Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Batman - O homem morcêgo - seriado 1943

THE BATMAN  -  1 9 4 3 

'The Electrical Brain' - Batman's Chapter 1.

Lewis Wilson as Batman

Prince Daka, Dr. Tito Daka or simply Daka as portrayed by J. Carrol Naish.

"The League of the New Order of Hirohito, Heavenly Ruler and Prince of the Rising Sun, marches on, and nothing will ever stop it. You might just as well try to stop the tides, the winds."
― Prince Daka

"I am Dr. Daka, humble servant of his majesty Hirohito, heavenly ruler and Prince of the Rising Sun. By divine destiny my country shall destroy the democratic forces of evil and the United States to make way for the New Order. An Order that will bring about the liberation of the enslaved people of America. Each of these a specialist in his line and has been especially selected by me to execute the orders I receive from Tokyo. "

Prince Tito Daka is part of a cult known as the 'Rising Sun'. When World War II comes, he joins the Axis Powers to prepare a for the 'Japanese-occupation'.

He works out of a hidden location in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, called the Cave of Horrors. It is here that he organized a group of nefarious business men called the League of the New Order. In his secret location, Dr. Daka builds a machine known as the 'Electrical Brain' to turn those who oppose him into pseudo-zombies.

However he has one thorn in his side, Batman & Robin, the caped crusaders. Daka employs many a thug to rid him of the pesky dynamic duo but they always fail and in the end, Batman and Robin find a way to turn everyone back to normal, and vanquish the pseudo-zombie threat once and for all.

Daka possesses a hair-dryer-like mind-control device that reduces his victims to helpless zombies and a pit of live crocodiles. He commands his crew of turn-coat Americans from an underground secret laboratory and is supported by a Japanese submarine lurking just offshore. 

Naish draws back his lips in a sneering rictus, walks as if he's wearing a truss and hisses his way through a gleefully over-the-top performance that rivals Charles Middleton's Ming the Merciless. Middleton, who played Ming in the 'Flash Gordon' serials, appears in Batman as a cantankerous radium miner. 

In the ultimate show-down, Batman & Robin apprehend Daka, tieing him up, they then find the way to turn people back to normal from being zombies, remove the zombie head-piece and use the Electrical Brain again reversing the effects. Daka then finds a knife in his pocket, and uses to cut himself loose, taking Linda Page hostage, as he attempts to creep back to his secret lab, Linda in tow.

Batman quickly tells Robin to press the button that closes the door to the secret lab, Daka panics and drops Linda and rushes to the entrance to the secret lab. Unfortunately Robin hits the wrong button opening a trap-door which leads to a pit of hungry, angry alligators, Daka falls through the trap-door, and is eaten alive.

B A T M A N  '  S   15 chapters

1.  The electrical brain
2.  The Bat's Cave
3.  The mark of the Zombies
4.  The slaves of the Rising Sun
5.  The living corpse

6.  Poison peril
7.  The phoney doctor
8.  Lured by radium
9.  The sign of the Sphinx
10. Flying spies

11. A Nipponese trap
12. Embers of evil
13. Eight steps down
14. The executioner strikes
15. The doom of the Rising Sun

screenplay:  Victor McLeod, Leslie Swabacker & Harry Fraser
director of photography:  James S. Brown Jr. 
film editors:  Dwight Caldwell & Earl Turner
music:  Lee Zahler
producer:  Rudolph C. Flothow
director:  Lambert Hillyer

Lambert Hillyer was a skilled low-budget director whose best work includes Universal's spooky, erotic 'Dracula's Daughter' (1936).

James S. Brown Jr. was an accomplished genre cinematographer who shot a number of Columbia serials, including 'The Shadow' (1940) and 'The Phantom' (1943).

Chapter 2

Batman & Robin confront Frank Shannon [centre], Robert Fiske, and Stanley Price [far right] in 'Slaves of the Rising Sun' chapter 4 of 'Batman'. Green lobby-card photo.

Chapter 5

Chapter 9 

Made by Columbia Pictures at a time when they were more of a B-Picture studio - so the term 'low budget' should apply - and during the height of World War II - our tale pits Bruce Wayne/Batman [Lewis Wilson] and Dick Grayson/Robin - portrayed by 16-year-old Douglas Croft against the nefarious madman Dr. Daka - or, 'Jap', as many of the serial's characters like to say.

Interesting enough, Daka's mission is so secret that the U.S. Government are aware of his actions. Tracking the elusive villain down, however, isn't something they seem capable of doing - especially in the seedy underworld of a metropolis like Gotham City - so Uncle Sam assigns their undercover agent Bruce Wayne - alias The Batman - to keep an eye out. 

Batman isn't a vigilante but, instead, he's Washington's secret weapon. It was World War II, after all - there was no way in hell the Censors would allow a citizen to take the law into his hands - that's what the internment camps were for, after all. 

