Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) Poster

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tomwal19 February 2002
I was seven years old when I saw this serial in a theater in 1941.

I now own 49 titles of Republic serials,mostly tapes and a few on DVD.This serial is my favorite.For those who have not saw this serial,I won't give away any secrets.The plot concerns a group of scientists and an ancient artifact with lenses that can turn any matter to gold,thus the owner could rule the world.A mortal ,Billy Batson ,is given the power to become Captain Marvel.The Captain fights the arch villain,the Scorpion,for 12 exciting chapters,to keep him from getting the lens.Marvel is played by former cowboy star,Tom Tyler in fine fashion.David Sharpe does the leaps and landings in realistic style.Flying scenes still look great today,with excellent special effects by the Lydecker brothers.The Scorpion is voiced by another actor,and should keep the viewer guessing until the final reel.Music by Cy Feurer,William Lava and others add more excitement to a fine serial.Whitney and English directed.
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Best Comic Book Movie Ever Made.
Mike-7647 February 2001
A criminal known only as the Scorpion, who one of 5 archeologists, is trying to acquire all of the lenses of a golden Scorpion idol, which can turn ordinary rocks into gold, and can unleash a powerful death ray. Billy Batson, during the dig, is given the powers of Captain Marvel by the enigmatic wizard Shazam to prevent the scorpion idol from being used for evil purposes. So when Billy Batson says the word Shazam, he is transformed into Captain Marvel. In my opinion it is not the greatest serial ever made, but it is without a doubt the greatest comic book adaptation in the media ( TV included. ). Tom Tyler looks just like the character and coupled with David Sharpe during the stunt scenes ( which look better than anything ever tried today in this type genre ) elevates it from a kiddie serial into serious watching. Rating, based on serials 10 out of 10.
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Serials Definitely Can Be Additive!
BaronBl00d29 July 2006
This is my first full-length serial, and, I must confess surprisingly, that I truly enjoyed each and every minute of it. The story tells of a young man named Billy Batson and how he, having refused to enter the tomb of an ancient people with a curse while being part of an archaeological/treasure hunting team, is bestowed great powers by Shazaam. Batson turns into Captain Marvel when he utters the word Shazaam. This serial is a lot better crafted than I initially thought it would be. The sets used in this Rebublic Pictures production are very good and believable. The acting is very adequate with Frank Coghlan Jr. giving a very honest and sincere performance as Billy albeit somewhat corny perhaps. Tom Tyler plays his alter ego Captain Marvel - and while looking somewhat haggard is acceptable. All the other performers are good with John Davidson standing out as Tal Chotali - a native guide for the group. The 12 chapters of this serial tell of how each investor in the team was given a special lens of a gold scorpion found in the ancient tomb. When all the lenses are placed properly on the scorpion, it can make gold out of anything. Well, a villain named the Scorpion comes into the mix. He is covered from head to foot in a mask and costume so as not to reveal his identity because he is one of the men in the team. Each episode tells of various plots the scorpion invents to secure the lenses and thwart Captain Marvel. In true serial fashion, each chapter ends with a thrilling and exciting cliffhanger of sorts. Originally these were shown weekly with pictures and made to be exciting and suspenseful so as to entice movie-goers to return each week. Directors William Witney and John English succeed in making the viewer want to see what happens. Each chapter was packed with action and mystery. Plenty of red herrings are thrown at you so as to confuse you to who could or would be the real identity of the Scorpion. It was so refreshing to see Captain Marvel be a real super hero. He doles out real justice to real crooks. No feminization of Captain Marvel here. Sure, some of the story is pretty hokey, and, yes, some plot twists totally unrealistic(how about the scene where Betty Wallace,Batson's pseudo-love interest, is careening around one bend after another in a garage while knocked out), but the product as a whole was very compelling. I had to watch all 12 chapters in one sitting just to find out who the script chose to be the Scorpion. This serial made me a believer and makes me want to check out some of these rather forgotten films of the past.
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Unexpected Sensation
richard.fuller11 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
When TVland began running the 1970s Saturday morning Shazam a year or so ago, I learned of this old serial.

