Spy Smasher (serial)
|Directed by||William Witney|
|Produced by||William J. O'Sullivan|
|Written by||Ronald Davidson
Norman S. Hall
C. C. Beck & Bill Parker (character)
|Music by||Mort Glickman|
|Edited by||Tony Martinelli
|Distributed by||Republic Pictures|
1966 (TV) 
France: January 2003
|12 chapters (214 minutes)(serial)
100 minutes (TV)
|Budget||$153,682 (negative cost: $156,431)|
Spy Smasher is a 12-episode 1942 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.
Alan Armstrong (Kane Richmond) as the "Spy Smasher" is a costumed Vigilante and a free-lance agent, not associated with the US government while the country remains out of World War II. After discovering information about Nazi activities in occupied France, he is captured and order to be executed. However, with the help of Pierre Durand (Franco Corsaro), he escapes back to the United States, meeting with his twin brother Jack (Kane Richmond) (as Jack is incorrectly "recognized" and attacked by a Nazi agent) and Eve Corby (Marguerite Chapman), Jack's fiancé. The Nazi agent in the United States is "The Mask" (Hans Schumm), operating from a U-Boat near the coast.
The Mask's attacks on the United States 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 aircraft, oil and munitions intended for Britain. Constant defeats at the hands of Spy Smasher, with support from Jack Armstrong and Admiral Corby (Sam Flint), 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.
Chapter 11 has what film historians 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. This is notable because in nearly every other chapter ending ever produced the person in danger manages to somehow survive.
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. Spy Smasher was filmed between 22 December 1941 and 29 January 1942. The serial's production number was 1196.
Spy Smasher's aircraft from the comic, the Gyrosub, was changed for the serial to be a secret Nazi aircraft called The Bat Plane. 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.
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!"
Kane Richmond did some of his own stunts but the most spectacular were performed by Dave Sharpe and Carey Loftin. Sharp for example, "rolled from an overturning motorcycle to leap atop a careening auto that plunged from a cliff." Loftin "showed what a motorcycle could do in the hands of an expert."
All the special effects in Spy Smasher were created by Republic's in-house effects duo, the Lydecker brothers.
Spy Smasher's official release date is April 4, 1942, although this is actually the date the sixth chapter was made available to film exchanges.
Spy Smasher was one of 26 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.
In the opinion of film historians 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 characterization. The cinematography is atmospheric and often artistic. According to Cline, Spy Smasher had a "very tight and fast-moving screenplay." 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."
References in other media
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.