Film & Water #118 – The Adventures of Captain Marvel



Holy Moley! Rob welcomes Michael Lane (COMICS IN THE GOLDEN AGE) to discuss the very first live-action superhero adaptation, 1941's THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL movie serial!

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14 responses to “Film & Water #118 – The Adventures of Captain Marvel

  1. Great episode! Always nice to hear Michael. The man knows his stuff!

    I am ashamed to admit I have never watched this serial in its entirety. I need to remedy that on YouTube. Maybe a chapter a night for a while? Sounds like a good idea!

    I do recall finding that Continental Airlines commercial on YouTube a few years ago. And speaking of Buster Crabbe, I believe one of the other Kryptonian council members is wearing Crabbe’s Flash Gordon tunic on The Adventures of Superman episode, “Superman On Earth”.

    The Kirby Podcast sounds interesting! Can’t wait to hear it.


    1. There’s a new Blu-Ray that was released earlier this year. There is a commentary track with Leonard Maltin & some of the guys from the Comic Geek Speak podcast. I bought it but haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.

      As for Zachary Levi, I was a big fan of “Chuck” and think he’s a great fit for the character. They also recently announced the casting of a young actor for the Billy Batson role. He & Levi were photographed together at the Justice League movie premiere:

      1. Asher Angel is one of the stars of Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” show which my daughter watches. That whole cast is really strong for a group of kid actors, so I think we’re in good shape in theory.


  2. Thank you for bringing this lost treasure to my attention. I remember seeing the Shazam! TV series as a kid, but never knew this movie serial existed. Now, I know what I’ll be watching on YouTube in my free time.

    Like Michael, I hope that I might be able to take my daughter to see the upcoming Shazam movie, as well. The only live action superhero movies she’s seen so far are the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies (the first on DVD and the second in a theater), because she fell in love with baby Groot in the TV spots for Vol. 2. She loved the movies, but I found myself cringing and questioning my parental judgement during several scenes.

  3. Thanks again for having me on Rob. One piece of trivia I forgot to mention is that Frank Coghlan Jr. And Tom Tyler both had tiny parts in Gone With the Wind. I recall Coghlan had a speaking part, just one or two lines, and am not sure about Tyler. Sort blink and you’ll miss them roles. (I’ve actually never seen the film, only read up in their parts.) Which is especially interesting George Reeves also appeared in the film.

  4. By calling the Captain Marvel serial the “very first live-action superhero adaptation,” I gather that you guys don’t consider the Green Hornet (who had a serial in 1940) a “superhero.” I would certainly agree that he blurs the lines, at best, but in a world where Batman is generally considered a superhero, it seemed worth mentioning.

    1. You are right, it’s probably more accurate to say comic book superhero since Green Hornet started outside of comics first. They had also adapted comic strip heroes before. But Cap was definitely the first comic book character.

    2. Provenance and era, for me, are indicators of whether a character is a “superhero”. So Hornet, like the Shadow and Doc Savage, is a “pulp hero”. Non-powered Golden Age heroes are “mystery men”. Powered heroes from that era, and all costumed heroes from the Silver Age on up are “superheroes”. So Batman was a mystery man until he became a superhero.

      Just my personal nomenclature.

  5. Hi Guys. The reason why Republic Pictures never did a follow up to the Adventures of Captain Marvel is because National Comics was threatening any company that licensed the character from Fawcett with a lawsuit. They thought it was too risky to get in their crosshairs. Consequently, Fawcett ended up producing most of their own Captain Marvel-related merchandise because other companies took National’s threat seriously.

  6. Great podcast, the most important thing to keep in mind about “Adventures of Captain Marvel” is that the viewer is never formally introduced to Captain Marvel. Tom Tyler was enigmatic enough to pull off the superhero well enough. Shazam!

  7. Great show, Rob and Michael.

    I remember this serial played on Canadian TV in the late 1970s or early 1980s. There was a show on TVOntario – which was a sort-of Ontario, Canada version of PBS – called Magic Shadows which broke up movies into half hour segments that would air across the week. As a lot of older films are less than two hours, Friday nights would often be “Serial Night”. (The show was hosted by Elwy Yost, a jovial Canadian version of TCM’s late Robert Osborne.)

    I think I first started watching because of the Captain America serial, but I know saw the Adventures of Captain Marvel too.

    I remember thinking it strange that Billy Batson was almost an adult or was a younger adult, and that seemed to play with the whole kid is transformed (or summons) an adult superhero aspect. Then again, I used to watch the live-action 1970s Shazam! show and read the comic book incarnation of the character, and already knew you could change the story. (It was a helpful perspective as I had to tell my eight-year old self that it was fine that the Fortress of Solitude was made of ice/crystal and didn’t have the big yellow door lock in the movie version.)

    I should watch it again. I definitely think the DVD / youtube format can hurt serials. My attempts to binge watch the Green Archer haven’t been successful. And I think watching classic Doctor Who an episode at a time definitely helps. (Watching serials all at once, it’s particularly easy to spot when they don’t have enough material for their set number of episodes, and they’re just vamping until they get to the next part.)

  8. Well, your podcast pushed me to check out the Captain Marvel serial for the first time and I enjoyed the first episode. I’ll space them out as was recommended.

    My dad introduced movie serials to me when we watched the original Flash Gordon series together. This was soon after Star Wars was released and there was a real interest in showing where George Lucas had gotten a lot of his inspiration. Together we watched all 3 Flash Gordon serials, and then went on to watch Zorro’s Fighting Legion. But I digress…

    The Captain Marvel serial’s origin sure is a big change from the established original. He’s almost an entirely new character. Almost.

    “Whitey” might seem like a weird nickname, but my dad used to tell me about a guy he knew who was nicknamed Whitey because of his white hair at such a young age; browsing with Google, that seems to have been the same reason Whitey Ford and Whitey Bulger earned their nicknames.

    Billy Batson seems to be portrayed a little older than he does in the comics. I thought it was odd until I realized that this Billy seemed like Herge’s Tintin in demeanor.

    Anyway, great show. I’m looking forward to hearing more when the new Captain Marvel movie gets released! SHAZAM!

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