I decided to compare the two and had not an ever-lovin' clue what to expect.

There are the usual cliffhanger bits, I thought.

Then the tied up Billy and Betty are in the shed about to be bombed.

"I'll call Captain Marvel on the radio," Betty says. "Captain Marvel! Captain Marvel!" We hear the planes overhead.

Bill struggles with the ropes. Unlike Betty, his mouth is gagged.

"Captain Marvel! Captain Marvel!" The planes fly nearer. Billy struggles more.

"CAPTAIN MARVEL! CAPTAIN MARVEL! CAPTAIN MARVEL!" Then it went to the cliffhanger. I had already stopped doing what I was doing on the computer and just stared.

It had to be murder for kids to watch these things, I concluded.

We are given a masked villain, and five likely suspects.

In truth, which one of them was the villain was irrelevant.

There was just so much more fascinating stuff to this series.

Betty is unconscious on a boat. Billy must save her. He stands holding her as the ship sinks. Cliffhanger.

Don't expect the obvious. Nothing worked out or played out anywhere near the way we might think it did.

The only thing that disappointed me after all this brilliance was the cheap folding down film bit when Shazam was changed back to Billy at the end.

But this must stand as one of the all-time top five most underrated programs ever.

Fascinating note.

Frank Coglan Jr, who played Billy Batson, would be working at a zoo in the seventies, and when it was learned Coglan was nearby, he got a cameo in an episode of the seventies series.

Too much fun.
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This serial IS all it's cracked up to be
Barney Bat3 October 2000
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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Shazam! This is great!
orsino4427 August 2005
One of my favorite Republic serials, along with Zorro's Fighting Legion and Spy Smasher. Adventures of Captain Marvel is slick, fast-paced and action packed. Of course, it has the usual failings of most serials -- low budget, short shooting schedule, a few bumps and wrinkles along the way -- but if that bothers you, you are probably one of those viewers who complain about the plots of Jackie Chan films. Frank Coughlan, Jr., does creditable work as Billy Batson, while Tom Tyler (Stagecoach, Red River) makes a robust Captain Marvel. Fans of Indiana Jones will love this, especially the sets in Chapter One. The best part about Capt. Marvel is his occasional shortage of a sense of fair play. (When was the last time you saw Superman machine gun three guys in the back as they ran away?) This is one super hero who doesn't play around. I also love Tyler's evil grin as bullets bounce off his chest and his propensity for pimp-slapping the bad guys when they don't answer his questions quickly enough. Also, look for Reed Hadley (Zorro) as one of the bad guys; unmistakable due to his superb voice. Hadley narrated A-bomb training films for the US government and had high level security clearance for the job. The other big plus of Capt. Marvel is the ground-breaking flying effects by the Lydeckers, using wires, dummies, reversed film and the leaping skills of stuntman Dave Sharpe. If you love adventure serials, you'll love The Adventures of Captain Marvel. Highly recommended is the DVD release from Artisan.
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Probably the best serial I've ever seen
kcirone31 August 2004
Captain Marvel is one of the best serials available and a true credit to the genre. It offers plenty of the old-school, two-fisted action that you'd expect from an action serial, in addition to state-of-the-art (for the time) flying effects. The production value of the series is fantastic, including great stuntwork, fight sequences, and innovative cliffhangers. It also offers a great running mystery as to the identity of The Scorpion...which is ruined if you happen to read the cast list closely above :(

If you're a fan of serials or old action movies in general, you'd do well to pick this up as it truly is a classic.
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Probably the best serial ever made
Rod-3925 March 1999
This is a thoroughly enjoyable serial. The special effects in this film are extraordinary, especially the "flying sequences" and especially considering that this was done in 1941 (as a comaprison, watch the two Superman Serials, shot serveral years later, with the late Kirk Allen, where suddenly Allen turns into a cartoon when he takes off). Tom Tyler was perfect as "The World's Mightiest Mortal" (aka "The Big Red Cheese" as Marvel was known in the comics), properly stoic. This is definitely the best of the "super hero" serials. This should be enjoyed by young and old alike. A definite 5 star serial. Highly recommended!!!
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I Wish They Were All This Good
skallisjr14 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Many movie serials were pretty silly, with characters going to crisis to crisis almost pro forma. This one's much better, with some intelligent plotting, so the actual storyline flow seems far more natural.

