THE EVOLUTION OF THE COMIC BOOK MOVIE: PART 5
As far as superheroes go, nobody is more associated with World War II than Captain America. He was created by Joe Simon and Jack Fucking Kirby in 1941 for Timely Comics, the publishing house that would eventually become Marvel Comics, the publishing house that would eventually take lots of my money. Like SPY SMASHER before him, Cap was created primarily to fight Nazis during World War II. Unlike Spy Smasher, however, people still know about him. Whether he was intended to be a propaganda tool from conception is debatable, but he was hugely popular during the war. Then, when the fighting ended, he faded into obscurity until the Avengers found him frozen in a block of ice in 1964. But we’ll get to that.
I’m never sure what superhero origin stories are known to non-nerds, and I sincerely doubt any non-nerds would be reading an article like this, but for the sake of completion, I’m going to briefly go over it. Steve Rogers was a skinny, sickly little bastard who really wanted to serve his country in the war. After being rejected over and over again, he volunteered to take the super soldier serum, which basically just enhanced him. So, where BATMAN is the most a man can be on his own, CAPTAIN AMERICA is more than that. No matter how hard you train, you’ll never be as strong or as fast as him, but it’s not like he’s SUPERMAN or anything. He’s just more than a man can hope to be under his own power. And, of course, he also has a shield that he throws around.
None of this, by the way, is relevant to Republic’s CAPTAIN AMERICA serial.
After SPY SMASHER and the racist propaganda of the BATMAN serial, I was looking forward to seeing the CAPTAIN AMERICA serial. I mean, this thing was made during World War II. How cool would it be to watch Captain America fighting Nazis in a contemporary setting?
Well, this wasn’t Captain America. There was no shield, no Steve Rogers, no Nazis, no acknowledgement of the war. Other than his costume and that people call him “Captain America,” there’s nothing to distinguish him as the comic book character. They might as well put him in a scarlet shroud and call him “Mr. Scarlet.”
As it so happens, a popular theory is that this was originally crafted as a serial for another Fawcett Comics character named Mr. Scarlet. For whatever reason, they ended up using Cap instead, and they just tossed him in there without doing anything to reflect the popular comic book character. What a waste. But, this lends credibility to my theory about ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, which was that it wasn’t written for Captain Marvel at all, they just shoehorned him in there. Apparently, Republic didn’t let anything go to waste.
So, it’s a little weird watching one of Cap’s adventures that took place in and was made in 1944, during World War II, and yet, there’s no mention of the war. But, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as long as they tell me a good story. And… well, it’s only okay, so no. I can’t forgive them for this ridiculous missed opportunity.
CHAPTER ONE: THE PURPLE DEATH
If this were a story about any other superhero, I would like the opener. Three men are mind-control into committing suicide by someone calling himself the Scarab. I like that kind of shit. It sets up a good mystery right away. Who is the Scarab? Why is he doing this? How is he doing this? Well, instead of making us wonder and surprise us with twists and turns over the next fifteen episodes, they decide fuck that, and just go ahead and tell us everything over the next couple of scenes.
First off, a reporter informs us that this spree is known as “The Purple Death Murders,” and that the victims are found with poison in their systems and clutching a jeweled scarab. Okay, so we’re starting with everybody already knowing these aren’t suicides, but murders. Then, the reporter tells us that all the victims are connected to a recent expedition into some Mayan ruins. Ah, so maybe it’s a curse. Hey, wait a second, this is starting to sound a lot like ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, isn’t it? Uh-oh. That’s not a good sign.
Cut to D.A. Grant Gardner as he visits Police Commissioner Dryden and Mayor Randolph to discuss what they’re going to do about all this. Captain America has helped them solve cases before—if only they could contact him now, darn it! I guess I should go ahead and address the fact that this Grant Gardner fella is Captain America. Yeah. Instead of a super-soldier, he’s a chubby D.A. It boggles the mind.
