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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW---The Adventures of Captain Marvel

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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted December 20 2003 - 11:44 AM

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The Adventures Of Captain Marvel

Studio: Artisan/Republic
Year: 1941
Rated: NR
Film Length: 216 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
Audio: DD Mono
Subtitles: None
Retail Price: $14.98

I decided to let Scott review the screener for the recent release of the 1941 serial The Adventures of Captain Marvel, which marks the first serial released to DVD by Artisan/Republic. I've known Scott for many years now and his knowledge of serials has always amazed me so I felt it was best for him to handle this release and inform others about what Republic has in their vaults.

Review by Scott Favareille

The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) is Artisan's first DVD release of a Republic serial. (Several other Republic serials have appeared on DVD, most notably from VCI and Hal Roach Studios/Image) Artisan did decide, however, to release with what is considered by many cliffhanger fans to be the greatest serial ever released. For the most part, Artisan has not disappointed and this disc can be had for around $10 at some on-line retailers.

Captain Marvel was originally conceived as a second attempt by Republic to do a serial based upon the Superman character. (Republic's first attempt came a year earlier, but negotiations with the publishers of Superman fell through and that first attempt became the Republic serial called The Mysterious Dr Satan.) Republic was competing with the Fleischer Brothers and Paramount for the film rights to a Superman project. Paramount and the Fleischers won over Republic and they produced a number of Superman cartoons between 1942-1944. Republic, having lost out, decided to negotiate with Fawcett Publications, who was publishing a rival to Superman, and that was Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel, whose comics had only been published for a year, actually became so popular that his two titles (Whiz Comics and Captain Marvel Adventures) were outselling the two Superman titles in 1941. Thus, in May 1941, when The Adventures of Captain Marvel first hit theaters, Republic wound up with a hit on their hands. The serial was re-released theatrically in 1953 (as Return of Captain Marvel) and in 1966 (to cash in on the Batman craze) and even played some theatrical engagements in the early 1970's (with, of all things, Reefer Madness!).

The plot of the serial involves an archiological expedition going to Siam, where they discover a golden scorpion and 5 lenses. When put together, they can form a powerful weapon. One of the expedition members, seeing this, decides to become a masked villain named The Scorpion, and he convinces some natives to attack the expedition. One of the other expedition members, Billy Batson, discovers a god named Shazam, who tells him about protecting this golden scorpion and grants Batson powers to turn into a superhero named Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel helps the rest of the expedition to fight off the natives and then the expedition goes back to the US.

Back in the US, the masked villain, The Scorpion, decides to go after the lenses (which the archiologists decide to split up amongst themselves). The serial becomes a whodunit now, as the suspects get murdered off as The Scorpion steals the lenses from the others. Captain Marvel does battle with the Scorpion and his henchmen throughout the remainder of the serial.

Tom Tyler, who was best known for his Western roles in the 1930's (including a final showdown with John Wayne in Stagecoach), plays Captain Marvel. Tyler does not have a heavy amount of dialogue (and much of that is short phrases like "Where's Miss Wallace? Talk, or I'll..."), but is quite believable in his role. (The main credit should go to Dave Sharpe, who did much of the stuntwork as Captain Marvel, including a sequence in which he knocks down two villains at one time with a somersault). Frank Coghlan Jr plays Billy Batson. The most familiar faces to film fans would be Kenne Duncan as Barnett, the Scorpion's main henchman; William Benedict as Whitey, and Reed Hadley as Rahman Bar, a villainous native in Siam. Duncan is best known for his appearances in Ed Wood films. Benedict played Mr McNabb in several episodes of All in The Family (he was the neighbor who was against the Jeffersons moving in), and Hadley was better known for the 1950's TV show Racket Squad and various narrating roles. (An uncredited Gerald Mohr, familiar to film noir fans, does the voice of The Scorpion) To serial fans, you will also spot Robert Strange, John Davidson, George Pembroke, and Jack Mulhall.

Captain Marvel first appeared on home video in the early 1980's on VHS and Beta on the Nostalgia Merchant label. Republic Pictures home video later released it on VHS and on LD in the early 1990's. It appears that Artisan did use the LD master for their DVD issue of this serial. The transfer itself has a good clear picture, with some minor scratching (and one noticeable one in Chapter 2, this was also on the LD as well). Some night scenes in Chapter 1 were a little dark. The sound does have some flutter in some musical passages, and there is some background hiss, but the dialogue is quite audible. I do prefer the sound on the LD because of the flutter makes some of the music harsh sounding, however, it does not deter me from rewatching this DVD. The picture is full frame 4:3, no noticeable overscan noted. The sound is Dolby Digital Mono. The only extra is a trailer in decent shape. The menu does have the following options: Play all, Chapters 1-6, Chapters 7-12, Trailer. Each chapter does have a scene access menu, which allows you to access 5 scenes per chapter. (Chapter 1, which is longer, has 8 scenes you can access.) The chapters run 17 minutes each, except the first one, which is 30 minutes.