There is no Commissioner Gordon to be seen but a completely inept Gotham City police - led by Captain Arnold [Charles C. Wilson]. 

The first great thing about Batman is its atmosphere. Walls believed to be made out of brick and concrete tend to move when people jump over them. The lighting has an almost 'film noir' quality about it. You can't help it but feel the whole look was unintentional - as if somebody who once worked on a 'noir' gangster flick was assigned to light the sets for a kiddie serial and didn't quite know what to do. Anyway, the moody lighting combined with the obviously phony set pieces gives the film a surreal feel. 

Of course, no good serial would be without a hidden lair. And Dr. Daka has one of the greatest hideouts ever: a huge fortress hidden away within the confines of a war-themed 'Cave of Horrors' ride. Daka has it all: a laboratory of evil below, a super-secret back entrance, a pit full of hungry alligators [or are they crocodiles?]  just waiting for their next meal, and additional rooms we never actually get to see. 

Daka's massive base of operations defies all laws of logic! Between all of the secret rooms and the full-length basement - there may possibly be a sub-basement too - you'd think that his lair stretches out to the other end of the block. Perhaps Dr. Daka coerced M.C. Escher himself into designing his massive lair. 

A second hideout, the Bat's Cave makes its first apperance anywhere here. This strange, dimly lighted, mysteriously secret cavern is used for little more than intimidating captured thugs [Marshall is one example]. 

The Batmobile doesn't exist, so Batman & Robin just put the top up on Bruce Wayne's gigantic black Cadillac and ride around in it - often with their faithful manservant Alfred driving!

Dick, Bruce & Alfred at the laboratory.

Alfred is portrayed by actor William Austin and his is the first 'thin' version of the character introduced as the faithful British manservant was much rounder in the comics but would later lose the extra added pounds in order to resemble the on-screen version. Austin's interpretation of Alfred Beagle [surname later changed to Pennywhorth] is also the most fey of any depiction before or since. 

Alfred turns out to be a primary comic relief; a jittery idiot. He is more of a chauffeur than a butler. He is very camp and usually has something 'funny' to say. Once, when Alfred needs to call the police for help he tells the telephone operator: 'Please, give me the Scotland Yard!

Later, when Batman lets him help the dinamic duo:

Batman: 'Alfred, I'm gonna give you another chance to help us!'

Alfred: 'Esplendid, sir. May I say that now you're cooking with gas!'

Several continuity errors occur in the serial, such as Batman losing his cape in a fight but wearing it again after the film only briefly cut away.

Costume-wise, Batman conjures up another barreful of unintentional chuckles. Not only does poor Lewis Wilson get to run around in baggy pajamas, but also has a good-awful time trying to see through some poorly-cut eyeholes. His horn tend to sway from side-to-side with even the slightest breeze, too. 

Both costumes are considered to be unconvincing inexecution, and, although the Batman costume was based on his first appearance, it draws special criticism for being too baggy and 'topped by a pair of devil's horns.' 

Douglas Croft, on the other hand, demonstrates how fun it is to prance around in tights while wearing a plastic Lone Ranger-style mask and a hairstyle that makes one wonder when the soundtrack is going to kick into high-gear with some funky '70s waka-chi-waka guitar music.

Hiding behind Dr. Daka's unconving yellow-face make-up is Irish character actor J. Carrol Naish - whose accent comes off as sounding more Spanish than anything. Naish hams it up to the nth degree as the 'Axis stooge' who has come to the USA to dissolve America's 'corrupt form of government' so that his Land of the Rising Sun will be able to take over. If only he had waited a few decades to see how corrupt it could really become. 

Since the sight of Japanese soldiers would be far too conspicuous on the street, Dr. Daka recruits his henchmen straight from hoosegows and seedy underbelly dens of Gotham City - or as J. Carrol Naish so clearly calls it once, 'Goddam City'. 

By doing so, Dr. Daka has assembled a committee of villainous traitors, each of whom is a specialist in his field and who are played by a venerable selection of seasoned serial vets, including Robert FiskeJohn Maxwell, Michael Vallon, Anthony Warde, George J. Lewis, 'The Crimson Ghost' 's I. Stanford Jolley, Lestor Dorr, Jack Ingram, George Chesebro, the always-enjoyable Stanley Price, and more. 

But, not all of these dishonored U.S. citizens are ready to start batting for the enemy. One such attempted recruit is former industrialist Martin Warren [Gus Glassmire], who has just been released from prison. Daka's effort to ensnare Warren's aid is met with an ample amount of good old American patriotism. Old man Warren may have been found guilty and sent to prison, but there's no way he'd sell out his country. Warren's stubborness though isn't about to ruin Daka's day... and the arch-villain eventually turns him into an electronic zombie via a wild-looking contraption in an even wilder-looking scene.