Possible spoiler: One very nice touch appears in the early chapters. Captain Marvel learned some of his powers by experiencing them. The first time he gets shot at, he's genuinely and pleasantly surprised to discover he's bulletproof.

However, like most serials, the scripters had to mess with the original material. The wizard Shazam was originally from Egypt, not Siam. That aside, the reason for Billy Batson gaining the powers was different from the comic.

Nitpicks aside, though, this is a very superior serial. Many of the serials show little thought and a lot of action; this one, by contrast, is literate. It is tighter than the first Flash Gordon, and not one word is wasted.

Lots of fun
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tedg19 July 2006
Its hard for me to know just how these things were made up. Even the worst of them is a cool adventure. I like the earlier ones better. They are more adventurous, generally and therefore more influential. And there's no mistake that some of those early ones were very big influences.

This is late in the genre for me, but it surely the apogee of a certain type of serial. The idea of having two different actors play the two identities, the mystical Arabian context, the almost perfect cliffhangers...

The sexual content is lower than usual for these things.

One thing that's striking is how inventive the production is in how it is conceived. The trick in these things is explaining the superpowers and then showing them. Superman was cursed by being a comicbook character first, so his superpowers even today don't translate well to the screen. And his origin and the explanation of his powers was bit tortured.

This is the exact opposite; The explanation of powers is succinct and even makes a sort of sense. The powers themselves are cleverly designed around the limits of the camera.

If you are going to watch any of these old serials for fun and you don't have any particular fetish, this may be the best you will find.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
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Lots of fun thats only familiar because everyone has stolen from it
dbborroughs30 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Considered the pinnacle of all serials this is certainly a grand epic adventure. Telling the story of how Billy Batson becomes Captain Marvel in order to save the members of his archaeological party and then how he must uses his powers to prevent the villainous Scorpion from using the scorpion statute that they found for evil. Seeing the serial again divorced of the initial hype with which I watched it, I found it's a much better serial than I first took it for. Its action packed with lots of neat cliffhangers and all the things you think of when you hear "serial". It is one of the best cinematic translation of a comic book to the big screen. And keep in mind if the adventures seem a tad familiar its because movie makers and comic artists have been raiding the film for the sixty plus years since it was made-you've seen this before because everyone stole from it. (It also shows the peril of having a superhero as serial lead-how do you make it exciting when the hero can't be hurt. It was a problem Columbia wrestled with when they did Superman several years later) A must see not only for the history but also for the adventure.
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Very, very good old serial!
fsbel25 May 2003
In my opinion, it is the finest serial ever mode. Highlighting the serial were the fabulous flying sequences. Combining a wired dummy photographed against real backgrounds in natural sunlight, with spectacular take-off leaps and landings, the final effects are still fascinating today as they were in 1941.
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The absolute best chapter-serial ever made!
vonbruno23 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"The Adventures of Captain Marvel" (1941) is quite simply the best of its genre. Period.

Directed by John English and William Witney this 12-part serial really moves and maintains a generally high standard of quality. And the special effects were truly top-notch. Sure, there were times when the models looked like ... well ... models, but there were also sequences that would make folks believe a man could fly some 37 years before "Superman: The Movie." Frank Coughlan, Jr. made an outstanding "Billy Batson." Young, adventurous, and conscientious. He was no Clark Kent/Peter Parker wallflower. He also has a wonderful chemistry with his sidekicks Louise Currie ("Betty") and William Benedict ("Whitey"). This trio could have easily carried the movie without the super-hero gimmick.

