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Adventures of Captain Marvel (12 Chapter Serial) [Blu-ray]
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Newly Re-mastered from a 4K Scan by Paramount Pictures Archives! One of the Greatest Serials of All Time! Considered by many to be the finest serial ever made, Adventures of Captain Marvel chronicles the exploits of Captain Marvel (Tom Tyler, The Phantom), the world's mightiest mortal, as he combats the Scorpion, a hooded villain intent on obtaining six optical lenses that turn ordinary stones into gold! Highlighting the serial are the fabulous flying sequences by Republic's ace special effects team, Howard Lydecker and Theodore Lydecker. Combining a wired dummy photographed against real backgrounds in natural sunlight, with spectacular take-off leaps and landings supplied by action ace David Sharpe, the final effects are still as fascinating today as they were in 1941. Adventures of Captain Marvel marked the very first time a comic book superhero's exploits were transferred to the silver screen, and the resulting 12-chapter serial has yet to be equaled in excitement and entertainment. Directed by the great team of William Witney and John English, responsible for making some of the greatest serials of all time including the legendary Daredevils of the Red Circle.
Audio Commentary by Film Historians Jerry Beck, Chris Eberle, Shane Kelly, Boyd Magers, Leonard Maltin, Adam Murdough, Constantine Nasr, Donnie Waddell, Tom Weaver and J.D. Witney
Booklet essay by Matt Singer, editor-in-chief and film critic of ScreenCrush.com
Reversible Blu-ray Art
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Radio operator Billy Batson (Frank Coghlan, Jr.) is with an archeological expedition in Siam led by John Malcolm (Robert Strange). When the team plans to enter a tomb, despite a warning on an inscription, Billy feels uncomfortable and, remaining outside, is greeted by an old guy (Nigel de Brulier) brought to life by the opening of the tomb, who imparts super powers on Billy, who as Captain Marvel is tasked with protecting the innocent against misuse of the Golden Scorpion, the device that had been sealed in the tomb. The change between Billy Batson and Captain Marvel (Tom Tyler) happens by uttering the old guy's name, "SHAZAM," easier than having to carry a costume around. The Golden Scorpion, with its lenses adjusted can do amazing things with the power of the sun, such as turning rocks into gold, and like any good serial-movie device, it can also generate a powerful destructive ray. To avoid having it fall into the wrong hands, the Golden Scorpion and its five removable lenses are divided among Malcolm and his team members (Jack Mulhall, Bryant Washburn, George Pembroke, Harry Worth and Peter George Lynn), but soon the device and lenses are being stolen by a mysterious person known as "The Scorpion" who may be one of the team members. And native guide Tal Chotali (John Davidson) is certainly not above suspicion. It's up to Captain Marvel to fight this menace, aided by his alter ego Batson, his pal Whitey Murphy (Billy Benedict) and Malcolm's secretary, Betty Wallace (Louise Currie).
William Witney liked the plot, probably because it was straghtforward and wouldn't cause the problems he had with his previous serial, but it is nothing special. Like Columbia's "Mandrake the Magician" of 1939 it has a masked bad guy, obviously one of a group of trusted associates, who needs to collect critical parts for the device that will make him Master of the Universe. But the plot is not why these are watched, and "Adventures of Captain Marvel" has all the good qualities of Republic's best efforts in costuming, special effects and stunt work, accompanied by a dynamic musical score under Cy Feuer's direction. The flying scenes use the same technique seen in Republic's first serial, "Darkest Africa" in which a dummy travels on a wire, pulled by gravity. Here, this is expertly mixed with footage of our hero taking off or landing, aided by stunt man David Sharpe. And former weightlifter Tom Tyler looks the part, without need of any CGI enhancement. To keep the audience guessing, the hooded Scopion alters his voice to sound like Gerald Mohr. He has a lot of familiar henchmen, including Kenne Duncan, Carlton Young, Stanley Price and John Bagni in the credited cast.
Not only is Kino-Lorber's transfer sharper than Artisan's DVD, it has greatly improved sound. They weren't able to correct the distortion near the reel change of the last chapter, but elsewhere the frequency response is better, and the frame-rate racket of the old editions has been eliminated. Several disruptions due to splices and patching that were in the earlier transfers have been corrected, including the transitions to the technical credits after the "Next Week" titles.
