a fighting force to fight a villian who plots the conquest of The Republic of Mexico.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Reed Hadley, Sheila Darcy, William Corson, Leander De Cordova

Votes: 348

20. Zorro Rides Again (1937)

Approved | 212 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

The California-Yucatan Railroad, being built for the good of Mexico, is under siege by a gang of terrorists hoping to force its sale; no one can prove their connection to profiteer Marsden.... See full summary »

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: John Carroll, Noah Beery, Richard Alexander, Reed Howes

Votes: 238

21. The Shadow (1940)

Passed | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

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.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Victor Jory, Veda Ann Borg, Roger Moore, Robert Fiske

Votes: 216

22. The Spider's Web (1938)

Passed | 300 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A crime fighter known as The Spider battles a villain called The Octopus, who is out to sabotage America and install his own government.

Directors: James W. Horne, Ray Taylor | Stars: Warren Hull, Iris Meredith, Richard Fiske, Kenne Duncan

Votes: 103

23. The Spider Returns (1941)

Approved | 300 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The evil and masked "Gargoyle" is sabotaging all of America's industrial plants. It is up to the Spider to save the country.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Warren Hull, Mary Ainslee, Dave O'Brien, Joseph W. Girard

Votes: 226

24. Drums of Fu Manchu (1940)

Approved | 269 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a prophecy that will enable him to conquer the world. His nemesis, Dr. Nayland Smith, and ... See full summary »

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Henry Brandon, William Royle, Robert Kellard, Gloria Franklin

Votes: 248

25. Manhunt of Mystery Island (1945)

Not Rated | 219 min | Action, Sci-Fi

A young couple journeys to Mystery Island to rescue the girl's father, who is being held prisoner by the evil Captain Mephisto, a pirate from 200 years ago who uses his Transformation ... See full summary »

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Yakima Canutt, Wallace Grissell | Stars: Richard Bailey, Linda Stirling, Roy Barcroft, Kenne Duncan

Votes: 100

26. The Crimson Ghost (1946)

Approved | 167 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

A criminal mastermind known as the Crimson Ghost is out to steal a device called the Cyclotrode, which can short-circuit all electrical currents on the planet.

Directors: Fred C. Brannon, William Witney | Stars: Charles Quigley, Linda Stirling, Clayton Moore, I. Stanford Jolley

Votes: 330

27. Junior G-Men (1940)

Approved | 240 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

A gang of street kids work with the FBI in their attempt to find and rescue their leader's father, a scientist who has been kidnapped by a terrorist group.

Directors: Ford Beebe, John Rawlins | Stars: Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsly

Votes: 79

28. The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938)

Approved | 204 min | Adventure

The US marine corps must battle a would-be world conqueror who uses electricity as a weapon.

Directors: John English, William Witney | Stars: Lee Powell, Bruce Bennett, Eleanor Stewart, Montagu Love

Votes: 89

29. The Purple Monster Strikes (1945)

Approved | 201 min | Action, Sci-Fi

A Martian spacecraft crash-lands near the observatory of Cyrus Layton, designer of Earth's first spaceship. The survivor, forerunner of an invasion, can assume the form of any earthman. ... See full summary »

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Fred C. Brannon | Stars: Dennis Moore, Linda Stirling, Roy Barcroft, James Craven

Votes: 139

30. King of the Rocket Men (1949)

Passed | 167 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Jeff King in his experimental rocket suit battles the evil Dr. Vulcan.

Director: Fred C. Brannon | Stars: Tristram Coffin, Mae Clarke, Don Haggerty, House Peters Jr.

Votes: 812

31. Spy Smasher (1942)

Passed | 215 min | Action, Adventure

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.

Director: William Witney | Stars: Kane Richmond, Marguerite Chapman, Sam Flint, Hans Schumm

Votes: 223

32. Secret Agent X-9 (1945)

Approved | 246 min | Action, Adventure

American, Chinese and Australian agents join forces to stop the Nazis from obtaining the formula for synthetic fuel.

Directors: Lewis D. Collins, Ray Taylor | Stars: Lloyd Bridges, Keye Luke, Jan Wiley, Victoria Horne

Votes: 70



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