Of course Tom Tyler made a terrific "Captain Marvel." Stoic, gallant, and (surprisingly) edgy. Some folks may be startled to see a super-hero dispensing 1940s justice with a definite 1940s sensibility. Its great.

Anyway, I saved the best for last ... it is now officially for sale on DVD for less than 10 bucks making it, IMO, the most under-rated and under-valued movie out. It's a classic for all the right reasons.

For what "The Adventures of Capt. Marvel" was and designed to be it is a perfect creation.
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Champion Weighttlifter/Cowboy Star Tom Tyler cast as lead in (arguably) greatest super hero serial!
redryan6423 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
If it seems that this writer reviews a lot of film adaptations of comic strips,comic books, pulp magazines and radio drama, well alas it's true. I do enjoy good movies, both new and old. I was also brought up on the comics. It is sometimes easy to review such a film, sometimes it,s difficult.

The ADVENTURES of CAPTAIN MARVEL (Republic 1941) represented one occasion where the cart was before the horse. When age of being interested in super hero types in the comics hit me, Fawcett Comics magazines featuring the 'Big Red Cheese' had ceased to being published. Due to long standing litigation brought against Fawcett by Superman/DC Comics,CM's publishers hollered "Uncle!", thus giving in to end the dispute.* So,it was with very little familiarity with Whiz Comics,Captain Marvel Adventures,and all the other family of comic magazines that this writer first viewed the serial version. It was hard to be totally objective because every reviewer, be it in SCREEN THRILLS ILLUSTRATED or one of the Horror or Sci-Fi Movie Mags, had nothing but great reviews for CAPTAIN MARVEL.

Well as usual, if one is to give analysis and commentary about an adapted character, the differences or changes must be noted and dealt with.While the serial boys in Hollywood are notorious for tinkering with the story lines,so in this case, they didn't disappoint us.

They made CM's alter ego,Billy Batson, a teen ager. In the comics he appeared to be about 10, certainly no older. They put him outside the U.S.A.,"in a remote part of Siam", in a mysterious Valley of the Tombs. It was here, during an excavation of one tomb, that Billy (Frank Coughlan,Jr., meets up with the spirit of the Wizard, SHAZAM!**, who tells him he is to become Captain Marvel (Tom Tyler).

On the other hand,as in the comics,Young Billy is still a kid Radio Commentator on Radio Station WHIZ and does so in the serial (chapter 2 and others). The Seral is filled with top action sequences, like all of Republic's.There are great sequences of the good Captain flying, taking off, landing and even administering a sort of savat maneuver to a bad guy.(French Foot Fighting, kind of like a pro wrestler's Drop Kick) All of these fine action scenes were a combination of trick photography,and use of a fine Stunt Man (David Sharpe)doubling for Mr.Tom Tyler.

The use of a very lifelike dummy was the top rate special effect of the Brothers Lydecker (Howard and Theodore)and was the last ingredient in achieving the flying sequences, as well as the various explosions, volcanic eruptions, fires, etc. Their special effects topped most of those in the 'Big Studios'.(This dummy was later used in KING OF THE ROCKRT MEN and COMMANDO CODY, TV and Serial versions.)

One may find some of the story line and action a little more brutal than expected for juvenile fair. In particular, when the Malcom Archaeological Expedition is attacked by the tribesmen (led by Reed Hadley), Captain Marvel comes to their aid, using all of his super strength, flying ability,etc., then CM turns one of the attackers own machine guns on them, mowing down a whole line of attackers! In all fairness, any of these criticisms brought forth here are really minor, for the whole serial, chapter by chapter delivers the way it is supposed to.It is unfair to expect any adaptation to be exactly like the comics page it was taken. Besides, we know that it brought the kids back, week after week to see not 'if', but rather 'how' Captain Marvel saves the day.