Warren's vanishing-act does not go unnoticed. His niece, Linda Page [Shirley Patterson], happens to be friends with millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne - they may be more than friends, but this is a serial aimed at young boys, so any such feelings are locked away. Linda & Bruce, along with Dick & Alfred were supposed to meet Uncle Martin on the day of his release, but Bruce's good-for-nothing-playboy charade prevented them from arriving at the prison gate on time. Bruce 'slept in'! 

Mind you, had Bruce met Warren at the penitentiary as planned, the whole serial would have taken a different approach. For starters, Warren would not have had the satisfaction of discovering who was behind his false imprisonment. And, while the details as to his incarceration are left a bit sketchy - as are most of the plot points in the serial itself, we do at least learn that Warren was sent up thanks to the bogus testimony of his former colleague, Sam Fletcher [John Maxwell]. 

As it turns out, Fletcer had been working for Dr. Daka all the time. Interestingly enough, that small bit of trivia is completely useless. Hell, most people won't even catch on the very fact that Warren and Fletcher so much as know each other unless they just happen to pay attention to a fleeting line of dialogue in the very final chapter! This can be attributed to the lightning-fast pace in which this serial was edited and written, leaving practically nothing in the way of the development of its characters - especially the minor ones.

Anyway, with Martin Warren missing, Bruce & Dick decide to investigate as Batman & Robin. Every clue  they run into leads them one step closer to Dr. Daka, who is after as much radium as possible to perfect his New Order's secret weapon, the 'Atom Smasher' - which, sadly enough, we never get to see constructed. The mention of the word 'atom' in a kiddies' serial is amazingly conspicuous because the U.S. government was at that time secretly working on the building of the first atomic bomb who was detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki two years later - 1945. 

Locations range from the treacherous inner-city dwellings of Gotham City and into faraway radium mines out in the country. 'Flash Gordon's Mingus, Charles Middleton, shows in in a few chapters as Bruce's prospector pal Ken Colton, while sporting a long beard.  

Throughout the course of 15 chapters, a dozen cars or so are hurled off cliffs, a U.S. supply train is wrecked, an experimental military plane - piloted by Jack Gardner and Kenne Duncan [a future Ed Wood regular] - is highjacked and subsequently shot down [stock footage], a Japanese submarine gets blown-up [stock footage], and Dr. Daka turns several people into zombies. And it's garnished with wacky dialogue, baffling plotholes, grainy photography, recycled music drops, and some truly uninspired moments of inspired lunacy to boot.

As you may imagine, I've seen this one a few times. I used to watch it religiously on video-cassette with a friend of mine. I still view it on occasion by myself, since everyone else I know now seems to just can't hang with the fact that I recite the dialogue along with the actors onscreen. 

In 2007, I talked with someone that I had introduced Batman to nearly two decades prior. Although he was originally outraged over it the first time 'round, he actuall thanked me for presenting it to him, citing that it helped open his eyes as to how truly hypocritical and ridiculous Hollywood was - well, the whole word, really. 

In 2005, Sony decided to unveil the original serial in its ugly, unedited form - under the Columbia label - with absolutely no disclaimer whatsoever announcing the oft-bigoted dialogue contained therein. 

Be prepared to be aghast by what you see. Batman is a truly awful serial, but it's the pinnacle of involuntary hilarity at the same time. Just like either narrotor of the serial says, it's 'eking out a precarious existence on the dimes of curiosity seekers' - it has for decades, and will continue to do so for decades to come. 

BATMAN - cast 

Lewis Wilson [Batman / Bruce Wayne]
Douglas Croft [Robin, the Boy Wonder / Dick Grayson] 
J. Carroll Naish [Prince Tito Daka]
Shirley Patterson [Linda Page]

William Austin [Alfred Beagle, the British butler]
John Maxwell [Sam Flasher, Daka’s lieutenant; former civil engineer]
Gus Glassmire [Martin Warren, Linda Page’s uncle taken prisoner by Daka]
Charles Middleton [Ken Colton, Canadian radium miner owner]

Robert Fiske [Foster
Michael Vallon [Preston]
Charles C. Wilson [Captain Arnold, Chief Police Officer]

Knox Manning [narrator]
Stanley Price [henchman]
Kenne Duncan [pilot of shot down plane]

Frank Austin,
Lynton Brent
George Chesebro
Dick Curtis
Lester Dorr
Sam Flint
Terry Frost
Karl Hackett
Earle Hodgins
Jack Ingram
Warren Jackson
I.Stanford Jolley
Eddie Kane
George J.Lewis
Tom London
Ted Oliver
Pat O’Malley
Bud Osborne
Frank Shannon
Anthony Warde

Daka's secrete headquarters lie beneath an arcade fright-house called 'Japanese Cave of Horrors' that depicts Japanese soldiers committing atrocities. About the street on which it is located, the narrator tells us:  '... was part of a foreign land transplanted bodily to America and known as Little Tokyo. Since a wise government rounded up the shifty-eyed Japs, it has become virtually a ghost street...'