Unfortunately, gremlins crept into Chapter Six, which runs slow by about 4%, 43 seconds more than the 16 minute, 40 second length on the earlier releases. It looks like every 24th frame is repeated, resulting in rough motion, most easily seen in the opening credits where the background clouds moving across the screen pause briefly once per second. This is less obvious during vigorous action, but shows up where cars are moving along a road, lurching as if a spark plug went bad. The effect isn't severe, and the sound remains at the correct pitch, but it shouldn't have happened. The other chapters are free of this problem.
The opening titles after Chapter One give a bad first impression of the film's condition, though this appears to be due to an admirable effort in restoration. All but the first chapter have main titles with MPPDA certificate number 6910. These should be different for each chapter, and while this has no other effect on the content, the short piece that includes the main title is fairly grainy and has a lot of scratches; it looks like Captain Marvel encounters heavy rain shortly after taking off. But the title appears to include the full frame, instead of the slightly cropped image in Chapter One. It was likely edited into the copy from the archive, in place of the 1950s reissue title, "Return of Captain Marvel." For that I think it is worth tolerating a few seconds of scratchy film. The recap titles also show slightly more of the frame than those in the Artisan DVD. The improved sharpness makes even minor scratches more obvious than they were in earlier video releases, but there aren't many of them during the chapters. It also makes the wires supporting Tom Tyler in some scenes easier to spot, but if you are noticing that you should move back from the screen and enjoy the show.
Kino-Lorber includes commentary tracks by people from different backgrounds, the task divided up by chapters. Some of these are more about the comic book source than the serial, but they present a variety of viewpoints. I found the commentary on Chapter Eleven by J. D. Witney, the director's son, to be the most interesting of these. There is also a booklet by Matt Singer with general background information on the serial, illustrated with some of the posters used to advertise it.
Even with the transfer blunder in Chapter Six, the Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray, ASIN: B073LWR973, is superior in most respects to previous editions, and decidedly preferable to all those "bootleg" Laserdisc copies that have shown up recently. It is also available as a DVD, see ASIN: B073ZYKLNB, likely from the same transfer, with the same issues. Watched with the usual day or more between chapters, the minor faults of both the print and the plot are easily forgotten in the enjoyment of this fine serial.
PHOTO 2: Get this one (Kino-Lorber)
PHOTO 3: Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel
PHOTO 4: Tom Tyler as The Phantom
PHOTO 5: Tom Tyler as The Mummy
There are two competing Blu-Rays of the 1941 serial "Adventures of Captain Marvel" on the market.
The Grapevine Video Adventures of Captain Marvel [Blu-ray] costs a few dollars less,
but the Kino-Lorber Adventures of Captain Marvel (12 Chapter Serial) [Blu-ray] comes with a lot of really well-done bonus features:
--- Twelve (!) audio commentaries: Three hours & 36 minutes.
Kino originally hired film historian Tom Weaver to provide background for two or three episodes,
but he had the novel idea of recruiting his friends and colleagues to cover all twelve episodes
(Weaver served as editor to avoid duplication).
Everything you'd ever want to know about Captain Marvel, Whiz Comics and Republic Pictures.
--- Fourteen page booklet.
--- Your choice of Blu-Ray covers: both based on original 1940's artwork.
--- The only thing it doesn't have is subtitles.
The Kino-Lorber picture is "remastered from a 4K Scan from Paramount Pictures Archives"
Apparently Paramount still has the original negative of a 76 year-old serial.
This is almost unheard of.
I think it's worth the effort - I hope enough copies sell to justify the expense
The picture is not pristine, but it is a big improvement over my old DVD.
The same opening credits are re-used for each episode and have visible scratches, but once past that the picture is quite impressive.
Captain Marvel was actually produced by Republic Pictures, but when Republic filed for bankruptcy in the 1950s, it's back catalog was acquired by Paramount.
In 1940, Republic Studios set out to produce the first movie serial based on a comic book superhero.
They wanted Superman, but couldn't reach a deal with National Periodical Publications (later known as DC Comics).
Captain Marvel (Whiz Comics) was Republic's second choice.
Captain Marvel was a blatant rip-off of Superman:
Billy Batson was an ordinary American boy who received the ability to become Captain Marvel from the wizard Shazam.