It is interesting that the sort of humor that was always such a feature of Captain Marvel that does not make it to the screen. I once was asked by someone to tell them the difference between Superman and Captain Marvel. Well there is the obvious Science(or Science Fiction) vs. Magic. I thought a moment and came up with; "Captain Marvel is like a cross between Superman and Lil' Abner." You may quote me on that.

*In the lawsuit(s) between DC and Fawcett, Captain Marvel's publisher agreed to cease publication of their alleged plagiarism of DC's Superman. After a hiatus of a little over 20 years, DC bought the rights and began publishing Captain Marvel & Family in SHAZAM! Comics.

** In the Origin Comics Story, Billy Batson is led down a dark subway tunnel by a mysterious, dark cloaked man. Eventually he is in the presence of the Great Wizard SHAZAM, who explains o Billy that he has been chosen to be Captain Marvel, and possess the powers of the great heroes and gods whose initials form the acronym SHAZAM, which is also the magic word to effect his change to the adult,Captain Marvel. They also bestow their particular powers to Billy. They are: Solomon (Wisdom),Hercules (Strength),Atlas (Stamina), Zeus (Power), Achilles (Courage), Mercury (Speed!
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A MARVELous Adventure!
onediscovery1 February 2012
I watched this online by accident looking for another film and stumbled across this film instead. I said to myself as to what type of a superhero movie they could make back in 1941. I decided I'll watch it to get a couple of laughs at their attempt to make one, knowing the limitations in cinema during the 1940's than compared with what we have today. Needless to say, I was quite impressed by what was done. It was truly a marvel to watch how much thought was considered in the production of this film.

The good writing along with some subtle twist of plots and cliff hangers on each of the 12 segments, were done in such a way to hold an audience interest. The flying scenes were more than adequate to fool an audience(kids), even if we could see a pulley line used in a few instances(in fact a pulley was used as part of the story for the characters within a scene, probably the same one in filming the visual effects, a little irony). The thought of miniature models for special effects by the Lydecker Brothers production of cars and volcanoes, were done so cleverly with different camera angle shots, it just demonstrated that they were really ahead of their time.

Even if the same plot device was constantly repeated, this was so Billy wouldn't be recognized when he turned into Captain Marvel, it fitted the limitations of a 1941 film of a superhero movie. I enjoyed the fact this was made a serious tone for the most part, there were no real attempts to be funny from the villain or his henchman. Captain Marvel in his role here was strictly business. He rarely talked much, and was quite brutal in fighting, throwing men around without much a blink of an eye of their fate.It was also unusual towards the end of the serial did a character asked him to identify who he was.

Of course, the characters speech rhythm, its story pace and a few comical character stunts are present of this films' era, but it doesn't detract from their attempt for a good production. I would go on to say I prefer this over Daredevil, both HULK movies(although the last one was better), the Ghost Riders series, who have far superior cinema technology for them to make a better superhero film.

I recommend it for anyone who enjoys old films, the superhero genre, and curious how films like this were created, to go seek the time and view this serial picture.
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daredevil8813 September 2000
The distributor has given this material the respect it deserves.

Perhaps, the best comic book feature ever made! This was the original. Like the earlier 1930's serial "Flash Gordon", there is a sincere attempt at translating a comic book to the screen. And it's fun for both kids and adults!

While, screen serials like "The Shadow" did not manage to live up to it's radio original, this one is a winner. I would guess that Steven Spielberg saw this, prior to making "Raider's Of The Lost Ark".

The guy, Captain Marvel, does look silly running around in a cape...but, this is surprisingly good entertainment. Anyone who passes on this, has missed a good action offering. Possibly, superior to Tim Burton's "Batman"; the "Superman" movies, which featured Christopher Reeve; and, it's NOT bloody violence, like the action films of today.

