Entry updated 10 February 2017. Tagged: Film.
Serial Film (1951). Republic. Directed by Fred C Brannon. Written by Ronald Davidson. Cast includes William Bakewell, Roy Barcroft, Clayton Moore, Aline Towne and George Wallace. 12 episodes totalling 167 minutes. Black and white.
Because of their dangerously thinning atmosphere, the inhabitants of the Moon seek to invade and conquer the Earth; their first step is to send one Moon man to Earth to direct human henchmen to launch a series of destructive attacks using an atomic Ray Gun. Commando Cody (Wallace) and his crew fly his Spaceship to the Moon, where he meets the Moon's leader Retik (Barcroft) and learns of his sinister plans before escaping. Back on Earth, the Moon man's henchmen make a series of efforts to obtain enough money to get their ray gun back into operation; Cody returns to the Moon to steal a supply of the element Lunarium, which humans can use to make their own atomic ray guns and defend themselves. Although Retik then travels to Earth to take personal charge of operations, he, the other Moon man, and their human allies are eventually killed, and with Earth ready to construct its own atomic ray guns, the planet now seems able to resist a full-scale lunar Invasion. While on the Moon, Cody is protected by his rocket suit and helmet, and the Moon men wear spacesuits, even though the Moon looks identical to Earth, with white clouds in its sky.
This forgettable effort mostly illustrates that the exhausted conventions of the Saturday-morning serial were ill-suited to the introduction of sf tropes like Aliens and Space Flight, perhaps best illustrated by the incongruous sequence in which the Moon men instruct their human associates to conduct a series of robberies to raise money to finance their invasion of the Earth, naturally provoking some predictable gun battles and car chases. It also must have been obvious to even its youngest viewers that all depictions of the widespread devastation caused by the lunar Weapons relied exclusively on stock footage. The serial's chief novelty, Commando Cody's rocket suit, had first appeared in the serial King of the Rocket Men (1949), though this represented the first appearance of the character Cody, who went on to star in the tv series Commando Cody – Sky Marshal of the Universe (1955); by some reports the series had previously been shown in theatres as a serial in 1953. [GW]
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