Spy Smasher (serial)

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Spy Smasher
Spysmasherposter.jpg
Directed by William Witney
Produced by William J. O'Sullivan
Written by Ronald Davidson
Norman S. Hall
William Lively
Joseph O'Donnell
Joseph Poland
C. C. Beck & Bill Parker (character)
Starring Kane Richmond
Marguerite Chapman
Sam Flint
Hans Schumm
Tris Coffin
Music by Mort Glickman
Cinematography Reggie Lanning
Edited by Tony Martinelli
Edward Todd
Distributed by Republic Pictures
Release date(s) United States 4 April 1942 (serial)[1]
United States 1966 (TV)[1]
France January 2003
Running time 12 chapters (214 minutes (serial)[1]
100 minutes (TV)[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $153,682 (negative cost: $156,431)[1]

Spy Smasher (1942) is a Republic movie serial based on the Fawcett Comics character Spy Smasher. It was the 25th of the 66 serials produced by Republic. The serial was directed by William Witney with Kane Richmond and Marguerite Chapman as the leads. This serial was Chapman's big break into a career in movies and television. Spy Smasher is a very highly regarded serial. In 1966, a television movie was made from the serial footage under the title Spy Smasher Returns.

Plot[edit]

Spy Smasher is a costumed Vigilante acting independently of the US while it remains out of World War II. After discovering information about Nazi activities in occupied France he is captured and executed. However this is faked and he escapes back to the US, meeting with his twin brother Jack (as Jack is incorrectly "recognized" and attacked by a Nazi agent) and Jack's fiance. The Nazi agent in the US is The Mask, operating from a U-Boat near the coast. The Mask's attacks on the US begin with an attempt to flood the country with forged money and destroy the economy. When this is defeated, he continues with other attacks including destroying planes, oil and munitions intended for Britain. Constant defeats at the hands of Spy Smasher, with support from Jack Armstrong and Admiral Corby, also leads the villain to take the fight back to the masked hero. In the end, the villain is killed aboard his own U-Boat in a sea of flaming oil. However, Spy Smasher's brother Jack Armstrong was also killed by the Nazis earlier in the serial.

Cast[edit]

  • Kane Richmond as Spy Smasher, his secret identity Alan Armstrong and his twin brother Jack. The twin brother was added by Republic but other characters, including Admiral Corby, his daughter Eve and the villain The Mask, are all from the original comic.[2]
  • Marguerite Chapman as Eve Corby, Admiral Corby's daughter and Jack Armstrong's fiance.
  • Sam Flint as Admiral Corby
  • Hans Schumm as The Mask. The Nazi villain of the serial "appeared just as often without the disguise as with it, the only purpose of the mask seemed to be to make him familiar to comic book fans."[2]
  • Tris Coffin as Drake, The Mask's spearhead heavy. Drake is a reporter working for the Ocean-wide Television Network. One of his espionage techniques was to leave the camera rolling after an interview inside Admiral Corby's office or a report from a crime scene. The broadcast was then picked up by the Mask in his submarine ("and presumably [by] the sets of any home viewer tuned into the proper channel").[2]

Production[edit]

Spy Smasher was budgeted at $153,682 although the final negative cost was $156,431 (a $2,749, or 1.8%, overspend). It was the most expensive Republic serial of 1942.[1] Spy Smasher was filmed between 22 December 1941 and 29 January 1942.[1] The serial's production number was 1196.[1]

Spy Smasher's plane from the comic, the Gyrosub, was changed for the serial to be a secret Nazi craft called The Bat Plane.[2] Mort Glickman echoed the "V for Victory" theme from Beethoven's 5th symphony in the Spy Smasher theme song. Both pieces of music include the "..._" Morse code for the letter V.[2]

Columbia's The Secret Code, released later in 1942, was patterned after Spy Smasher. Adverts for the Columbia serial included the phrases "Smash spies with the Secret Service" and "Thrill again to spy smashers' biggest chase!"[2]

Stunts[edit]

Kane Richmond did some of his own stunts but the most spectacular were performed by Dave Sharpe who, for example, "rolled from an overturning motorcycle to leap atop a careening auto that plunged from a cliff."[2] Stuntman Carey Loftin "showed what a motorcycle could do in the hands of an expert."[3]

Special effects[edit]

All the special effects in Spy Smasher were created by Republic's in-house effects duo, the Lydecker brothers.

Cliffhangers[edit]

Chapter 11 has what Harmon and Glut consider to be the "most unique chapter ending of them all:" Spy Smasher is gunned down by enemy agents at point blank range and falls from the top of an office building to crash into the pavement below. In the resolution, the audience discover that Jack, Spy Smasher's brother, has knocked him out and stolen his costume. The real Spy Smasher turns up too late to save his twin.[2] This is notable because in nearly every other chapter ending ever produced the person in danger manages to somehow survive.

Release[edit]

Theatrical[edit]

Spy Smasher's official release date is 4 April 1942, although this is actually the date the sixth chapter was made available to film exchanges.[1]

Television[edit]

Spy Smasher was one of twenty-six Republic serials re-released as a Century 66 film on television in 1966. The title of the film was changed to Spy Smasher Returns. This version was cut down to 100-minutes in length.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

In the opinion of Harmon and Glut, Spy Smasher is the best serial in terms of special effects and stunts, and one of the best in general: "Although lacking the beauty and imagination that appeals to a kind of racial unconscious in the Jungian sense that is found in Flash Gordon...Spy Smasher emerges in a class by itself, the foremost cliffhanger example of a whole school of Hollywood film-making in the 40s that gloried in matchless pure entertainment." The script is consistently logical and well constructed with credible dialogue and good characterisation. The cinematography is atmospheric and often artistic.[2] According to Cline, Spy Smasher had a "very tight and fast-moving screenplay."[4] In the words of Grant Tracey, writing on the Images Journal website, Spy Smasher is "perhaps one of the best serials of all time because of its stunning cliffhangers and unique innovations to the serial form."[5]

Chapter titles[edit]

  1. America Beware (28min 32s)
  2. Human Target (17min 29s)
  3. Iron Coffin (16min 48s)
  4. Stratosphere Invaders (16min 50s)
  5. Descending Doom (16min 48s)
  6. The Invisible Witness (16min 39s)
  7. Secret Weapon (16min 53s)
  8. Sea Raiders (16min 45s)
  9. Highway Racketeers (16min 41s)
  10. 2700° Fahrenheit (16min 56s)
  11. Hero's Death (16min 45s)
  12. V..._ (16min 40s)

Source:[1][6]

References in other media[edit]

In the 2005 episode of the animated series Justice League Unlimited entitled "Patriot Act", Spy Smasher appears in a World War II flashback. The plot is unconnected to this serial, he is shown preventing the creation of Fawcett Comics supervillain, Captain Nazi. However, the style of the scene is based on a movie serial - it is drawn in black and white with similar action and background music.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mathis, Jack (1995). Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. Jack Mathis Advertising. pp. 3, 10, 60–61. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "10. The Long-Underwear Boys "You've Met Me, Now Meet My Fist!"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 244–247, 250–251. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9. 
  3. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "11.". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 155. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 
  4. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "4. The Plotters of Peril (The Writers)". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 64. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 
  5. ^ Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture, Issue 4, retrieved 16th June 2007
  6. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 
  7. ^ A clip of this scene on YouTube, retrieved 16th June 2007

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Dick Tracy vs. Crime, Inc. (1941)
Republic Serial
Spy Smasher (1942)
Succeeded by
Perils of Nyoka (1942)