Highly recommended.
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The best chapter-play serial ever made
SeñorAl6 February 1999
I saw this serial for the first time in 1954 under the name of The Return of Captain Marvel. In Spanish, the title was "Capitán Maravilla, el Poderoso". I´ve seen it today as a middle-aged person and I´ve enjoyed it the same. My kids and friends who have seen it, think that the special effects are "amazing" considering that it is was made in 1941.
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old fashion serial
SnoopyStyle9 August 2017
It's the Valley of Tombs in remote Siam. John Malcolm leads an archaeological expedition in search of the lost secret of the Scorpion Dynasty. Tal Chotali is their guide. Local tribesmen fight for a prophecy against white men in the valley. Despite the threat, Malcolm pushes into the tomb. Young Billy Batson gets separated from the group. Wizard Shazam anoints him Captain Marvel. By repeating his name Shazam, Billy is turned into Captain Marvel. He battles evil forces and keep the Golden Scropion from falling into the hands of the masked Scorpion. He is given the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, and speed of Mercury. The group decides to divide up the Golden Scorpion amongst themselves.

This is an old fashion kids' comic book adventure serial. It's divided into 12 chapters with each chapter ending in a cliffhanger. The story and production is all old style melodrama. It can be clunky in that way. The most impressive is the amount of big time action. There are lots of fights and every kinds of action. It's the high end of Republic Pictures and one of the best of this genre in that era.
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Better Than Superman.
flapdoodle6431 January 2008
This is one of the 2 best movie serials of all time. I would recommend that any fan of escapist cinema and classic movies see at least a couple of the chapters, since it is such a fine example of what a good serial could be. It is fast paced, has good fight scenes, and, for the time period, excellent special effects. In fact, until perhaps the 1978 film 'Superman,' there were no superior the flying sequences anywhere on TV or cinema. Along with these legendary sequences, the screen presence and performance of Tom Tyler really make this a magical experience.

At the time of this serial, Tom Tyler was a veteran (and underrated) movie actor, entering the downward slide of a career. Besides having about 15 years of fight scenes on his resume, he had been both a lumberjack and a champion weight lifter, so that he had a lean, athletic physique and carried himself like a strong and tough man. Also, his chiseled facial features, dark hair and steely eyes projected determination and formidability. Although given very few lines, Tyler was completely believable and magnetic in the role. Tyler's Captain Marvel is truly one of the most awesome serial heroes, right up there with Buster Crabbe's Flash Gordon. Frank Coghlan Jr. is perfect as Cap's alter ego, Billy Batson, and the rest of the supporting cast is good as well.

Fans of the comic book and TV versions of Captain Marvel should be warned that this serial is, in several significant ways, very different from the Cap they remember. Part of this is due to the fact that whenever Republic Pictures adapted a comic strip, they took some liberties. The other factor is that this serial was filmed when the Captain Marvel comic strip was only 1 year old, before the tone and spirit of Captain Marvel had been established (the Captain Marvel comics did not really develop a consistent style or sensibility until about 1943 or so; it isn't till around that time that the really classic Captain Marvel stuff started coming out).

Without spoiling too much, viewers should be warned that on at least 2 occasions, Captain Marvel summarily dispatches some of the minor villains. Dispatch, as in sending them to meet their maker. This is understandable within the context of the times and 1930's ideal of a hero. In 1941, comic book heroes had not settled into their now ubiquitous code of non-lethality. The forerunners of the super-heroes, the pulp heroes such as the Shadow and the Spider, had no reservations toward casually gunning down a few thugs. Likewise, audiences in 1941 were of a generation that witnessed law enforcement officers summarily executing Bonnie & Clyde as well as John Dillinger.

Captain Marvel's readiness to kill might also serve as a rationale for Billy's hesitancy to use his alter ego. In this version, Billy gets into fistfights with thugs, even when he is outnumbered, rather than turning into Cap. For dramatic purposes, this makes sense because it allows for various death traps to be set and keeps the fight scenes exiting. But it also fits into a subtext that perhaps Captain Marvel has too much power, that he is perhaps like genie from a bottle, a quasi-demonic expression of the Id. This Captain Marvel, who gets a little too violent sometimes, and who Billy Batson only reluctantly calls upon, could be considered an early forerunner of the Incredible Hulk.