The underground headquarters is dominated by a giant statue of Buddha, before which we see the sinister Daka praying. 

ANTI-JAPANESE feeling in the U.S.A. in the 1940s

'Batman' is incredibly racist. Made during the height of World War II, the film is filled with stereotypical images and ethnic slurs of Japanese.

J. Carrol Nashi, who was of Irish heritage, plays the evil Japanese Dr. Daka. All of his henchmen, ironically, are Caucasian. 

The majority of the villains in the comic-book universe were Japanese, not German. 

'I was so much easier to bring white America around to fighting in the Japanese theatre than against people in Europe who looked like them.' Peimer says. 'Surrounding a Japanese villain with Caucasian henchmen was de rigueur in comics.'

'There's a really famous Superman comic-book from 1943 where he visits a Japanese American relocation concentration camp and uncovers a spy-ring that exists there. But they are all being helped by white people on the outside. The Japanese are evil, they are monsters but aren't capable of functioning without Caucasian input'. - Susan King. 

Batman snarls: 'Agh! a Jap!' - when he last comes face to face with Daka.

Batman then shouts: 'Hold up these robots, you Jap murderer!'

Daka answers:  'If you value your life you'd better address me as Doctor Daka!'

Batman: 'I know who you are! We've been searching for you ever since you killed those two agents assigned to your deportation!' 

Daka: 'What a pity you won't be able to report that you've found me!

Earlier, when Linda Page meet Daka she utters:

Linda:  'A Jap!'

Daka: 'Please, say Nipponese, that is the corteous way of addressing one of the future rulers of the world. Bring her to the council chamber!'

Henchmen Prescot and Fletcher scort Miss Page to the laboratory:

Daka: 'Wallace, bring me a Zombie-head-piece and a microphone!

At one point one henchman tells another:  'Daka will not be pleased when your report that to him!

The other answers:  'I did my best. Anyway, I'm not afraid of him or any squint-eye!' 

On Chapter 5 Daka is furious with another failure of his henchmen and says:

'You are aware that your colleagues not only have failed miserably in their attempt to get the much needed radium weapon but they have also lost their worthless lives!' 

The tables are turned! Daka is Batman's prisoner... but Linda is still a Zombie.

read chapter by chapter:


Some elements of the serial that have drawn particular attention from critics is the casting of Lewis Wilson as Batman. While his face resembled that of Bruce Wayne and he played his part with sincerity they found his physique to be unathletic and 'thick about the middle'. 

He's a properly foppish Bruce Wayne and a dogged masked crimefighter, but his voice was both too high and he was burdened with a Boston accent and a troublesome cape. Wilson is at his best out of costume, as when he goes undercover as Chuck White, a waterfront thug who infiltrates Daka's gang. 

Lewis G. Wilson - 28 January 1919 - 9 August 2000 - was from New York City. A good looking, talented guy, he never really made a big splash in filmes, being more of a supporting player. 

Unfortunately this starring role did not lead to others and he spent the rest of the forties appearing in poverty-row films like 'Redhead from Manhattan' (May 1943) a Lupe Velez's vehicle and 'There's something about a soldier' (November 1943) and The Racket Man' (1944).

The fifties were a little better as Wilson garnered a supporting role as Walt Jameson on the short-lived TV show 'Craig Kennedy, Criminologist', based on the popular detective created by Arthur B. Reeve. Wilson's last film credit is 'Naked alibi' (1954).

After that he worked for General Foods to support his wife Dana Broccoli and baby Michael G. Wilson who later became heir to the James Bond franchise.  


Douglas Croft was born in Seattle, WA * 12 August 1926 + 24 October 1963 in L.A., California. He was only 16 years old and the firs Robin on the screen.

Douglas is an athletic, convincing Robin whose performance does something to restore the pulp integrity of the production, and remind us that this could have been a great Batman serial, and not just a great serial. 

Croft also played younger versions of both George M. Cohen in 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and  Lou Gehrig in 'The Pride of the Yankees'. 


Linda Page was a lab assistant and secretary at the Gotham City Foundation - played by Shirley Patterson * 26 December 1922 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada + 4 April 1995 - who also appeared on films by the name of Shaw Smith. 

She did  a lot of work on TV up to 1958, especially as Blanche Elliott in an episode of 'The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp'. 

