Robert Strange

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, William Witney and John English), Chapter 3: Time Bomb

A couple things in Time Bomb stand out. First, there’s how no one seems to care about how the opening cliffhanger resolves. Not for Captain Marvel (Tom Tyler), but for the expedition member being held hostage. It’s not clear anyone even knows about it after its happened. So, not a good thing, a lazy thing.

Second is about how no one has any reaction to Captain Marvel yet. The thugs apparently don’t tell their boss, The Scorpion, about it and Frank Coghlan Jr. goes out of his way to make sure Louise Currie not see his alter ego. So Captain Marvel is still an unknown to the principals.

Luckily, Coghlan’s pretty much just as good. When the bad guys get the combination to a safe they shouldn’t have, it’s not Captain Marvel who goes to stop them, it’s Coghlan. Turns out he owns his own plane and can just fly to stop them.

Why he didn’t just say the magic word and fly there himself is unclear.

Time Bomb has three action sequences. The cliffhanger resolution, Tyler saving Currie–which involves him flying to catch up with a runaway truck–and the finale. The finale’s more suspense.

Again, it’s perfectly solid but doesn’t have much to it. There are no new clues to the bad guy’s identity, Currie’s sort of okay but not good, the plot doesn’t develop much either.

It’s early days for Adventures of Captain Marvel but it’d be nice if the serial could distinguish itself. Even if it’s just a little bit. Unless there’s nothing more to it than the special effects.

CREDITS

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), Bryant Washburn (Henry Carlyle), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang), and George Lynn (Prof. Dwight Fisher).


Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, William Witney and John English), Chapter 2: The Guillotine

The Guillotine does not open with a satisfying cliffhanger resolution. It’s only Captain Marvel’s second chapter, which probably ought to have a satisfying cliffhanger resolution; it’s mildly concerning it does not.

After that lackluster resolution, the story moves back to the United States. Turns out the evil Scorpion has followed the team because, yes, he’s a member of the team. He tells his chief henchman (Kenne Duncan) all about being on the team.

The henchmen kidnap one of the other team members and hold him hostage to get his piece of the gold-making Scorpion device. Louise Currie is supposed to deliver it by herself, but intrepid Frank Coghlan Jr. convinces her to let he and William ‘Billy’ Benedict tag along to take on the bad guys.

Neither Coghlan nor Benedict are rugged fellows and it’s cool to see them try to save the day. When the going gets tough, however, Coghlan says the magic word and becomes Tom Tyler. Bullet-proof, flying Tyler easily takes on the bad guys before a chase sequence leading to the cliffhanger.

No one seems surprised by Tyler, who’s in an outlandish outfit, is bulletproof, and can fly. Maybe because they somehow know he’ll crumple when it’s time for the cliffhanger.

Coghlan’s affable, Duncan’s a solid villain, Tyler’s effective. Even if he doesn’t get any lines.

Good stunt work and special effects, even on the lacking opener.

CREDITS

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), Bryant Washburn (Henry Carlyle), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang), and George Lynn (Prof. Dwight Fisher).


Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, William Witney and John English), Chapter 1: Curse of the Scorpion

Adventures of Captain Marvel has a lot of action in its first chapter. Setting up the ground situation is even action. There’s an expedition to Thailand and, although they have permits with the occupying British forces, the native people aren’t thrilled with the expedition coming in to tomb rob. So it’s up to native guide, John Davidson (no, he’s not Thai), to talk down the angry natives. He does, setting up not just the goals of the expedition, but the local superstitions and so on. Excellent exposition.

It all comes after a fairly exciting and well-executed siege sequence, with the natives attacking the expedition’s fortified camp.

Directors English and Witney shoot all the action well. Sometimes the stunt people are a tad obvious, but the action’s still good. And William Nobles’s day for night photography is solid too.

Anyway, the expedition rushes to grave rob, with only young (twenty-five year-old young) Frank Coghlan Jr. deciding he wants no part in breaking into tombs. He’ll just collect the ancient pottery. When the rest of the expedition sets off a trap and gets locked in the tomb, it’s eventually up to Coghlan to save them.

Luckily by then an ancient wizard (Nigel De Brulier) has bestowed the powers of Captain Marvel on Coghlan. He just says the magic word and he turns into Tom Tyler, who can fly, is impervious to bullets, is super strong, and who has a flashy outfit. Coghlan’s appealing. It’s not clear yet if Tyler’s going to be appealing. He’s effective, but appealing is something else.

Then there’s more with the native forces returning to attack in the middle of the night and grab the expedition’s findings. There’s this ancient device to turn any substance into gold. Each member of the expedition gets a piece–setting up the mystery of whoever is going to be the traitor. Coghlan (and Tyler) have to make sure everyone gets out of the camp and to safety.

Lots of action in the finale. The cliffhanger’s a great model but dramatically questionable so far.

Curse of the Scorpion sets up the serial incredibly well. It just doesn’t give any indication of how the serial’s going to play out chapter-to-chapter.

CREDITS

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 Fawcett 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), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), Bryant Washburn (Henry Carlyle), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang), George Lynn (Prof. Dwight Fisher), Reed Hadley (Rahman Bar), Jack Mulhall (James Howell), and Nigel De Brulier (Shazam).


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