Tuesday, December 13, 2016


via Den of Geek:

I will tell any fan of superhero cinema who will listen that if you haven't seen Republic Pictures' 1941 serial, The Adventures of Captain Marvel, you're missing one of the crucial links in the chain. It's generally accepted that before the 1966 Batman TV series, live action superheroics were low budget, often embarassing affairs. And when it comes to some of the big names, you'd be right. Superman's first two big screen adventures, Columbia's Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs Superman (1950) serials aren't particularly memorable, Batman's two serial exploits in the serial genre in the '40s are for completists only (and the less said about the first one, which functions as some awfully racist anti-Japanese wartime propaganda, the better), and it's perhaps better if you avoid 1944's Captain America, as well.

But The Adventures of Captain Marvel is another story entirely. Consider for a moment that this was made in 1941, when superheroes themselves were a novelty, and not the pop culture mainstays they have since become. Republic Pictures were generally known as the best of the movie serial producers, and The Adventures of Captain Marvel is considered by many to be their best effort, and thus, the best movie serial ever made.

The production values are higher than many of its serial contemporaries, and Tom Tyler is a striking figure as Captain Marvel, with Frank Coghlan Jr. as his secret identity, Billy Batson. It's a slightly tweaked origin story for the character, Billy is in his late teens and is granted powers by the ancient wizard Shazam not in a subway, but in the middle of an archaeological dig gone wrong. Most memorable, though, are the flying sequences, achieved by nothing more complicated than a dummy on a wire, but which are far better than anything Superman was able to accomplish on screen until 1978's Superman: The Movie.

Anyway, now that I've oversold this, Kino Lorber Studio Classics have announced that they're releasing The Adventures of Captain Marvel on Blu-ray and DVD in early 2017. No word yet on whether this will include any special features, or how it will differ from the most recent DVD release from Artisan Entertainment, but Kino Lorber are known for the care they put into obscure releases like this, so if nothing else, it should look great. I'll update this with more info as we get it.

And one of these days, I'm going to write a very long article about The Adventures of Captain Marvel because, really, it's so cool.

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