Cut to the Drummond Museum of Arts & Sciences, where we meet the monocle-wearing, pencil-thin-moustache-having Dr. Maldor, talking to a colleague of his named Lyman. Lyman worries that Maldor might be in danger of the Purple Death, since he was on the Mayan expedition, too, but Maldor says he can’t be in danger from the Scarab, because he is the Scarab. He’s all pissed off because everyone else on the expedition got rich and famous, and he got stuck as curator of this crummy museum. Bit of a drama queen, there, huh, Maldor? I mean, Jesus, dude. So he mind-controls Lyman with the fumes from a cigar and gets him to tell him about a…um…well, they call it “the Dynamic Vibrator.” Okay, I know this is a different era, but it’s really hard not to smile when they talk about this thing. I feel like a fifth grader, but I can’t help it. That shit is funny. Anyway, this particular vibrator can be used to disintegrate anything. And whatever. I feel like I’m being bombarded with information right now, though, and a lot of it is ridiculous. Oh well. Anyway, Lyman writes down the combination to the safe where he keeps the plans for the vibrator, then Maldor calls in his henchmen, Matson and Gruber. He has Gruber kill Lyman and sends Matson to go get the plans, arming him with some Purple Death bombs in case he needs them.
Matson and another thug go to Lyman’s house, but…Captain America shows up. With no shield. He’s got a gun, though, which is probably a more practical weapon, anyway. He’s also got a pretty big gut. Anyway, since this is a Republic serial, we know what comes next, right? Yep, a big ol’ fight. It’s pretty good, as expected. They really knew how to make entertaining extended fight sequences. Anyway, Matson gets away, but the other guy gets shot. Cap finds the bombs, then calls Commissioner Dryden, where we learn that Lyman has been found dead. Dryden hangs up and calls the D.A.’s office, but Gail Richards, the interchangeable girl of this serial (seriously, in all 4 of the serials I’ve watched so far, the girls are exactly the same), tells him that Gardner isn’t there right now, which serves to show us that Gail’s in on Gardner’s secret. She immediately calls Cap on the radio and he tells her to get some guy named Davis over to the office to analyze the Purple Death bombs.
We learn that it’s distilled from a flower, so Gardner and Gail come up with a plan. Basically, she takes a fake version of the extract to a bunch of florists until she finds someone who’s afraid to smell it. Pretty clever, I guess, if a little less than cinematic. When she finds the guy, he pulls a gun on her and ties her up in a back room. It never ceases to amaze me how the men of these serials always put women in danger. But if they didn’t, it’d be hard to rescue them, and Gardner shows up and does that here.
Now that the secret of the poison is out, Maldor is getting a little squirrelly. And there’s another problem. Gardner’s going to see a demonstration of the, um, the Dynamic Vibrator (snicker), and Maldor doesn’t want anyone else to know how it works. So, Maldor wants to destroy the Vibrator and kill Lyman’s assistant. But first, they have to make sure Captain America is out of the picture. They know he gets his info from the D.A., so they set a trap. They trick him into going to a motel where a thug is waiting for him. Okay, not the most inventive of traps, but I suppose it can work. Nah. Cap shows up, fights him and takes his gun, then sort of “Russian Roulettes” the guy into spilling his guts.
Meanwhile, Gail and some other guys show up at the lab for the…(heh-heh) vibrator demonstration. Pay close attention, Gail. Gardner doesn’t seem like he’d be the world’s most generous lover. During the vibrator demonstration, some thugs sneak in, take everyone prisoner and set the vibrator to full power with the intent of bringing the whole building down.
