Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)

One Sheet Poster for Chapter Three

(Also released as The Return of Captain Marvel)

Adventures of Captain Marvel is considered by those in the know to be one of the best serials of all time, if not THE best.  I really couldn’t tell you if that’s true, as this is the first serial I’ve ever seen in its entirety.  For those of you who may be too young to know what serials were, they were essentially a long, exciting movie cut into what were referred to as “chapters.”  Serials, because of this chapter nomenclature, were also called “chapter plays”; another term for them is “cliffhangers,” as each chapter ended with somebody the audience was supposed to care for appearing to die (or at least meet a rather unwholesome fate), often either hanging from the side of a cliff or plunging over the side of a cliff in some sort of vehicle.  Whatever you want to call them, they were booked into theaters at the rate of about one chapter per week, where they played before the feature, along with a newsreel and a cartoon.  Most serials consisted of either twelve or fifteen chapters, with the first chapter usually running about a half-hour, and the rest of the chapters running anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes each.

Although practically every studio in Hollywood made serials, Republic Pictures was the king of the serials, and they produced Adventures of Captain Marvel.  I started to give you a quick rundown of what happened in each chapter, but that would have made this post longer than anyone should have to read, especially since it’s summer and you should be outside getting fresh air.  So, then I thought that I would just list the chapter titles, but I figured that even that would spoil some surprises, so I nixed that idea, too.

So, what I really want to say about Adventures of Captain Marvel is that it’s a lot of fun.  It moves like lightning, and I really didn’t have time to ponder some of the plot inconsistencies for long before I’d forgotten about them because a new peril for the Captain and company had arisen.  And there ARE plot consistencies, so don’t go into this with your brain in super-genius mode.  The filmmakers play fast and loose, especially with the cliffhanger endings.  There were at least two cliffhangers that I simply could not figure out how our heroes would survive; when the next chapters started and showed how they got out of their jams, there was cheating involved that would irk those who base their daily lives on logic.  Mister Spock would not be able to tolerate Adventures of Captain Marvel.

Before I go, let me just offer a few pieces of advice to future cliffhanger characters.  Villains, don’t hire henchmen that are stupid.  If a henchman applicant’s name is Lefty, don’t waste your time interviewing him.  He’s just not gonna work out.  And superheroes, if I can offer only one word of advice, that word would be…pockets.  Trust me on this one.  Find a seamstress and invest a few dollars in some pockets.  You WILL end up using them.

Here’s the trailer for the serial from YouTube:

And here’s a link to the entire serial, which has been broken into 2 (or in the case of the first chapter) 3 parts per chapter, depending on which uploads you watch.  Start your treasure hunt here with the first half of the first chapter:

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