Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, William Witney and John English), Chapter 9: Dead Man’s Trap

Dead Man’s Trap is, I guess, a bridging chapter. It depends on what’s next. Otherwise it’s a treading water chapter.

It picks up from the previous chapter’s “cliffhanger” (quotations because it’s more of a “beware the cliff 150 meters away” than anything else) and gives George Pembroke quite a bit to do for a while. He’s good, the regular guy captured by the Scorpion and then tortured until he talks. Pembroke’s pure joy at Tom Tyler coming to his rescue is one of Captain Marvel’s most honest moments.

There’s some convoluted machinations to get Louise Currie in danger and to give Frank Coghlan Jr. a chance to Captain Marvel out. But there’s no tension. It’s weird, coming off a strong chapter, to see the serial just go back to business as usual.

The cliffhanger’s kind of cool, but there’s no chance it’ll have a good resolution so who cares.

Three quarters done, it’s still impossible to guess how Captain Marvel is going to wrap up, quality-wise. The actors are fine, usually likable (though Currie’s a little dense here), but the serial itself spins its wheels too much.


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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