Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere
Judd Holdren and a native of Atoma
|Directed by||Spencer Gordon Bennet
|Produced by||Sam Katzman|
|Written by||Royal K. Cole
Sherman L. Lowe
George H. Plympton
Joseph F. Poland
Don C. Harvey
|Music by||Mischa Bakaleinikoff|
|Edited by||Earl Turner|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|15 chapters (287 minutes)|
Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere is a 15-chapter serial released by Columbia Pictures in 1951. It was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace A. Grissel with a screenplay by Royal G. Cole, Sherman I. Lowe and Joseph F. Poland, based on a treatment by George H. Plympton. The serial is unique for several reasons--- in particular, it is the first and last film serial ever based on a television program, Captain Video and His Video Rangers.
Judd Holdren, in what was only his second starring screen role, plays Captain Video, the leader of a group of crime-fighters known as the Video Rangers. He faces an interplanetary menace, as the evil dictator of the planet Atoma, Vultura (Gene Roth) and his lackey, the traitorous earth scientist Dr. Tobor (George Eldredge) are planning to conquer the earth.
- Judd Holdren as Captain Video
- Larry Stewart as Ranger
- George Eldredge as Dr. Tobor
- Gene Roth as Vultura
- Don C. Harvey as Gallagher
- Skelton Knaggs as Retner
- William Fawcett as Alpha
- Jack Ingram as Aker, a henchman
- I. Stanford Jolley as Zorol
- Jimmy Stark as Ranger Rogers
- Rusty Wescoatt as Beal, a henchman
- Zon Murray as Elko', a henchman
Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere was the only serial adapted from television.
As produced by Sam Katzman, the serial had a production budget much larger than the famously small budget of the DuMont Television Network's live daily teleseries.
The Captain Video chapterplay is a bit more satisfying to science-fiction fans, because it does make an effort to keep the action interplanetary, instead of earthbound. Captain Video and his teenaged sidekick, the otherwise nameless "Video Ranger" (Larry Stewart), must make frequent visits both to Atoma and to another distant planet, Theros. Both Atoma and Theros are filmed at Bronson Canyon, and Vasquez Rocks, so to distinguish the two, the Atoma footage is tinted pink and the Theros footage is tinted green in the original release prints. These colored scenes were processed by Cinecolor.
In the Captain Video teleseries, "Tobor" is the name of a large robot, who was one of the series' most popular characters. Calling a villain "Dr. Tobor" may have been intended to fool young theater-goers into thinking they would see the robot in the serial. In fact, the only robots on view are the odd fedora-wearing robots from the 1935 Gene Autry serial The Phantom Empire.
This was the second of only three science fiction serials released by Columbia. The third, The Lost Planet (1953), is a virtual sequel although with different character names, The slaves of The Lost Planet's evil extraterrestrial dictator Reckov (also Gene Roth) inexplicably all wear uniforms that look like those of the Video Rangers of 1951. In any case, the hero in The Lost Planet is a newspaper reporter named Rex Barrow, also played by Judd Holdren. As in the Captain Video serial, there is also an evil earth scientist, Dr. Grood (Michael Fox), in cahoots with Reckov of the Lost Planet.
Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere was very successful when first released to theaters, and kept playing long after other serials had been retired to the vaults. It is one of only two serials that Columbia reissued three times (in 1958, 1960, and 1963).
Harmon and Glut describe this serial as a "rather shoddy, low budget space cliffhanger."
The serial includes several science fiction gadgets of the era. The Opticon Scillometer was used for looking through walls. Objects were made to disappear with the Isotropic Radiation Curtain. The Mu-ray Camera could photograph lingering images after the event. Temporary madness could be caused with the Psychosomatic Weapon. A variation on Radar was entitled the Radionic Directional Beam and the Radionic Guide and a Vibrator gun that worked like a Tazer.
- Journey into Space
- Menace of Atoma
- Captain Video's Peril
- Entombed in Ice
- Flames of Atoma
- Astray in the Stratosphere
- Blasted by the Atomic Eye
- Invisible Menace
- Video Springs a Trap
- Menace of the Mystery Metal
- Weapon of Destruction
- Robot Rocket
- Mystery of Station X
- Vengeance of Vultura
- Video vs. Vultura
- Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "2. "We Come from 'Earth', Don't You Understand?"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 45 & 49. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
- 2 COMPANIES PLAN RAILROAD MOVIES: Metro to Film 'The High Iron,' Warners 'Last Train West' -- Katzman Makes Deals By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 14 Feb 1952: 23.
- Cline, William C. (1984). "3. The Six Faces of Adventure". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 34. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
- Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 252–253. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
- Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere on IMDb
- Captain Video at AllMovie
- Roaring Rockets: The Captain Video Serial
- Roaring Rockets: The Serial Page
- Review by Dave Sindelar
- Review by Brian Thomas
- Gary Johnson, "The Serials"
- Captain Video article at Todd Gault's Movie Serial Experience
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The Mysterious Pilot (1951)
King of the Congo (1952)