Cap races to the scene and fights the thugs, throwing one guy out the window to his death. Meanwhile, the power of the vibrator keeps mounting. And building. Nearing climax slowly, but ever so surely. Yes, it may take a while, but it’s going to deliver fantastic results. You can bet your sweet ass on that. While the vibrator does its work, everyone but Cap manages to get out of the building. But the massive tower can’t take the strain anymore. It’s pusating, throbbing, becoming impossible to contain any longer…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER TWO: MECHANICAL EXECUTIONER
Huh. This one has the extended opening for Chapter Two as well. That’s different for Republic. Used to be you only got the character intros on the first episode. Anyway, the resolution to the cliffhanger is fine. Cap wasn’t buried in the rubble as it seemed, but it’s not a cheat. He ends up jumping out of the building before it crumbles, onto a rooftop.
Later, Grant meets with Commissioner Dryden and Mayor Randolph to discuss what they’re gonna do about the Scarab. Sadly, they’re done with the vibrator, but there’s another plan for another weapon out there, some sort of electric pulse thing that can cut through steel and concrete.
Back at the Museum, the Scarab is trying to decode the plans for that weapon, but they can’t crack it. They need Lyman’s assistant, Dodge, but he’s under police protection, so they decide to get to him through Gail. Maldor goes and meets her, shaking her hand and poking her with a poison needle attached to a ring. It’s weird that he does it this way, because there’s no stealth to it. No one’s around. Why didn’t he just jab her with the needle instead of bothering with the subterfuge? Maldor seems to like to do things in an openly complicated manner. What’s the point of the whole Scarab identity, anyway? Well, it doesn’t matter. It puts her under his spell and he tells her to call the cop guarding Dodge and tell him that two men are coming over and he should let them in. Gardner arrives at the office just as Gail is coming out of her stupor with no memory of what happened. He drives them to his apartment, then goes inside and runs into one of the thugs. Apparently the other one already kidnapped Dodge and left. Not sure why they didn’t show that, but whatever. The thug takes Gardner’s gun away and shoots him, then puts the gun back in his hand to make it look like a suicide. Unfortunately for the thug, Gardner always loads the first chamber with a blank to be fired as a warning shot. So he was just playing possum. This leads to an office shootout which Gardner wins. He gets the operator to trace a call the thug made and finds out where they took Dodge.
Dodge is being interrogated in a barn, but he won’t give up the code. Not until they threaten to drive a tractor over him, anyway. They untie him so he can show them the code in writing. While he’s doing that, Gardner gets there, changes into his Captain America duds, then busts in. Big fight, then Cap gets knocked out. The thug starts up the tractor and escapes as the unmanned mechanical executioner heads for him…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER THREE: SCARLET SHROUD
Eh. He just wakes up and gets out of the way, then unties Dodge and learns that he gave up the code.
Later, we learn that the Scarab and his buddies have been busy with their new toy, breaking into vaults and stealing all sorts of shit. Apparently, Dodge has been working on some sort of locating device, and he calls Gardner and tells him the it’s ready. However, the Scarab has his phone tapped, so that can’t be good.
Gardner goes to pick up the locator so he can take it to a lab so some tubes can be put in it or some shit (I don’t know, and who cares, really?). While he’s there, the Scarab’s thugs tamper with his car, basically turning it into a bomb. Gail sees this from the window and runs out to warn him, but Gardner drives off before she gets out. So she shoots the thug and steals his car. Go Gail.
There’s a pretty good bit where he sees that he’s being followed, so he radios the cops and tells them to stop the car and detain the driver. But that’s Gail and she’s trying to help you, you idiot! Well, the cop stops Gail, but she explains what’s up. The cop calls in dispatch to warn Gardner, and he bails out just as it explodes. Whew!
Gardner has a fake story printed, saying he was injured in the explosion but the locator was destroyed, so Scarab will think it’s safe to use their vault-cutter-thing.
Well, the Scarab’s men use the thing and Dodge uses the locator to find them, then Captain America goes after them.
I’ve complained before about the treatment of secret identities in these things, but this serial’s particularly lazy about it. They let Gail be in on the secret, but supposedly nobody else knows. But like here, Gardner and a cop leave together to go after the crooks, but only Captain America shows up to deal with it. Kinda lame. Anyway, big fight. Cap and one of the thugs fall into this giant crate and while they’re fighting in there, one of the other thugs uses the ray-gun thing to set the crate on fire. Guess killing Captain America’s worth the life of his buddy. Anyway…TO BE CONTINUED.