SERIADOS do Cine Marilia 1959-1960

Seriados eram filmes de curta-metragem que os norte-americanos produziam desde os anos 20, para serem exibidos depois da 'atração principal'. Vejamos, num domingo normal nos anos 50, nós, crianças entrávamos na fila que se formava em frente ao Cine Marília e se estendia pela rua Campos Salles até a rua 4 de Abril [as vêzes 'dobrando' a Quatro], para assistirmos à matinee, que começava as 13:00 horas.

Eram sempre dois filmes, de aventura, far-west ou comédia. No final da sessão, lá pelas 17:00 horas, depois de passados os 2 filmes principais, o Migué projetava o que nós mais esperávamos: esses tais 'seriados' [serials] de 15 ou 20 minutos, cheios de aventura, muitos sôcos e corridas de carro, avião ou cavalo, espalhados entre 12 e 15 capítulos. Esses seriados sempre terminavam no momento mais excruciante, quando o mocinho/mocinha estava em grande perigo, prestes a cair num precipício, ser devorado por alguma besta horrível ou queimado de forma vil por algum fascínora epedernido.

Nós, crianças nunca nos esquecíamos do 'ponto' em que o seriado tinha parado no domingo anterior. As vêzes, durante as aulas da semana, eu ficava a imaginar como o herói iria sair daquela cilada, mas, no fim, ele/ela sempre dava um jeitinho de se livrar dos horrores gerais.

Em dezembro de 1960, minha família planejava mudar-se de Marília, e minha maior preocupação era não poder assistir ao capítulo final de 'O Cobra' [The mysterious Dr. Satan], que eu, meus irmãos e primos vínhamos acompanhando desde agosto. Para meu alívio, nós só partimos de Marília em 15 de dezembro de 1960, uma semana depois do final feliz, quando o Cobra [Copperhead, protagonizado por Robert Wilcox] derrota o malígno Dr. Satan [Eduardo Cianelli].

Quando chegamos em São Paulo, eu notei que aqui em Pinheiros/Vila Madalena, já não se passavam mais os tais seriados... isso era coisa de 'cinema-de-interior'. No entanto quando fui visitar parentes na Vila Gustavo, que era bem afastada do centro, vi que o Cine Prata ainda passava os desejados 'serials'... mas como era muito longe, eu acabei nunca assistindo nenhum. Mas a lembrança dessas aventuras maiores que a vida, nunca saíram de minha imaginação. Quando nos anos 80, começou-se a fabricação de video-cassettes VHS, eu descobri que dava para se encomendar seriados diretamente dos EEUU. Hoje, depois do advento da Era Digital, dá para se assistir a quase todos eles através do YouTube e outros canais.

Posto aqui as scenas mais interessantes dos meus seriados favoritos, que na verdade não são tantos assim. Me lembro nítidamente do 'Cobra', já citado, da 'Mulher Tigre' [Tiger Woman], que foi meu favorito no. 2, e 'Capitão Africa', que era muito parecido com o Fantasma, dos gibís. Ah, não posso esquecer do 'Batman' tampouco.  Não esse Batman anabolizado atual, mas aquele mais simples, em branco-e-prêto, que era projetado na tela do Cine Marília, que para mim, era um Palácio de Prazeres.

'Batman' O Homem Morcêgo - 1943

Batman sendo seviciado... olha a cara do 'bandido', com feições orientais.
J. Carroll Naish como Doctor Daka. Em 1943 os EEUU estavam em guerra com o Japão, daí o vilão 'oriental'.
olha o Batmóvel, não era muito 'especial'...

Batman & Robin  -  1 9 4 9 

6 anos mais tarde - 1949 - a Columbia rodou novo seriado sobre Batman.
o seriado de 1949 chama-se 'Batman & Robin', vistos aí em ação.

'O Cobra' (The Copperhead) or The mysterious Dr. Satan - 1940

It’s the masked defender The Copperhead versus the mysterious Dr. Satan! As mad scientist Dr. Satan (Eduardo Cianelli) plots to steal key pieces of technology to enable him to build a Robot Army to strike against society at large in a mad grab for unbridled power. 

Standing in his way is stalwart and stoic Bob Wayne (Robert Wilcox), who adopts the guise of the mysterious masked defender, The Copperhead!! Also starring William Newell, C. Montague Shaw and Dorothy Herbert. 

Originally released in 1940, directed by the cliffhanger experts William Witney and John English, it is considered one of the best action serials of the genre's heyday. See it here in all it's glory, all 15 chapters digitally remastered on DVD, in black & white, just as it was filmed.

Robert Wilcox como Bob Wayne, embora ele nunca tenha sorrido no seriado.  
Robert Wilcox em foto promocional.
the dreadful Robot was impervious to any kind of gun...

