Tag Archives: Tom Tyler

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, William Witney and John English), Chapter 1: Curse of the Scorpion

Adventures of Captain Marvel has a lot of action in its first chapter. Setting up the ground situation is even action. There’s an expedition to Thailand and, although they have permits with the occupying British forces, the native people aren’t thrilled with the expedition coming in to tomb rob. So it’s up to native guide, John Davidson (no, he’s not Thai), to talk down the angry natives. He does, setting up not just the goals of the expedition, but the local superstitions and so on. Excellent exposition.

It all comes after a fairly exciting and well-executed siege sequence, with the natives attacking the expedition’s fortified camp.

Directors English and Witney shoot all the action well. Sometimes the stunt people are a tad obvious, but the action’s still good. And William Nobles’s day for night photography is solid too.

Anyway, the expedition rushes to grave rob, with only young (twenty-five year-old young) Frank Coghlan Jr. deciding he wants no part in breaking into tombs. He’ll just collect the ancient pottery. When the rest of the expedition sets off a trap and gets locked in the tomb, it’s eventually up to Coghlan to save them.

Luckily by then an ancient wizard (Nigel De Brulier) has bestowed the powers of Captain Marvel on Coghlan. He just says the magic word and he turns into Tom Tyler, who can fly, is impervious to bullets, is super strong, and who has a flashy outfit. Coghlan’s appealing. It’s not clear yet if Tyler’s going to be appealing. He’s effective, but appealing is something else.

Then there’s more with the native forces returning to attack in the middle of the night and grab the expedition’s findings. There’s this ancient device to turn any substance into gold. Each member of the expedition gets a piece–setting up the mystery of whoever is going to be the traitor. Coghlan (and Tyler) have to make sure everyone gets out of the camp and to safety.

Lots of action in the finale. The cliffhanger’s a great model but dramatically questionable so far.

Curse of the Scorpion sets up the serial incredibly well. It just doesn’t give any indication of how the serial’s going to play out chapter-to-chapter.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the Fawcett comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), Bryant Washburn (Henry Carlyle), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang), George Lynn (Prof. Dwight Fisher), Reed Hadley (Rahman Bar), Jack Mulhall (James Howell), and Nigel De Brulier (Shazam).


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The Mummy’s Hand (1940, Christy Cabanne)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this film.

There’s no discernible reason for it to be called The Mummy’s Hand. I can only guess it has to do with the way they cut the trailer, maybe having the hand come out as a shocker.

It’s not a traditional Universal horror film; it’s one of the first where they cut the budget. Until this point, the films were higher profile (the first three Frankenstein films, even Dracula’s Daughter).

The script is lousy, but it also introduces these bad comic elements–mostly from Wallace Ford, playing the idiot sidekick. The film also has George Zucco as the villain (not the mummy, but the mummy’s master). It’s impossible to take Zucco seriously as a villain in this one–especially since he’s a lecherous villain, lusting after Peggy Moran in these creepy scenes.

She probably gives the film’s best performance; she doesn’t have much competition. Dick Foran’s the lead, who is almost as dumb as Ford.

Cecil Kellaway is good as Moran’s father. Charles Trowbridge as the smart guy who helps the two morons, he’s fine.

Watching The Mummy’s Hand, you can see it as a straight comedy, with the bang, pop, zows of the 1960s “Batman” show, with a laugh track. They kind of need a laugh track. They ape lines from Dracula. It feels desperate.

Vera West gives Moran an amusing Egyptian desert nightgown and Jack P. Pierce’s makeup is great.

It’s hard to make it through the seventy minutes.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Christy Cabanne; screenplay by Griffin Jay and Maxwell Shane, based on a story by Jay; director of photography, Elwood Bredell; edited by Philip Cahn; music by Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner; produced by Ben Pivar; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Dick Foran (Steve Banning), Peggy Moran (Marta Solvani), Wallace Ford (Babe Jenson), Eduardo Ciannelli (The High Priest), George Zucco (Professor Andoheb), Cecil Kellaway (The Great Solvani), Charles Trowbridge (Dr. Petrie of the Cairo Museum), Tom Tyler (Kharis, the Mummy) and Sig Arno (The Beggar).


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