Why was that episode called “Scarlet Shroud?” There was nothing either scarlet or shrouded. Seems to be pretty damning evidence against this originally being meant for that Mr. Scarlet character.
CHAPTER FOUR: PREVIEW OF MURDER
This one’s not bad. He knocks out the thug, then has to shoot out the braces that hold the crate together, then he knocks a wall down. It’s all on fire at the time, so it’s pretty good stunt work. Nice. One of my favorite stunt sequences so far.
Matson goes back to the museum to report to the Scarab. He doesn’t really care about the ray gun, but he wants some sort of robot-controlled arm that must’ve been there, too and got confiscated by the cops. No idea what they’re talking about.
Later, Gardner calls Maldor to tell him that Professor Lyman’s will is going to be read and he should be there for it. At the reading, Dodge is awarded Lyman’s house while Maldor gets everything in the museum except for some jewels that Lyman wanted sold to finance another Mayan expedition. Maldor promises to deliver the jewels tomorrow, then goes to the museum and talks to Matson about how they could kill Dodge easily if only they had their robot-controlled truck (Oh, I see, it’s the truck that’s robot-controlled).
Meanwhile, Gardner has the truck investigated and finds out it’s robot-controlled while Maldor and company spy on them. It’s not clear how they’re watching them since the view seems to be from somewhere outside the truck, but let’s not get technical. Gardner comes up with a plan to hide inside the truck so that when the bad guys robot-control it back to their hideout, he’ll be there. They know what he’s up to, but they do it anyway. They take it to a garage. They want Gardner alive, which is fortunate, I guess. They pull him out of the truck and tie him up. Then they put some explosives in the truck so they can blow up Dodge. Gardner escapes, but the truck has already left. There’s a fight, of course, and after he kills everyone, Gardner changes into Captain America, steals a motorcycle and goes after the truck. It’s a pretty decent chase scene. He ends up jumping on the roof of the truck, then climbing into the cab. He disables the robot control, but ends up crashing into the house and blowing up, anyway…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER FIVE: BLADE OF WRATH
Exactly what you expect. He just bails out. I’m not sure whose house blew up, though, because Dodge is fine. He calls Maldor and tells him he’s going to South America to try and get away from the Scarab. He asks for the jewels before he goes and Maldor agrees, but of course, he’s got a plan. Maldor brings the jewels over, and Gardner’s there. As soon as Maldor and Gardner leave, one of Maldor’s thugs sneaks in and kills Dodge, then steals the jewels back and sneaks onto a truck. Gardner finds Dodge’s body and chases after the truck, but the thug already escaped.
Gardner finds out the fingerprints on the trunk the dude escaped in belong to a guy named Lefty Harper, but the Commissioner tells him Lefty was found dead an hour ago. Some basic detective work leads them to a box company. Gail goes there and rigs a phone so Gardner can listen in. Then the thugs grab her and threaten to put her in a paper cutter. It’s basically a high-powered guillotine, which we know Republic loves. They tie her up under the thing as Captain America races over. Bit of a suspense sequence here, and it’s pretty good. The blade drops and Gail keeps silent, but the bad guys stop the blade before it cuts her in half. That dame’s got a lot of nerve. Captain America shows up and there’s a fight. Naturally, the guillotine gets triggered again. As the blade comes down…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER SIX: VAULT OF VENGEANCE
Cap stops the blade just in time.
Matson escapes and goes back to the museum to report to Maldor. He says either Gardner and Cap are one and the same, or they’re working together. So he’s not stupid. Gardner’s really not too careful with his secret identity. I’m kinda wondering why he bothers. Anyway, Maldor’s moving on, ready to take on another member of the expedition, a petroleum magnate named Henley. He sent Henley an extortion note that Henley has shown to Gardner, so Maldor has arranged for Gardner to come to the museum and sends Matson to bug his apartment. You know. Typical stuff. These serials really rely on the same sort of mechanics, don’t they?
