Late Night Movie House of Crap: Superhero Serials

2 May

May 2, 2011

Let me first say that I don’t consider any of this crap. However they are old and in black and white and that’s enough for a lot of people. The special effects may not match today’s cgi magic but a lot of it stands up very well.

End of disclaimer.

This is going to be a big superhero movie summer. Thor, Captain America, and Green Lantern are all hitting the big screen. Comic book movies do well at the box office so it is no surprise that there are more installments of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man movies in the works, as well as Justice League and Avengers films in the wings.

A lot of people don’t realize how far back these films really go. for many people they go all the way back to the long-gone era of 1978 and Superman the Movie. They should go back quite a bit farther.

Serials were weekly installments of a story that usually ran from 12 to 16 weeks. If you went to the movies from the late 1930’s to early 1950’s for the Saturday matinée you’d likely see one or two serials, a newsreel, some cartoons, a B-movie, and the main feature. A few cents for a ticket kept you entertained most of the day.  Serials also tended to have great lobby cards and I have a few (reproductions, alas) in my collection. But on to the superheroes!

From 1948, here’s Kirk Alyn as Superman:

This isn’t Captain America’s first time on-screen either. From 1944, here’s Dick Purcell:

Think Batman begins with Adam West? Both Superman and Batman had two serials apiece. From 1949 here’s Batman and Robin:

Superman is the world’s most popular hero? Not always. Captain Marvel regularly outsold him and in fact Captain Marvel still holds the record for sales in the millions.

Cool as all of that is, here is the icing on the cake. This is a fan made trailer for what they call a “premake,” a “what if the Avengers film was made decades ago?” You can find a lot of these “premakes,” like Star Wars and Ghostbusters on Youtube. In the spirit of the superhero serials, here is the premake of the Avengers.

Take some time and watch the old stuff. There is some magic there. Some cheese too, but that is part of the magic.

11 Responses to “Late Night Movie House of Crap: Superhero Serials”

  1. Mac of BIOnighT May 2, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    I’m a big fan of old serials – if you haven’t seen any, you don’t know what movie fun is! Captain Marvel is just fantastic, if you want to start with a superhero serial, then I definitely suggest you start with this one. I really love the two Batman serials, but, as trivial as this may sound, the costumes bother me a lot and get quite distracting (in one the cape is constantly getting in batman’s way during any fight, not to mention the fact that it changes color every few episodes (yes, it’s BW, but you can see the colors just the same). In the second serial the hood keeps falling down blocking Batman’s sight and the poor guy keeps his head at a very unnatural angle in order to see thru it, which gets so annoying that I wish I could get into the screen and fix the damn thing with a couple of stiches).
    The Superman serials are also very, very good, in spite of Alyn’s very evidently gayish moves that don’t do much for Supey’s macho persona. Not exactly a superhero, perhaps, but I’d like to add to the list The Phantom, very nice serial indeed. I still haven’t been able to watch Captain America, though, as no official release has been made available and the one circulating among fans is kind of defective. Hopefully it will be released soon, in the wake of the new film.


    • bmj2k May 2, 2011 at 12:50 am #

      Maybe it is different in Italy but there are official Captain America releases. I had (or maybe still have) it on videotape, and yes, I still own a VCR.

      I love Superman vs. Atom Man, love Batman- probably because of the costumes, in fact- but I really love Radar Men from the Moon with Commando Cody.

      What did you think of The Avengers Premake?


  2. Mac of BIOnighT May 2, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    In Italy it is very different, serials never arrived at all 😉 I buy DVDs (and most other films, for that matter) from the States. However, there’s no official release on DVD in the US, either, as far as I know… there are some homemade releases, but the audio is unbearably out of sync in several parts and some of them even have all the episodes as one single track – forget random access 😦


    • bmj2k May 2, 2011 at 1:02 am #

      Amazon has a DVD listed so I assume it is official, but the reviews say the quality is awful.


      • Mac of BIOnighT May 2, 2011 at 1:09 am #

        Amazon even has some of my own CDr’s, so finding something on Amazon is no guarantee of quality ;-P I believe, however, this is just another DVDr release, not a real, cleaned-up real DVD release 😦


  3. Mac of BIOnighT May 2, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    Oh, I forgot: the prequel is a lot of fun, I saw it some time ago. Whoever makes them (there are a lot) is quite skilled and gifted with amazing memory and imagination 🙂


  4. Mac of BIOnighT May 2, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    If I read carefully, I could answer everything in one post… anyway: Radar Men from the Moon is one of my favorites as well, in spite (or maybe because) of its recycling material from every other serial, its complete absurdity, its plot where nothing makes any sense at all, its laughable bad guys, etc. Awesome 🙂


    • skinner May 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      Radar Men From The Moon was fantastic as MST3k fodder. 🙂


      • bmj2k May 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

        Look carefully at the beginning to see Leonard Nimoy in this one.


  5. skinner May 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    This is a great post all around – I didn’t even realize there was a Captain America serial! So odd seeing him holding a gun and killing foes left and right. Did they do away with the shield entirely?


    • bmj2k May 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      I need to rewatch at some point but I think he used it.


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