'Mulher Tigre ' - Tiger Woman - 1944

Tiger Woman

A cena mais impressionantes desse seriado era o ritual da dança macabra, onde o homem pendurado por uma corda era jogado num lago de lava e fogo que ficava lá em baixo dessa portinhola maldita. A Mulher-Tigre presidia a cerimônia, embora não tivesse ordem para contradizer o malvado sacerdote-mor Ramgah (Robert Frazer).

Linda Stirling direto das agencias de modêlos da Madison Avenue para o papel de Mulher-Tigre.
Allan Lane & Linda Stirling.

'As Aventuras do Capitão Africa' - 1955

Um dos ultimos seriados produzidos em Hollywood, pois a TV já estava competindo com o cinema. 

John Hart, que a principio faria o papel do Fantasma, na sequência do seriado de 1943; porém a firma que detinha os direitos do personagem de Lee Falk exigiu muito dinheiro e a Columbia resolveu 'adaptar' a história do Fantasma em um persongem bem parecido. Aliás, Hart já tinha começado a filmar com o uniforme do Phantom [veja foto abaixo]. Acabou trocando máscara por um capacete de couro de aviado e outras pequenas alterações.

Esse é o Phantom de 1943...

Texto tirado da Internet sobre os seriados 'Mulher Tigre' e 'Capitão Africa'

It sometimes amazes me the things Hollywood could get away with in serials which never would have made it past the boys at the Breen Office or any of the other regulatory agencies that policed movies in the Golden Days of the movies. Did they even bother to take a gander at the content of cliffhangers which were, at least in theory, primarily aimed at juvenile audiences, the group most would think of when considering protection from gratuitous violence and or moral and social corruption?
Take Republic’s 1944 “Tiger Woman” for instance. The audience is no sooner drawn into Chapter One than it’s introduced to the title character, the reigning queen of a certain undisclosed country who presides over the territory and safeguards her subjects with a feverish intensity. Interlopers are not merely escorted to the border with a stern order not to return and a minor slap on the wrist, but are summarily tied to a rope and dangled over a stalactite infested subterranean cave and dropped into a lake of volcanic fire below. Talk about a quick cure for an immigration problem!
It also becomes fairly obvious from the dialog that this isn’t a once in a lifetime episode, but rather this sort of cold blooded and horrific sacrifice goes on all the time thanks to the Tiger Woman. Or as one native character explains, “Once the Tiger Woman gets her hands on a white man, it’s the end.” And she’s the heroine of the film! Can you imagine if a mainstream film of the same period tried to foist off a central female character responsible for such wanton murder? Even Joan Crawford in her fullback shoulder pads and at her nastiest couldn’t get away with it. Of course, the heroes of this serial work for a huge oil company and I think you’d have a hard time today getting away with that one as well.
In any case, the Tiger Woman (who inexplicably sports a leopard spotted outfit which is not nearly as appealing as Francis Gifford’s earlier “Jungle Girl” getup and at times looks more something a Ziegfeld girl or Radio City Rockette might sport) is played by Republic’s then newest female discovery Linda Stirling, a former model whose first foray into cliffhangers this was.

Linda Stirling as the Tiger Woman
According to Stirling, her studio audition was more in the nature of an athletic test than a traditional acting scene. And this would certainly come-in-handy in a serial such as “Tiger Woman” where the heroine gets involved much more with physical action than in other less athletically demanding chapterplays. Whether riding, shooting or employing judo moves, this is one lady who’s not afraid to mix it up.
She does have help, however, in the person of intrepid heroes Allen Saunders (Allan Lane), later the popular (except with his co-stars) star of many B-westerns, and the always reliable (and future Cisco Kid) Duncan Renaldo as Jose who for a short time in his career seemed to always show up in serials as the hero’s staunch ally. Lane is not much of an actor, painfully stiff and rigid (even for a serial hero), but Renaldo, as always, is relaxed and enjoyable to watch.
Fleshing out the cast, mostly as villains, are familiar serial mugs George J. Lewis, LeRoy Mason, Robert Frazer, Keene Duncan, Stanley Price, plus a large contingency of the studio’s actor/stuntmen including Tom Steele, Duke Green, Eddie Parker (the same year he doubled Glenn Strange in “House of Frankenstein”), Ken Terrell and Cliff Lyons.
the beautiful Tiger Woman in glorious colours...
Veteran director Spencer Gordon Bennet helms this time with the aid of Wallace Grissell from a script by Royal Cole, Grant Nelson, Jesse Duffy, Basil Dickey, Joseph Poland and Ronald Davidson. There’s only one Lydecker in the credits this time, brother Theo, but he’s more than up to the challenge of creating the necessary miniatures and special effects of which there are some good ones. I particularly enjoyed the rapid-tossed boat going over the cliff in Chapter Four.
The plot has two rival oil companies—one bad, one good—vying for a patch of oil rich land controlled by the Tiger Woman and her subjects, a race of brown-skinned, blow pipe wielding natives. In reality our feline gal is none other than Rita Arnold, heiress to a vast fortune who, as a small child, was lost in the jungle following a plane crash. The villains decide, since she seems to prefer the overtures of Saunders and Jose, to knock her off and substitute a replacement for her who will sanctum their drilling, but it doesn’t quite turn out that way with lots of action, mayhem and thrills ensuing before the conclusion of Ch. 12.
“The Tiger Woman” is a good solid serial. Plenty of action and, for a novice actress, Linda Stirling is appealing, likable, decorative and convincing in the rough sequences. No wonder Republic decided to employ her services in many more serials. Good pacing and lots of exciting tight corners elevate this one to B+ status.
Tiger Woman is tied up and in trouble...