Anyway, the plan works and Matson gets out of there just as Gardner arrives. The bug is hilarious, by the way. It’s about the size of a toaster oven. It’s not a very suspenseful sequence, but it takes a long time. Anyway, wouldn’t you know it, the second Gardner gets inside, Gail calls him, telling him that Henley is in the office and all worked up about the extortion note he just got. She also tells him that she’s been trying to call for the past ten minutes, but his line was busy. Hm.
Well, I can’t say I’m a fan of taking five minutes to tell us, then go through with all that stuff. One or the other would’ve been fine, I think. Oh well.
Gail and Henley come to Gardner’s place and show him the note. Gardner says that they’ll pay off the ransom, but he’ll have Gail make the drop, using a briefcase with a transmitter in it so they can track down the Scarab. Of course, Maldor hears about it, but Gardner was bullshitting, anyway. He found the bug and was setting a trap for the Scarab.
He’s still fine with putting Gail in harm’s way, so he sends her off to make the drop. Captain America shows up and fights some bad guys. It’s a pretty good one, ending with the bad guy being tossed off a cliff. Cap grabs the bad guy’s sniper rifle, steals his car and follows the other bad guys who took the case into their cave hideout. There’s another fight and Cap falls down a mineshaft. The bad guys drop some rocks on him…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER SEVEN: WHOLESALE DESTRUCTION
He just rolled out of the way. I wonder how he survived that fall, though. Even the real Captain America would be banged up. Oh well.
Back at the museum, Matson arrives with the money, but the immediate newspaper publication that must have been prevalent in those days (judging from these serials) tells them that the money’s marked, so it’s useless to them. He decides to go after Henley to punish him.
Henley shows Gardner the new threatening note that was just slipped under his door. He doesn’t want to help anymore, but Gardner talks him into it. Apparently, he found a business card on one of the men at the mine leading them to a used car lot. Fine.
Gardner goes there and finds out the manager sold him a truck the other day. He gives him the details and license tag and we learn it was delivered to a garage, but he doesn’t know which one. He can find out when he talks to the night manager.
Later at Gardner’s office, the guy calls and tells him and tells him the name of the garage. It’s the most useless scene ever. Nothing happens between him telling Gardner he doesn’t know, then telling him he does. Ridiculous.
At the garage, the bad guys are loading a bomb onto their truck. It drives off right before Gardner arrives. They try to get rid of him, but he finds the license tag, so they all start shooting at each other. Gardner kills everyone, then finds enough evidence to figure out what’s going on. He tells Gail to call the cops, then drives to the oil company.
He’s in his Captain America outfit when he gets there and finds the thugs hooking the bomb up. Big fight, then the place explodes (the explosion is awesome, by the way)…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER EIGHT: CREMATION IN THE CLOUDS
It’s pretty much a cheat. He just runs out before it blows. He also managed to turn a valve so only that one building got blown up instead of the whole thing.
Maldor and his men listen to the bad news on the radio. They decide to get their Mayan friend to kill him with a blowgun.
Henley tells Gardner he needs to get back to business and Gardner agrees to let him go as long as he brings some bodyguards. The Mayan guy is on the roof and shoots the blowgun, but Gardner sees him first and shoots him with a regular gun.
Maldor reads about the failure in the newspaper, but isn’t too worried about being found out. Just then, Gardner arrives with the blowgun and shows it to him. They keep talking about a guy named Grayson who’s an expert on blowguns, but he died a couple years ago. Gardner says he contacted his family to see if they know anyone who can help.
Gardner leaves and gets a shine from Maldor’s shine boy (who keeps a phone in his shoeshine box). Gail shows up and tells Gardner that she just heard from the Grayson fella’s grandson. He says he’ll be able to tell him who owned the gun (okay, I guess). Anyway, they need to fly him out. They leave and the shine boy tells Maldor. Their solution is to put a bomb on the plane.
