In a nutshell: Commando Cody
with the aid of his flying suit stops an invasion of two guys from the
The hey-day of the movie serial during the 30's into the early 40's.
Some quality chapter plays were released during that time, getting children
and their parents into the theater week after week. By the 1950's
however, thanks to changing tastes and the inroads that television was
making, serials were all but dead. The last independent serial was
released in 1937 (Victory's Blake of Scotland Yard) and of the four bigger
studios that produced chapter play, only two (Republic and Columbia) still
made them in 1950. As sales dwindled, budgets and production staff
for serials were cut to the bone, and it certainly showed. Cheap
sets, scant casts and rushed scripts all worked together to make the serials
of the fifties a pale imitation of the exciting installment movies that
had been a theater staple for decades.
A typical serial from this time is Radar Men From the Moon, which
Roan has released on DVD.
A series of strange explosions causes the US Government to contact Commando
Cody (George Wallace,) the inventor of a jet pack that allows a man to
fly. (Easy to use too; the only controls are up, down, on, and off.)
They want the scientist to see if he can figure out what is causing these
disasters. With his two plucky assistants Joan Gilbert (Aline Towne) and
Ted Richards (William Bakewell) the flying Commander Cody uncovers a sinister
plot. He discovers a ray gun that is powered by an unknown element.
Quickly, the three take off in Cody's home made rocket and head for the
moon. (Where else could an unknown element come from?) There
he finds that Retik (serial regular Roy Barcroft,) the ruler on the moon,
wants to conquer the Earth with his supply of 'lunarium.' Making
a quick escape, the trio head back to Earth, where they are the only defense
against Retik's agent Krog and his two incompetent henchmen Graber (played
wonderfully by the once and future Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore) and Daly
The plot sounds promising with a trip to the moon and an invasion from
space, but Republic decided to forego any sense of wonder or grandeur and
instead filled each episode with fist fights and shoot-out, typical of
the poorest western serial. This serial quickly becomes repetitive,
with one fight scene blending in with another.
This is just a poor serial on many levels. There is hardly any
cast. Only two moon-men ever invading, and they had to hire local
henchmen. I've seen cub scout packs that look more intimidating.
Added to that is the fact that their convoluted and nonsensical plan for
conquest is about as realistic as a Wile E. Coyote plan for capturing the
The cliffhangers and really lame too. They often involve an unconscious
Cody waking up at the last moment so he can roll out of the way of danger
or turn on his flying backpack. The
If that wasn't bad enough, this serial uses a lot of footage from two
other serials, King of the Rocketmen and The Purple Monster Strikes.
The first featured a man in a flying suit exactly like Cody's, and the
latter stared Roy Barcroft as another villain who just happened to wear
the same costume. Scenes from these two previous serials were liberally
used to save money, and the result is a pathetic mess.
The serial's main, and only, claim to fame is that it introduced the
character of Commando Cody. Cody would return (played by Judd Holdren)
in the TV series Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe.
Like this serial, it would only last twelve episodes. (With one episode
repeated at the end.)
The mono soundtrack fit the serial very well. There was little
noise or hiss, and distortion was also at a minimum.
The full frame black and white picture was very good. The image
was very clear and there was a good amount of contrast. The picture
was bright and there were a wide range of grey levels. The print
that they used was of high quality, with only very occasional spots or
The only complaint I have is that there is a fair amount of aliasing
in parts and some mosquito noise due to the digital noise reduction.
Other than that, this is a nice looking disc.
There are some text bios and a couple of text pages about the serial
itself, as well as a trailer.
Though the sound and video are very good on this release, the serial
itself is a major disappointment. Made in the last days of the serials,
the budget for this one was very small, even for a chapter play, and the
lack of quality shows. A repetitive and uninteresting serial, this
one is best kept as a rental.