“The Adventures of Captain Africa” 1955

With only a few exceptions most Hollywood sequels don’t live up to expectations although there are a handful of efforts such as “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Godfather II” which prove that this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Usually sequels are limp and uninspired re-workings of the parent product, lazy retreads churned out quickly to take advantage of the success of the original. But sometimes sequels are even worse than this. Sometimes they are simply drop dead awful.
The Adventures of Captain Africa”, a cliffhanger produced by Columbia in ‘55, falls into this latter category. It is, in fact, one of the worst serials ever made, not a minor achievement given some of the bottom of the barrel chapterplays turned out in the closing days of this film genre.
Originally “The Adventures of Captain Africa”was intended to be a follow-up to Columbia’s earlier offering “The Phantom”, produced in 1943 and based on the popular Lee Falk comic strip character.
“The Phantom” starred Tom Tyler, a former record-holding weightlifter and western player who, in costume, physically bore a startling resemblance to Falk’s purple-suited and masked creation. A solid serial but not a great one, it boasted good action and was fairly loyal to its comic strip storyline.
12 years later the folks at Columbia (that is to say producer Sam Katzman) got it into their heads to make a second Phantom serial, this one staring John Hart who had starred in the studio’s earlier cliffhanger “Jack Armstrong” and would go on to replace Clayton Moore for a couple of seasons on “The Lone Ranger” TV show.
Cliffhangers had been dying a slow death beginning some years earlier and their life expectancy wasn’t long. Budgets had been slashed and early TV adventure and comic book inspired shows were beginning to encroach on their territory. In order to trim costs even further many serials produced in the ‘50s were shoddy makeovers, old concepts with a thinly applied coat of celluloid paint that relied heavily upon resurrected scenes from older and better serials. To this end actors were often hired to match stock footage of other performers from earlier productions, often even dressed in the same costumes.
Such was going to be the case of the Phantom sequelIn an interview many years later, Hart explained the entire Phantom sequel was actually filmed with him in the proper costume (stills exist depicting this). However, a stumbling block occurred when King Features, who owned the rights to the character of The Phantom, wanted too much money to use him again. This did not, however, deter skinflint Katzman who decided to go ahead with the project only altering the character’s name to Captain Africa and slightly changing the familiar comic strip costume.
According to Hart, aside from certain shots without him, the entire serial was scrapped and re-filmed as “Adventures of Captain Africa”Captain Africa wore a similar double holstered gun belt as his precursor but the skintight purple outfit with the striped trunks, hood and mask were replaced by a heavy-turtleneck sweater, an aviator helmet and goggles. It was hardly an improvement.
Frankly, the serial is a total mess. Screenwriter George Plympton and director Spencer Gordon Bennet went back to the drawing board and fashioned a crazy-quilt concoction made of scenes from the first Phantom serial, the aborted sequel, several other of the studio’s cliffhangers (especially “Desert Hawk”, but also “Congo Bill”, “Jungle Menace” and the Johnny Weissmuller feature “Voodoo Tiger”) and shot after shot of stock footage clumsily woven together within a totally nonsensical storyline. To aid in making some sense out of this a voice-over narration was also introduced. It didn’t help.
The plot, which takes place in what is described as the Near East has something to do with an attempt on the part of Nat Coleman (Bud Osborne), an animal trapper, and Ted Arnold (Rick Vallin), an adventurer who works for a world government agency (hmmmm, the United Nations perhaps), to help Nat’s native assistant Omar (Ben Welden) who is working against the evil intentions of bad guys Boris and Greg, to help restore his country’s throne to its rightful heir, the disposed caliph. Although they get into assorted scrapes along the way they are invariably assisted by the mysterious Captain Africa, described as a strange being the natives fear but worship.
Captain Africa”, in addition to being one of the talkiest, most long-winded, action free and dullest serials ever produced, also looks as if it was filmed 30 years earlier. In comparison to watching this serial crawl along, observing paint dry is an exciting spectator sport.
One can only imagine what the actors made of all this. The reshuffle from the earlier shoot and attempt to integrate so much diverse footage into the action as a means to curb costs must have made things very confusing. Moreover, serials, particularly Columbia serials, were on an incredibly minuscule budget already, so the idea of having to film this production twice must have really caused havoc with the front office.
In any case, the performances, like the serial itself, run the gamut from indifferent to embarrassing, but to be fair, given the mishmash of the production, one can hardly hold the most-likely bewildered players responsible. It was undoubtedly a payday they wouldn’t have minded forgetting about.
As Captain Africa poor John Hart has little to do but stand amidst a bunch of potted plants—doubling for an exotic jungle—pretending to observe the action going on around him. Likable Bud Osborne, traditionally a fixture in B-westerns, probably has more dialog in this than the sum total of lines spoken by him in all his other films combined. He seems completely out of his element and Rick Vallin, who shares most of his scenes with Osborne, looks similarly uncomfortable and perplexed. The always enjoyable Ben Welden as Omar gets to play a good guy for once but seems more silly than sincere. He was no doubt hired to match his original footage lifted from “Desert Hawk” (‘44). While there is really no female lead, a lackluster June Howard portrays Princess Rhoda with all the pizzazz of a park bench. Familiar faces Lee Roberts and Terry Frost are the bad guys Boris and Greg.
Judging by this production, the motion picture serial was not just dying. It was mercifully putting itself out of its own misery.

