The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)

Directors: John English, William Witney

The movie is made up of twelve episodes, which makes it more of a serial than a movie, but being that it was the first I am going to include it. The first episode is called Curse Of The Scorpion and it is thirty minutes long. The other episodes are 16 or 17 minutes long.It is set in a remote section of Siam, The valley of the Tombs. An archaeological expedition is exploring it to discover the lost secret of the Scorpion Dynasty. There is a curse on the tomb that the locals believe strongly in. Shazam appears out of a wall to Billy Batson. He tells Billy that he is now Captain Marvel and he must protect the golden scorpion. To change to Captain Marvel all he has to do is say Shazam. It's funny that they got another actor to play Captain Marvel, even though he doesn't wear a mask. When he says Shazam again, he changes back to Billy. The golden scorpion that the explorers find is supposed to change stones to gold, and it works! When the volcano goes off the natives attack to protect the tomb. Billy says Shazam and soon the flying superhero is routing the locals. The bridge that the explorers are using is about to collapse and the first episode end.

Each episode ends with a cliff hanger that will entice the movie going public to come back the next week. The car crashes in to the water but Captain Marvel dives in and save Betty and Whitey. Back in the US one of the five explorers ,the Scorpion, is scheming to get all five of the the lenses needed to work the golden scorpion for himself. The second episode ends with a knocked out Captain Marvel under a falling guillotine blade. I have to admit I did feel the draw of wanting to see how Captain Marvel would get out of this one. The guillotine fell and then broke around his super neck.

As the episodes go on Captain Marvel save Betty quite frequently, and always has some big problem to solve at the beginning of each episode. Planes blowing up, Betty knocked out behind the wheel of a car, Captain Marvel caught in a lava flow, bombs falling on Betty and a gagged Billy, Betty on a sinking ship, and then a trip back to Siam to find the missing lens. At the end the golden scorpion is going to be used to kill Betty. Billy is tied up, gagged and is watching. Billy tricks The Scorpion in to ungagging him, and he says Shazam. The Scorpion is unmasked by Captain Marvel and it is Professor Bentley. Captain Marvel then throws the golden scorpion in to the lava. Billy then changes back to Billy because he is no longer needed to protect the scorpion.

Poor production values are somewhat offset by the interesting serial approach that audiences today are not as familiar with. Interesting as a remnant of an age long gone. Someone could watch one of these serials and then go on to watch Citizen Kane along with another movie and maybe a cartoon. The Adventures of Captain Marvel was the kind of serial that the Indiania Jones movies were based on.

An interesting movie, with many of the elements of the superhero films that were to follow. Each episode starts with the titles and then a recap of where the story stands to remind viewers of where they left off the previous week. The chopped up style is a little annoying if you watch more than one episode at a time, but the serial is one continuos story.

Overall, a good superhero movie even though it is dated in many ways,

1. "Curse of the Scorpion" (30 min.)
2. "The Guillotine" (16 min.)
3. "Time Bomb" (17 min.)
4. "Death Takes the Wheel" (16 min.)
5. "The Scorpion Strikes" (16 min.)
6. "Lens of Death" (16 min.)
7. "Human Targets" (17 min.)
8. "Boomerang" (17 min.)
9. "Dead Man's Trap" (16 min.)
10. "Doom Ship" (16 min.)
11. "Valley of Death" (16 min.)
12. "Captain Marvel's Secret" (16 min.)