Gardner gets to the airport with Gail and the blowgun. Apparently, everyone knew how to fly a plane back then, because Gail can do it. Gardner wishes her a safe trip and watches her take off. Then, he finds a mechanic the bad guys tied up. He changes into Captain America and, you know, fights the bad guys. Meanwhile, Gail’s plane blows up…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER NINE: TRIPLE TRAGEDY
This is the biggest cheat yet, because they change the time frame. Well before the plane blows up, Cap finishes off the bad guys and rescues the mechanic. Last episode, he was fighting them right until the plane exploded. Cheap. Anyway, the mechanic tells him about the bomb, he radios her and she bails out before it blows. Horrible.
Well, the blowgun was destroyed in the explosion, but they spread a fake story that they made an exact duplicate of the gun and Grayson can identify the owner from that. Maldor takes the bait and Gardner and the Commissioner set a trap at a hotel. The bad guys try to rig a bomb to kill Grayson…look, this is all really convoluted. The way it works out is that Gardner shows up with the fake blowgun and Matson and another thug gas him, then steal the fake blowgun. Matson leaves with the blowgun and leaves the other guy to kill Gardner. Cue the fight. It’s a short one, though. Gardner knocks him out a window and he falls to his death. Meanwhile, Gail follows Matson, then Gardner follows Gail, changing into his Captain America clothes.
We end up at a barn. Gail goes in and pulls a gun on Matson and another guy, but they turn the tables and knock her out. They decide to blow up the barn, but Cap gets there and starts a fight. It’s the kind of thing that while they’re fighting, there’s a blowtorch next to a trail of gunpowder that could ignite at any time. Gail wakes up just as the gunpowder ignites. Matson escapes, then the barn blows up. Lots of shit blows up in this one…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER TEN: THE AVENGING CORPSE
I like that they have “Avenging” in there. Nice future-telling there, guys. Anyway, this one’s another cheat. Cap knocks out the bad guys, grabs Gail and they escape before the barn blows.
Later, Gardner reads in the newspaper about Dr. Lyman’s brother, who has invented a device that can bring people back to life. That’s pretty impressive. He’s going to demonstrate the device and Gardner and Gail go to watch him try to bring a dead dog to life. Maldor will be there too, and of course that’s something he wants, so he comes up with a plan.
It’s funny, because there’s a lot of attention called to the fact that the Humane Society is involved in the experiment. I wonder if Republic had gotten in trouble with them before. Anyway. They put the dead dog next to the machine, then Lyman begins his demonstration. He injects the dog with something, then turns on the machine and the dog wakes up. It jumps out a window, then the Scarab’s men come in and hold everyone at gunpoint. They steal the machine, then there’s a shootout which Gardner wins.
He hops in his car and chases after the guy with the machine, who drops a few grenades on the road to slow Gardner down. Eventually, he blows up a bridge, so Gardner has to turn around and go back. When he gets there, he finds everyone is tied up and gagged (including Maldor), but Lyman was kidnapped.
Later, the bad guys leak some info to send Captain America to some shack (that I think was used in SPY SMASHER), which they’ve rigged to blow up. He brings Gail along as well, for some reason.
Anyway, you know how this is going to play out. First, there’s a fight, then the shack gets blown up with Gail inside…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE DEAD MAN RETURNS
She just runs out. You know how these things work by now. Matson is hurt but alive so they take him to the hospital.
Maldor discusses his next idea with Gruber, whom we haven’t seen too much of, but he’s in the opening credits. I suppose if Matson is Maldor’s right hand man, Gruber’s his left. Anyway, Maldor’s plan is basically to wait for Matson to die, then steal his body and reanimate it with that machine they stole.