Captain Africa - serial cast

John Hart  -  Captain Africa
Rick Vallin  -  Ted Arnold
Ben Welden  -  Omar
June Howard  -  Princess Rhoda

Bud Osborne  -  Nat Coleman
Paul Marion  -  Abul El Hamid
Lee Roberts  -  Boris
Terry Frost  -  Gregg
Ed Coch  -  Balu

?   -  Shipboard man [chapter 1]
?  -  Garmand [chapter 1]
?  -  Joe 
Boyd Stockman  -  Boris' heavy [white suit] #1
Lynton Brent  -  Boris' heavy [white suit] #2
George Robotham  -  Boris' heavy [Pith helmet]

Augie Gomez  -  Hamid's man [chapter 1]; Outlaw [chapter 7]
Michael Fox  -  Hamid's Prime Minister [chapter 7, 8]
Kermit Maynard  -  Akbar [chapter 8]
Paul Stader  -  Bearded heavy [chapter 8, 13]
Ed Colebrook [?]  -  Outlaw leader [chapter 9]

?  -  Benoud [chapter 9]
?  -  Guard [chapter 10]
?  -  Guard [chapter 10]
Marshall Reed  -  Guard with dagger [chapter 11]
George DeNormand  -  Gorilla guard [chapters 12, 13]

?  -  Gorilla  [chapters 12, 13]
?  -  Guard [chapter 13]
?  -  Merchant [chapter 13]
Roger Creed  -  Cave heavy [chapter 14]

And various other non-speaking heavies of the World Organization, desert outlaws, and tyrant’s guards. The patched together serial was originally intended as a second Phantom serial but when producer Sam Katzman realized, after filming the serial, he didn’t have the proper rights, all of star John Hart’s scenes were re-shot. The serial includes stock footage from “Jungle Menace”, “The Phantom”, “Desert Hawk”, “Voodoo Tiger” and “Congo Bill”. Hal Polk notes stuntman Paul Stader often doubled Rod Cameron. Ed Coch was in Katzman’s last four serials and had bits in many ‘50s films like “Creature With the Atom Brain”, “Riding Shotgun”, etc. Formerly billed as Rico De Montez in Universal serials and features. (Cast compiled by Boyd Magers and Hal Polk.)

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O código secreto (The secret code) 

A Columbia fez outro seriado, com Bennet atrás das câmeras, desta vez com um herói fantasiado que não tinha sido oriundo das histórias em quadrinhos: O Código Secreto / The Secret Code / 1942, cujo personagem principal interpretado por Paul Kelly, ficou conhecido como Comando Negro.
Designado para prender uma quadrilha de sabotadores, o tenente Dan Barton (Paul Kelly) forja uma demissão da força policial e se infiltra entre os espiões. Concomitantemente, disfarçado com a indumentária do Comando Negro e com a ajuda da repórter Jean Ashley (Anne Nagel) e de seu colega Pat Flanagan (Clancy Cooper), ele consegue localizar o código secreto dos inimigos e desmascarar o chefe da quadrilha.     Valorizado pela boa história e a simpatia e irreverência de Paul Kelly, o seriado pode ser incluído entre os melhores da Columbia. Uma das cenas mais excitantes é aquela em que o Comando Negro luta com o piloto do avião. A aeronave é alvejada pela artilharia antiaérea e explode. No episódio seguinte, vemos o piloto caindo de pára-quedas, o Comando Negro agarrando-se a ele, os dois se atracando em pleno ar e, finalmente terminando a briga em terra firme.