Stan Price

King of the Rocket Men (1949, Fred C. Brannon), Chapter 3: Dangerous Evidence

It’s another quick chapter, starting with a lackluster resolution to the previous cliffhanger–three chapters in, it appears King of the Rocket Men is going to just reveal something previously unseen in resolutions instead of the characters actually having to get out of anything.

Unfortunately, Dangerous Evidence’s cliffhanger isn’t particularly impressive either. Especially not after that opening resolution.

In between, there’s a decent chase scene–cinematographer Ellis W. Carter’s day-for-night photography is good–but when lead Tristram Coffin suits up as Rocket Man later in the episode, it’s somewhat lackluster. Though Coffin bringing his fedora with him is a nice touch.

All in all, it’s still a perfectly okay entry, it just doesn’t have anything going for it. Not the opening cliffhanger resolution, not the gunfight (one side is protected by a conveniently bulletproof chair), not the final fight. Maybe if the cliffhanger had been a little more thrilling….

CREDITS

Directed by Fred C. Brannon; written by Royal K. Cole, William Lively, and Sol Shor; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Cliff Bell Sr. and Sam Starr; music by Stanley Wilson; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Tristram Coffin (Jeffrey King), Mae Clarke (Glenda Thomas), Don Haggerty (Tony Dirken), House Peters Jr. (Burt Winslow), James Craven (Prof. Millard), I. Stanford Jolley (Prof. Bryant), Ted Adams (Prof. Conway), and Stanley Price (Prof. Von Strum).


King of the Rocket Men (1949, Fred C. Brannon), Chapter 2: Plunging Death

The coolest part of Plunging Death is a toss-up. It’s either when lead Tristram Coffin, who doesn’t get to participate in the chapter’s fisticuffs, pulls over to put on his rocket suit and take off to chase the villain or when Mae Clarke starts pursuing the villain in the first place. She and House Peters Jr. get ambushed by a couple thugs; while Peters exchanges blows with one thug, Clarke goes after the escaping one.

The silliest part of the chapter is when escaping thug Don Haggerty has to call his boss, the mysterious Dr. Vulcan, to figure out Clarke is in pursuit.

Some more nice effects for the flying rocket man. The editors are better cutting his effects sequence–he lands on Clarke’s car, which Dr. Vulcan has under remote control–than Dr. Vulcan observing Clarke’s pursuit (then peril) with his (presumably) radio wave based television system. Some of it’s director Brannon’s composition–the monitored action does nothing to amp Clarke’s peril–but the cuts don’t help.

King of the Rocket Men is fast and exciting so far. After the previous cliffhanger’s resolution and some previous chapter plot thread wrap-up, things get moving. Then there’s action, more action, cliffhanger. It’s a fine, fun formula.

And the rocket suit’s neat. It looks clunky, but Coffin takes it real serious before the special effects take over.

CREDITS

Directed by Fred C. Brannon; written by Royal K. Cole, William Lively, and Sol Shor; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Cliff Bell Sr. and Sam Starr; music by Stanley Wilson; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Tristram Coffin (Jeffrey King), Mae Clarke (Glenda Thomas), Don Haggerty (Tony Dirken), House Peters Jr. (Burt Winslow), James Craven (Prof. Millard), I. Stanford Jolley (Prof. Bryant), Ted Adams (Prof. Conway), and Stanley Price (Prof. Von Strum).


King of the Rocket Men (1949, Fred C. Brannon), Chapter 1: Dr. Vulcan – Traitor

King of the Rocket Men’s first chapter, Dr. Vulcan – Traitor, opens with the mysterious Dr. Vulcan killing off members of the scientific establishment. The first couple just die in mysterious explosions, but the third has Dr. Vulcan taunting him with his impending doom. So far, not a great villain. Director Brannon rushes through the sequences, showing them from Vulcan’s lab, not the victim’s perspective. It removes most of the tension.

The chapter then goes into some setup. Mae Clarke is a reporter for a science magazine. She’s trying to get to the bottom of the suspicious deaths (no one knows about Dr. Vulcan because all his targets have died). Tristram Coffin is the science organization’s troubleshooter, who thinks there’s something to the Dr. Vulcan business.

There are a bunch of other scientists, any of whom might be Dr. Vulcan. It makes sense since Dr. Vulcan sends some thugs to search Coffin’s office. Coffin finds them and proves some scientists can throw a punch.

The fight scene isn’t bad at all, it’s just really long. Brannon doesn’t do much with composition and the editors don’t do much with the cuts, but the choreography isn’t bad.

Afterwards, Coffin goes and picks up a rocket suit from one of Dr. Vulcan’s presumed victims (James Craven), who actually survived. Only Coffin knows.

Cue another fight scene, this time with Brannon overpowered (and his security guard shockingly useless).

But then Dr. Vulcan goes somewhere unexpected. Coffin suits up in the jet pack and takes off to save the day. The thugs have stolen an experimental rocket.

The flying effects are solid enough–a dummy run on pulleys doubles for the flying Rocket Man–and Vulcan gets some real tension to carry it through the last few minutes.

It’s not off to a superb start, but it’s far better than expected. Coffin’s a durable, somewhat unexpected lead. No one else makes an impression yet.

CREDITS

Directed by Fred C. Brannon; written by Royal K. Cole, William Lively, and Sol Shor; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Cliff Bell Sr. and Sam Starr; music by Stanley Wilson; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Tristram Coffin (Jeffrey King), Mae Clarke (Glenda Thomas), Don Haggerty (Tony Dirken), House Peters Jr. (Burt Winslow), James Craven (Prof. Millard), I. Stanford Jolley (Prof. Bryant), Ted Adams (Prof. Conway), and Stanley Price (Prof. Von Strum).


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