Despite this Captain's occasional lapses into vigilantism, the overall spirit of this serial keeps within the norms of the era and the genre, and so is great fun and escapism. Moreover, the total experience of this serial truly captures the expansive sense of magic, power and possibility of the early period of comic book superheroes. This is vastly superior to either of the Superman serials (1948 & 1950) as well as the Captain Marvel 'Shazam!' TV series of the 1970's. On an ultra low budget and long before CGI, this serial captured the magic of the comics.
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Adventures of Captain Marvel marked the beginning of a 70-year relationship between comic book heroes and live action movies
tavm31 May 2011
In preparing to watch several superhero movies this summer, I finally-after about 30 years of reading and hearing about it-decided to watch the first of the cinema adaptations of a comic book costumed fighter, usually with "special powers" as they were then referred as, that appeared at a neighborhood theatre near you: Adventures of Captain Marvel. This 12-chapter serial has it all-thrills, some humor, and plenty of good old fashioned derring do. Tom Tyler-often considered the strongest man of that time-is perfect as The Big Red Cheese (though his costume was actually blue/gray in order to look better in black & white) with his alter ego Billy Batson done in a nice brave and optimistic turn by Frank Coghlan, Jr. And his sidekicks, Betty Wallace (Louise Currie) and Whitey Murphy (William Benedict) also bring their own charm to the proceedings. Now I'm sure some would be disappointed to not see the classic villains like Dr. Silvana or Mr. Mind here but the created-for-the-screen The Scorpion is good enough for this outing especially when he's suspected of being one of the archeology team Billy and his pals accompany to a cave which is, incidentally, where the wizard who gave Batson his powers, Shazam (Nigel De Brulier) resides. By the way, Nigel was supposedly the inspiration for the guy who mentors Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia. Sure, there are some flaws-like why do the bad guys keep shooting at Cap's chest when they already know bullets won't hurt him-but overall, Adventures of Captain Marvel still provides thrilling entertainment galore (I was especially impressed when that driverless truck provided some POV shots that must have temporarily made some kids dizzy when they watched this at their theatre). And while in some scenes it's obviously a dummy flying, those sequences as created by Howard and Theodore Lydecker would indeed-as a tagline for Superman: The Movie can attest-insinuate "You Will Believe a Man Can Fly". Nothing more to say except, a good time should be had by all when watching this. (and while I willingly sat through the whole thing seeing this on the internet with the only break between chap. 6 & 7, some may just want to take a break with each cliffhanger that comes along...)
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It's Marvel-ous!!
Mike_Noga4 February 2010
The only complaint I have is that this serial didn't continue for another 12 chapters. You'll be hooked on serials for life after watching this one. Everything in this serial hits on all cylinders. The nerdy Batson, the villainous Scorpion,the wisecracking pal, the stodgy professors and the scrappy secretary are all superbly cast and acted. Tom Tyler, a stunt man and actor who later played the Mummy in one of the Universal monster movies,plays Captain Marvel with appropriate heroic stoicism. We're treated to mad villains with grand schemes,deathtraps and terrifying weapons.The effects surprisingly hold up today, especially the flying scenes. Sets the standard for movie serials.
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this one brought me out of my seat.
lloyddavidson8 January 2000
i first heard of tom tyler while watching an errol flynn western with my dad. he kept saying, watch this, watch this. the year was 1949. we had been the proud owner's of our first t.v. set. my dad was in his 40's and i was almost 5.

then it happened. and as it did my father had crept up behind me and was slapping me gently, but firmly on my shoulder. errol had put about 12 slugs in villan tom's back but he wasn't about to leave this mortal coil just yet. he staggered forward, off to the side three steps, down on one knee and then fell against the barn door under the light of the silvery moon and finally slid to his demise. i can only guess that mr. flynn was having his hair coiffed while he waited.

