Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, William Witney and John English), Chapter 8: Boomerang

Boomerang is the best chapter of Captain Marvel yet. Not because of Captain Marvel action–there’s some, but it’s perfunctory–rather it’s the plotting. Boomerang springboards off something in the previous chapter (unrelated to the cliffhanger), sort of narratively hopping over something. That something being the predictable, tedious, though visually interesting cliffhanger resolution. Boomerang then assumes a traditional three act structure, which the serial hasn’t been doing to this point. It’s kind of strange, but also excellent.

The good guys have a plan, they learn something, they execute their plan, things go wrong, resolution, second resolution. It’s exciting, but without any big effects sequences. Frank Coghlan Jr. only says the magic word to get out of immediate trouble. It’s a thankless role for Tom Tyler. He gets to have a little fun–albeit cruel fun–and fun is long overdo. It makes him more sympathetic, even though his part is still a mess.

Coghlan’s amateur sleuths–William ‘Billy’ Benedict and Louise Currie–both get some decent moments. Their characters have to interact in a way the actors get to define the characters. They’re not solely around to be functional in Boomerang. They get to show personality.

Good supporting work from George Pembroke this chapter too.

It’s not really a bridging chapter because it never resolves its opening problem. Coghlan and company thought they’d discovered something big, only for its veracity to get delayed… presumably until next chapter. Boomerang’s something though. It’s breathtaking in its pragmatism.


Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), and George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang).

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