ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL
Adventures of Captain Marvel is often spoken of as one of the best of all the serials. Its not quite s or at least if it is that may say something about the impoverished quality and production values under which most serials were made. Certainly, Adventures of Captain Marvel is the most superheroic that serial superheroes were ever allowed to get. The film throws in a series of dynamically directed shots with Tom Tyler diving and forward-rolling into the action that are combined with flying model shots and back-projected footage (most of which are repeated several times over throughout). Crucially though, this Captain Marvels superherodom never extends much more than that in one scene, he rescues several people from a car that has gone off a bridge into the river but mundanely carries them out one at a time, whereas with any modern superhero you would expect him to lift the whole car out; in another scene, he and Louise Currie are tied up on a bombing range and he merely carries her away to shelter behind a rock while the hut blows up behind them instead of flying away to safety with her in his arms as one might imagine. This is the most superheroic that superheroes of the serial era ever got a few jumps, a couple of back-projected flight scenes and maybe one instance of super-strength not even the well-remembered The Adventures of Superman (1953-8) tv series rose above this imaginative impoverishment, while the serial incarnation of Superman in Superman (1948) cut its corners by animating all of the flying scenes.
There is the odd moment that raises some eyebrows today in one scene, Captain Marvel turns a machine-gun around and wipes out a horde of natives, while in another he throws a villain off a rooftop. Certainly, one aspect that the serial does well is the alter ego, even if it is only a far less complex copy of the Superman/Clark Kent dichotomy. Frank Coghlan Jr makes a convincingly geekish and nasally ingenuous Billy, while the hawk-faced Tom Tyler makes a suitably intense and heroically profiled Captain Marvel.
There are some decent cliffhangers and death-traps one where Captain Marvel is trapped on an electrified conveyor belt that is taking him toward a guillotine; a hidden panel that swings machine-guns into action to target interlopers; an excellent special effect with the hoods using the half-completed lens to melt the entire mountain; and a decently sustained sequence where the crew of a sinking ship are ferried to shore in a set of breeches. As with all serials, aspects of the plot are contrived people deciding to have meetings at mines, Louise Currie racing off to try and trace the serial number of a truck, Billy deciding to fly to a meeting in his own plane which are there for no other reason than to extend the plot and create cliffhangers. It makes for a passably decent serial, although hardly a classic.
Captain Marvel later appeared in a live-action tv series, The Shazam/Isis Hour (1974-6) where he was played by John Bostwick in the first season and John Davey in the second. There was the subsequent animated tv series The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! (1981-2), which is probably the one media incarnation that comes closest to the comic-books, incorporating the Marvel Family. He has also appeared in the live-action superhero comedy Legend of the Superheroes (1979), even in a dream sequence in an episode of The Drew Carey Show (1995-2004). He has also made appearances on various animated DC series such as Justice League Unlimited (2001-6) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-11), as well as a cameo in the animated film Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009). In the New 52-based Justice League: War (2014) and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015), Shazam (voiced by Sean Astin) becomes a full member of the Justice League. In the 00s, plans were announced to make a big screen Captain Marvel film, although these have yet to emerge.
Full film available online here:-