my dad loved that scene and i had to admit i sure would have liked to have seen in again three or four more times.

in june my dad asked me if i would like to go up to my uncle lemon's and see a movie he was going to screen. (every family has a rich one) and to be honest i loved him very much.

well there it was the two of them had decided to surprise me with captain marvel. my father said 'this is tom tyler the guy from the errol flynn movie'. that started off an ole 'why didn't you tell me it was on?' from uncle lemon's.

i fell in love with that serial the moment it started. tom tyler looked like captain marvel in the comic books. and the actor looked exactly the way that billy batson did.

i have heard william witney describe while speaking with elwy yost on tv ontario how it was written and how some of the stunts were performed. (sequences where a giant balloon took over for captain marvel). i much prefered it to the way kyrk allyn turned into a cartoon character when he went up up and away in the first superman serial.

i can see it as clearly as if it were yesterday. in this case i really can. among my collection of serials, captain marvel and superman go head to head.

if you like this serial or have heard about it - buy it.

the few dollars you spend cannot compare to the memories and the laughs you will share with your friends and family. trust me, although long departed the memory of my uncle lemon's and my one in a billion father,are there every time i run the serial. and everytime i watch it i chuckle when i remember that tom milked his part in Santa Fe Trail.........or was it Stagecoach. oh man the memories.

lloyd davidson
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Superior serial...
poe42620 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"The first superhero serial" happens to be the BEST. A genuinely interesting storyline (especially for those of us who grew up on comics and/or pulp magazine reprints), augmented by some of the greatest flying effects ever devised (man-made, hands-on fx, courtesy of the Lydecker brothers), makes ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL a fanboy's dream come true. There are, of course, the usual deviations from the source material (inevitable in the transition to The Big Screen), but these can easily be taken in stride. Like the earliest (comic book) version of The Bat-Man, Captain Marvel has no compunction when it comes to killing: he doesn't hesitate to machine-gun fleeing thugs (shooting them in the back) or to toss them from dizzying heights with just a hint of gleeful abandon. Most unnerving of all has to be his almost arrogant sneer as he advances on hapless, would-be killers as their bullets bounce harmlessly off his chest; he advances like an unstoppable automaton, seeming to relish the thought of the destruction he's about to unleash. There are some truly spectacular slow motion stunts (including takeoffs and landings), a brawl in which literally every single prop or piece of furniture in one room is demolished, a molten mountain that has to be seen to be believed, and what are quite simply the coolest flying effects ever conceived. Tom Tyler appears to have been born to play Marvel, and Frank Coghlan, Jr. as Billy Batson would've made a good Marvel, Jr. (his knock-down, drag out fight is another of the many highlights of this serial). In a neat twist in Chapter 8, villains are killed by a fellow villain's deathtrap. In Chapter 9, torture is tastefully handled with shadows cast on a wall (and it's mercifully brief, too). The direction, by William Witney and Joe English, is simply outstanding (as is the writing, handled by a 5-man crew of scribes). No expense was spared and, in so doing, the producers of ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL set the bar impossibly high. Nothing else ever really came close.
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Avi-815 June 1999
This is truly one of the Best serials of all time after 'Manhunt In The African Jungle'. Actors were superb as well as the individual chapters.

BLAZING EXCITEMENT FROM CHAPTER 1 TO 12. This one would definitely keep you at the edge of your seats.
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One of the best from Republic Studios.
rwendler939-18 June 2006
This was without a doubt the best superhero serial ever made. Although most serials were made for children, this one also catered to adults. This was one of the top serials from Republic Studios, the top serial maker. The directors, William Witney and John England, were two of the best. The action scenes were very believable and the cliffhangers didn't cheat you. The flying sequences were way ahead of the time. The actors put 100 percent into their roles. The evil villain, the Scorpion, is one of my favorite bad guys. If you have never seen a serial cliffhanger before go with one the early Republic Studio ones, especially this one. You can't go wrong.
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