King of the Rocket Men (1949, Fred C. Brannon), Chapter 2: Plunging Death

The coolest part of Plunging Death is a toss-up. It’s either when lead Tristram Coffin, who doesn’t get to participate in the chapter’s fisticuffs, pulls over to put on his rocket suit and take off to chase the villain or when Mae Clarke starts pursuing the villain in the first place. She and House Peters Jr. get ambushed by a couple thugs; while Peters exchanges blows with one thug, Clarke goes after the escaping one.

The silliest part of the chapter is when escaping thug Don Haggerty has to call his boss, the mysterious Dr. Vulcan, to figure out Clarke is in pursuit.

Some more nice effects for the flying rocket man. The editors are better cutting his effects sequence–he lands on Clarke’s car, which Dr. Vulcan has under remote control–than Dr. Vulcan observing Clarke’s pursuit (then peril) with his (presumably) radio wave based television system. Some of it’s director Brannon’s composition–the monitored action does nothing to amp Clarke’s peril–but the cuts don’t help.

King of the Rocket Men is fast and exciting so far. After the previous cliffhanger’s resolution and some previous chapter plot thread wrap-up, things get moving. Then there’s action, more action, cliffhanger. It’s a fine, fun formula.

And the rocket suit’s neat. It looks clunky, but Coffin takes it real serious before the special effects take over.


Directed by Fred C. Brannon; written by Royal K. Cole, William Lively, and Sol Shor; director of photography, Ellis W. Carter; edited by Cliff Bell Sr. and Sam Starr; music by Stanley Wilson; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Tristram Coffin (Jeffrey King), Mae Clarke (Glenda Thomas), Don Haggerty (Tony Dirken), House Peters Jr. (Burt Winslow), James Craven (Prof. Millard), I. Stanford Jolley (Prof. Bryant), Ted Adams (Prof. Conway), and Stanley Price (Prof. Von Strum).


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