King of the Rocket Men (1949, Fred C. Brannon), Chapter 4: High Peril

One of King of the Rocket Men’s unintentional strengths is its brevity. The chapters never go on too long. They’re all just right, even when they’ve got lackluster events.

Most of High Peril is lackluster. The opening cliffhanger resolution is lackluster, the group interrogation scene is lackluster, the car chase is lackluster. The car chase, with Tristram Coffin in full rocket suit gear for the pursuit, reuses a lot of old footage. There are a couple cool Rocket Man shots though, even if it doesn’t make any sense how the pursued knows it’s running from Rocket Man.

The pursued is Ted Adams, the prime suspect for the murderous scientist. Adams does okay with the panic, though director Brannon has a problem with dragging exposition a little too long. When Adams is mentally stumbling, trying to understand his peril (though not necessarily High Peril), Adams is visibly trying to pad out the performance. There’s not enough in the script to get him through.

Mae Clarke and House Peters Jr. have a pointless scene after the first car chase, just setting up Coffin to try to save the day again. Apparently Coffin and Peters just hang out at Clarke’s apartment when they’re bored.

The action-packed finale requires both Coffin and Adams to be idiots, which isn’t good, but baddie Don Haggerty does all right.

Even lackluster, Rocket Men gets by.


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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