The Commissioner calls Gardner to tell him that Matson is dead and the morgue is coming to pick up the body. Gardner and Gail decide to go to the hospital to see if maybe Matson made a “delirious remark” that will help them find Dr. Lyman (pretty thin, but whatever).
Lyman doesn’t want to bring Matson back to life, and besides, he needs one million volts of electricity. Well, it’s a good thing Maldor has some device that generates a lot of power. And if Lyman refuses to bring Matson back to life, they’ll toss him in there.
Maldor’s men stop the hearse while Gardner and Gail decide to go to the morgue just in case Matson’s friends try to steal the body. Good instincts. Anyway, they take the body and shoot the morgue guys, but one of them stays alive long enough to write the car’s license plate in the dirt. Gardner and Gail happen by, see the note, then call it in.
They bring the body to Maldor and Lyman starts the reanimation.
Gardner gets the info about the car, changes into his Captain America outfit and heads over to stop them. Just as Lyman’s about to injects him with the serum, Cap busts in and starts punching everyone. While he’s fighting, Matson revives. He’s a little groggy, but surprisingly lucid for a zombie. Lyman smashes the machine, so Maldor kills him, then escapes out the window with Matson. Cap’s fight takes him into that generator thing. Another thug flips the switch, apparently frying Cap and the guy he was fighting…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER TWELVE: HORROR ON THE HIGHWAY
Yet another cheat. He jumps out just in time.
Later, Maldor, Gruber, and the newly revived Matson hang out at the museum. Matson’s not a zombie at all. He’s perfectly normal and surprisingly relaxed for a guy who just came back from the dead. Anyway. They’re concerned about Dirk, the one survivor of the events of last episode, and whether he’ll talk to the D.A.
Gardner and the Commissioner discuss Dirk, who hasn’t cracked yet. The problem is the only witness is Captain America, and he can’t testify. Gail witnessed Lyman’s abduction, but that won’t be enough. But Gardner knows there was another witness and calls Dr. Maldor and asks him to come over and identify Dirk. Maldor talks to his lawyer and devises a plan.
At Gardner’s office, after a little song and dance, Maldor positively identifies Dirk. Gardner says he’ll let him plea down if he identifies the Scarab. Dirk says okay and says the Scarab was Dr. Lyman. They don’t buy it, but they send Maldor home to talk to Dirk some more. Dirk says there’s proof at Lyman’s house, so they go there.
Once they get there, Matson jumps out, kills Dirk and has a shootout with Gardner. That turns into a fight, and that turns into a chase. Maldor was waiting in the car, and he and Matson drive off. Gardner chases in his own car and after some driving and shooting, Gardner’s car goes over a cliff…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: SKYSCRAPER PLUNGE
Unsurprisingly, he bails out before the car goes over.
Later, Hillman, one of the backers from the Mayan expeditions calls Gardner, saying that he he found some map to a lost city. By the way, it’s hilarious how these people pronounce “Mayan.” No two pronunciations are ever the same. Gardner suspects the Scarab will stop at nothing to obtain the map, and apparently, Maldor has another piece of it.
Gardner calls Maldor and tells him about the map. Maldor goes to him and tells him his piece of the map was stolen. He gets Gardner to leave the office, then plants a bug in his desk. Through this, he learns where Hillman is being kept.
Later, Gail heads off to meet Hillman, while Gardner goes back to his office to retrieve some documents to the Commissioner. He catches one of Maldor’s men retrieving the bug and has a shootout with him, killing him. He calls Hillman and warns him, then heads over there.
Matson and another thug get there first. They use the old room service trick to get inside the room. They tie up Gail and the cop guarding them and stick them in the closet. Hillman refuses to help until they threaten to shoot Gail, so he opens the safe to retrieve the map. Gardner arrives, finds the real room service guy dead in a closet, so he changes into Captain America. Big fight, ending with Matson throwing Cap out a window. As he takes the skyscraper plunge…TO BE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: THE SCARAB STRIKES
He lands in a laundry truck, which is not bad as these cliffhanger resolutions go. Matson and his buddy kidnap Hillman while Cap climbs back up. He rescues Gail and the cop in the closet.
