Observations on The Adventures of Captain Marvel

A few days ago, I dug my old VHS copy of “The Adventures of Captain Marvel,” an old 12-part serial from Republic Pictures.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it — even with all the hammy acting and extreme low-budget special effects.

The film stars Tom Tyler as Captain Marvel, Frank Coghlan Jr. as Billy Batson and, according to the credits, The Scorpion as The Scorpion.
Some observations I had about it as I watched all 12 episodes:

  • Tom Tyler pronounces Shazam! as “Shazem!”
  • Frank Coghlan Jr. has a voice that could peel paint off of walls. I know he was trying to sound young, but he didn’t need to sound like a kid on the road to puberty.
  • The Scorpion (played by The Scorpion) has that kind of cool “menthol voice” that they used to advertise cigarettes. You know, when they were “good” for your health.
  • I have to say, The Scorpion’s costume is really quite neat. The only tweak I’d do if he ever made it to comics is have the hood’s scorpion claws “grab” the eyeholes, just like the Scorpion Atom Smasher holds the lenses
  • Now if we were to get a comic version of the Scorpion what would he be? Definitely something more than a guy in a hood and cloak, I’d hope. How about make him shoot heat rays and be a criminal genius. At least then he could stand against the World’s Mightiest Mortal.
  • My friend described the scorpion symbols on his cloak as “Scorpion pasties.” Boy, I wish I came up with that joke.
  • Captain Marvel liked to show off a bit: He’d let people shoot at him a few times before assaulting them. Why not just trash ’em right away? Oh, that’s right, he was trying to impress Betty.
  • Flashpots are perfectly OK substitutes for lightning bolts. But if you watch Coghlan and Tyler, they often look down to make sure they’re on their marks before the explosions go off.
  • So what if the “flying Captain Marvel” was a 7-foot-tall papier mache dummy? It looked really cool.
  • I read on IMDB.com, that the Scorpion Atom Smasher appeared in the “Power of Shazam!” comic. That’s awesome, and something I completely forgot about.. It should be included in DC’s list of “Items of Power.”
  • The episode where the Scorpion Atom Smasher melted the rock above the mine was really impressive … but why didn’t Cap just fly above all the molten rock?
  • Why didn’t they make another series of this. I imagine it would have been a huge hit.
  • Whitey? You wouldn’t get away with a nickname like that anymore.
  • Tal Chotali? I was sure he was going to be Ibis!
  • The Wizard Shazam? Old. Gross beard. Yep, that’s how he ought to look.
  • If Billy’s so young, why’s he driving a car?
  • How come no one ever asks Billy “How’d you get here?” when it’s very clear there’s no way he could have got here. … Unless … he and Captain Marvel are the same … no, that’s just silly!
  • Why is it that only Billy gets gagged? Oh yeah, it’s that irritating voice of his.
  • I liked seeing the models of the car and boat being used. I miss seeing models like that. “Boo!” to CGI. Let’s see some real craftsmanship!
  • Captain Marvel sure likes to throw around dummies! He really hates those things, doesn’t he?
  • Funny how Captain Marvel’s stomping grounds look an awful lot like Southern California.
  • Funny how “Bangkok” looks an awful lot like Southern California.
  • For future reference: Gangsters and Captain Marvel don’t mix. Cap tends to punch them — a lot.
  • Sidebar image courtesy of SuperheroLives.com!


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