He does so by speaking the wizard's name, conferring upon him these powers:
S = The Wisdom of SOLOMON
H = The Strength of HERCULES
A = The Stamina of ATLAS
Z = The Power of ZEUS
A = The Courage of ACHILLES
M = The Speed of MERCURY
Captain Marvel wore a trademarked skin-tight suit, bullets bounced off him, AND HE COULD FLY LIKE SUPERMAN.
Republic's flying effects were spectacular.
They used a life-size dummy made of paper mâché.
Pulleys were connected to each shoulder and leg, which were then suspended on wires stretched between poles.
the Columbia Pictures Superman serial, which eventually appeared in 1948, used a cheesy animated cartoon technique for flying sequences .
To play Captain Marvel, Republic chose Tom Tyler (photo 3), who had been a B-movie Western star since the 1920s, but whose career was on a downhill slide.
Two years later, Tyler would play another superhero in the 1943 Columbia serial "The Phantom" (photo 4).
He even played a supervillain in the 1940 Universal feature film "The Mummy's Hand" (photo 4)
PHOTO 1: Avoid this one (Grapevine Video)
PHOTO 2: Get this one (Kino-Lorber)
PHOTO 3: Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel
PHOTO 4: Tom Tyler as The Phantom
PHOTO 5: Tom Tyler as The Mummy
As for the content itself: The film transfer is magnificent. The content is suitable for ages nine and up. There isn't a drop of blood, yet there is plenty of on-screen death, people getting shot, choked, implied violence, and people getting killed in various creative fashions. As for adults watching, I'm seeing it as someone unfamiliar with serials and highly familiar with movies of the period. Each episode holds up far better than many feature films of the era, even ones that have received greater accolades and acclaim. The dialog, characters, story writing, lighting, pacing, editing, makeup, hair, sets, casting, acting, locations, and especially the props, effects, and costuming are superb. Modern film producers should take note of the lessons delivered in the commentary. There's plenty of useful history and technical innovation that can help those seeking a balance of budget and artfulness. Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck are a couple of my favorite commentators. Buy it and watch it with your kids, your date, your parents, or your grandparents. It's highly accessible and entertaining overall.
Top international reviews
Superman (in Norway then "Stålmannen"="The Man of Steel") was appearing by then in comics magazines, but "Captain Marvel" ruled in cinema. However, I believe the series in Norway was cut down into two normal-length episodes, in "cliffhanger style": So we ten/eleven-year youngsters with a desire to experience the fantastic ran along from home to secure a forward position in the cinema queue, sat on the edge of our seats gasping as the Captain flew about to save archeologists and damsels from the sinister plots devised by the strangely cloaked vilain and his large gang of hoods.
When the end sign "Come back next Saturday to see what happened to our heroes in the explosion!" came up, there was no doubt in our minds where we would be on next Saturday.
I bought this set to have some fun and check if my memories served me right, and I was astonished to see that all scenes /images i have held in my head since the 1950's matched rather perfectly. Apart from that, I still like the story despite poor acting, repeated gun fights etc. This is a youngster serial from 1941 and must be judged by different standards than new movies. Actually, many of the hand-fighting scenes are surprisingly fresh. Some new, funny elements have been added by sheer time: I note that all bad guys in those days were dressed in a nice suit and even a TIE. Not to mention the undispensible HAT. Technically, I am impressed by the quality in picture and sound, I would have accepted far worse.
we sang "we are the minors of the abc !" there was a cartoon & western,but
what made us go back week after week was "captain marvel" even then it was quite dated but watching it now once again,for 1941 the serial is
a geeky young man called billy batson says "shazam "& becomes captain marvel !a caped crusader (with half a cape!) but he only possesses this power to rid the world of the evil
scorpion ! we were glued to it then as i am now ,tom tyler is great & those
flying effects still look good now ! what sets this super hero out from the
rest is captain marvel is not merely billy batson dressed up ,he appears
by magic in a puff of smoke! shazam !
Surprised and disappointed.
El producto está hecho en DVDs imprimibles y la portada impresa de manera casera. El precio está muy elevado para el material con el que está hecho. No lo recomiendo. Hay otra versión en DVD que está cómo 5 dólares más cara, pero probablemente tenga mejor calidad.