At the museum, Matson wonders how Captain America found out where they were.
At Gardner’s office, they find the bug and have it analyzed.
Maldor reveals his Scarab-ness to Hillman, telling him he wants to know where the lost city is. He’ll kill Hillman if he doesn’t decipher the plaques. Naturally, Hillman refuses, so Maldor ties him up and whips him with a cat o’ nine tails.
They find a fingerprint on the bug which leads them to a shady character named Graham, who calls the Scarab to warn him. Hillman gets tired of being whipped, so he says he’ll talk, but when they cut him loose, he runs for the phone. Like he’s going to make a really quick call or something. Anyway, they knock him out, but he breaks the phone. Maldor’s not happy about either of those things, so he leaves.
Gardner had the phone company tracking Graham, so they know the address of the place he called. Gardner goes back to Graham and grills him. Graham pulls a gun on him, but Gardner kicks his ass and takes it. He cuffs him and goes off to check out the farm. Luckily for the Scarab, Gardner cuffed Graham close enough to a secret radio he has, and he calls Gruber and gives him the skinny. Unfortunately, the phone at the farm is broken, so he can’t warn him. He radios Maldor and tells him the situation. Maldor decides to go get his plane and drop a bomb on the farm.
Captain America arrives at the farm and fights the guys. Meanwhile, Maldor flies above them, dropping bombs. He misses a couple times, but connects with the third.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: THE TOLL OF DOOM
Yet another cheat. They change the timeline again. Cap and Hillman are well clear of the place when it blows.
Maldor finally deduces that Gardner is Captain America and devises a plan to deal with it. They kidnap Gail and take her to the museum. Maldor reveals himself to her as the Scarab and uses his poison on her (that he must’ve forgotten about when dealing with Hillman). He’s altered it though. It’ll never wear off and she’ll go insane. Gail stalls and gives him some information. There’s a brain surgeon coming to fix Hillman’s noggin, so she gives Maldor that name.
Maldor has one of his men go to Gardner’s office pretending to be the doctor and learn the location of the hospital Hillman’s at. It was all a trap, though. Gardner knew he was an imposter, so he gave him the name of the wrong hospital, then has the call traced. He goes over there and has a shootout with Matson, then a fight. He wins and ties him up. Gardner explains to him that Gail used a code to warn him. She said the name of the doctor was Rodlam Baracs, which, when spelled backwards is Scarab Maldor. Quick thinking, Gail! Can’t believe Maldor didn’t see through that, but it’s clever for its time.
The fake doctor calls Maldor and Gruber to warn them about the trap. Apparently, he just barely managed to escape the hospital, where the cops were waiting for them. Maldor and Gruber go to Gail and…well, they’re going to turn her into a mummy by putting her in a glass case (don’t worry about it).
Gardner has a shootout with some of the Scarab’s men, then changes into Captain America and confronts Maldor. While they’re fighting, Gruber tries to turn Gail into a mummy with some gas or something. It’s not a bad suspense sequence, but they really should’ve introduced the gas idea earlier. Oh well. Anyway, Cap somehow manages to overpower the old man he’s fighting and save Gail in time.
Later, we learn that the Scarab was executed in the electric chair and that Captain America’s identity is now well-known.
This one has screenplay credits at the end, which I don’t think any other Republic serial has done before. For posterity’s sake the writers are Royal Cole, Ronald Davidson, Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Harry Fraser, Grant Nelson and Joseph Poland.
Well, in some ways, except for the fights and lack of racism, that was even worse than the BATMAN serial. And boy did they get the hero wrong.
Apparently, Timely wasn’t too happy with Republic’s interpretation. And this would begin about fifty or sixty years of Marvel heroes looking like shit onscreen. Oh well. Time to freeze Captain America and thaw him out in sixty years or so.