To conclude, Artisan has done a decent job with this DVD release. While extras are scant, the fact that you can get 4 hours of entertainment for around $10 is a good deal in itself. Let's hope this sells well enough for Artisan to release more Republics. Some good ones to consider: Nyoka and the Tigermen, The Fighting Devil Dogs, Spy Smasher, The Purple Monster Strikes, Mysterious Dr Satan, and King of the Rocketmen.

Scott Favareille

Release Date: December 16, 2003

#2 of 12 OFFLINE   John Sparks

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Posted December 20 2003 - 12:44 PM

When I had a 55' 4x3 TV, my LD's looked great, especially "Capt. Marvel."

Now that I've got a new 65" 16x9 TV, all my LD's look like crap.

I guess it's time to finally replace them with their DVD counterparts.

...oh yeah, great review. It's nice when someone can review and compare the DVD with the LD, it really helps. There are still many LD collectors out there!!! Posted Image
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#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Joe Bernardi

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Posted December 21 2003 - 03:11 AM

I ordered this from DeepDiscountDVD.com for $7.97.

#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted December 21 2003 - 03:49 AM

I saw this spliced together in its entirety for the 1966 reissue, and had a blast. So, when I saw this listed at Laser's Edge for a ridiculously low price, I bit. And so I am pleasantly surprised to see that our Artisan-assigned reviewer has given it exposure here. Bravo!

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Dan Rudolph

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Posted December 21 2003 - 06:38 AM

I also bought this for DDD's ridiculously low price. Haven't had a chance to watch it yet, though.
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#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Paul Drake

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Posted December 21 2003 - 11:21 AM

Excellent review Scott. Thanks.

I will be picking this up. I find serials fascinating to watch and they're great fun to boot. The only trouble is that finding them to watch is next to impossible unless you go the collector to collector market route or your local video rental store stocks the old republic VHS.

Hopefully this one will sell and lead to the release of some of the Kirk Alyn Superman titles or the elusive "Batman" serials. I understand from the serial squadron forums that a private collector has the Lone Ranger serial, but isn't willing to share Posted Image

#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Larry Sutliff

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Posted December 21 2003 - 01:11 PM

Excellent review, Michael, thanks!

The one serial I really want to see released is Republic's CAPTAIN AMERICA. It's a lot of fun, and has what is probably my favorite score for a serial.

#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted December 21 2003 - 03:12 PM

I'll try to get this ASAP. The classic Republic serials are a LOT of fun to watch... Spy Smasher is my favorite, though.

#9 of 12 OFFLINE   pitchman



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Posted December 26 2003 - 03:38 AM

Excellent review, Scott! I still have this on laser and pull it out every so often to give it a spin. To this day, I remain a big fan of the Lydecker Brothers ambitious special effects work. Their flying effects in particular are so much more sophisticated and believable than what Paramount settled for in the Superman serials. Hell, they're even better than what we got for most of the original George Reeves TV series. I still get a major kick out watching the Big Red Cheese flying after a speeding vehicle and seeing Captain Marvel approach the moving car or truck, together in the same frame.Posted Image The fact that the Lydeckers (and David Sharpe) could pull this off in 1941 is a true bit of 'movie magic.'

It is great news that Captain Marvel is out on DVD. Although I am still happy with the LD, I will pick up a copy of the DVD if for no other reason than to show the studios that there is an audience for these films and hopefully encourage them to release more. The fact that Artisan has released this at a fraction of the price of the original 2-disc laserdisc set, makes it all the better!

#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Eric Emma

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Posted December 26 2003 - 04:45 AM

I might pick this up since I'm a fan of comics, and captain marvel an awesome chracter...

#11 of 12 OFFLINE   CoreyII


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Posted January 05 2004 - 11:34 AM

I have this serial on VHS, I never knew it was realeased on laserdisc or I would have tried to get for my LD collections.

This is a fun series and it's been a long time since I've watched it. I was always amazed at how good the effects were back then, especially when compared with the Kirk Alyn Superman serial.

Growing up, I always thought Captain Marvel was much cooler than Supes because every other kid loved Superman and I always wanted to be different than the crowd.

Now having read comic books for over 20 years that opinion has changed, but I still do like Captain Marvel alot.

As a matter of fact I have many episodes of the 1970's Shazam seires by Filmation studios.

Now thats a series I would love to see get released on DVD, along with Isis.

#12 of 12 ONLINE   Steve...O



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Posted January 05 2004 - 12:24 PM

Now thats a series I would love to see get released on DVD, along with Isis

Yes! Both had fairly short runs and should be fairly easy to put the entire series in one package.

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