Dick Purcell as Grant Gardner/Captain America
Lorna Gray as Gail Richards
Lionel Atwill as Dr. Cyrus Maldor/The Scarab
George J. Lewis as Bart Matson, Scarab's henchman. Captain
This is the most unfaithful live-action adaptation of Captain America
ever produced. The most accurate portrayal to date would be the
film. Despite the fact that this serial is Captain America by
name only, it's surprisingly watchable. The strengths of this
serial are the actors, especially Lionel Atwill and Lorna Gray, the
stuntwork, and the special effects. Add the fact that this is
when cars were cars and women were women and you have some
watchability; In nostalgia, if nothing else. It's fun to see
those stylish old cars racing around, and Lorna looking fine in her
What I don't
like, though, is the fact that they took an excellent superhero
character and transformed him into typical B-movie serial Hollywood
schtick. Everything you see here you've already seen in a million
other serials, it just happens to be done better than some.
You'll see what I mean if you actually see the serial. There is
absolutely NO reason for the character to dress up as Captain
America. He just does it every so often because why? I
dunno...I guess he likes tights. A lot of the action is done by
Captain America out of uniform, so there really was no motivation for
the double identity. They could have just forgotten the Captain
America costume and called this movie, "Grant: The Butt-Kicking
DA". Another faux pas: How can a DA know so little about
legal procedures? The police chief is ALWAYS correcting him on
things. What's really bad is that this serial had about eight
writers, and none of them saw how bad the writing was.
So what is NOT Captain America here? They
really departed from the character in the comics for this serial.
It's said that Republic Pictures started filming the movie without even
researching the character.
Timely Comics (now Marvel Comics) later told Republic about the
character, but the studio rejected it...basically for the fact that
they would have to do many retakes. Here are the most noticable
differences from the serial Captain and the
No wings on his head (although
they're shown in the illustrated advertisements for the serial).
No superhuman strength. It
takes him forever to knock out a bad guy.
His real name is Grant Gardner and
not Steve Rogers.
Grant Gardner is a District Attorney,
not a soldier in the Army.
No sidekick Bucky. During this
time in the comics, he had a sidekick named Bucky. The sidekick
in this movie is his secretary Gail Richards.
The villain is Scarab, an original
villain. Popular villains from the comics that could've been used
here were Red Skull or Baron Zemo.
Nothing is mentioned of Captain
America's origin or why he's even called Captain America here.
Hence, no mention of the Super Soldier Serum.
Captain America kills people
frequently in this serial. He doesn't kill that often in the
comics. I'll actually keep a count of how many people Cap kills
in each chapter.
The hero of this
tale could've been called anything, but Captain America was a hot comic
book property so the name was used. And even over 60 years later,
it draws curious geeks like me into watching it. If I wasn't so
open-minded, I'd be ticked. But I can still appreciate a show if
it's good. And this was pretty well done for the time and
budget/technology limitations. I do think it
could have and should have been more than the typical movie
serial. However, I've always liked Lorna Gray as an actress, so
she is a strong plus.
Lionel Atwill plays criminal mastermind The Scarab
and does it very well. Everything this villain does and his
general attitude matches the Red Skull character completely. All
he would've needed is a red rubber mask (at that time in the comics,
the Red Skull's face WAS a mask, not for real) and a name change to the
Red Skull and he would've been IT. They wouldn't have even needed
to make him German. Just the general idea of the character
could've given the serial a closer feel to the comic adventures.
This serial has absolutely nothing to do with WWII or Nazis.
of Bucky...that's a tricky one to justify one way or another.
With the storyline they had, it would have been hard to work him in
unless he was the adopted child of Grant Gardner or something like
that, and what does THAT sound like? It was probably wise to skip
it. I love Lorna Gray as Cap's sidekick Gail Richards. It
might have been interesting if they made HER into Bucky. A female
Bucky would've been cool. But in serials they always had to have
a sexy female second-stringer who shared only a plutonic relationship
with the male hero (have to keep it safe for kids to watch, you
know...even a kiss could be misconstrued as "risque"). Basically
what I'm saying is the absence of Bucky did not hurt the serial, for
Captain America had another great sidekick. But if they COULD
have convincingly squeezed the character in, it would have been nice.
Chapter 1- The Purple Death:
Captain America kills four
people in this chapter. I'm not
counting the people that the bad guys kill, only Cap because it's
unusual for him to kill so much and I'd like to make count of it.
Gail is bound and gagged one
time in this chapter.
Chapter 2- Mechanical
Captain America kills three
people in this chapter. A total of 7
so far in this serial.
Captain America is knocked out
once in this chapter.
Gail is drugged by a needle in
a ring and temporarily hypnotized.
Chapter 3- Scarlet Shroud:
Cap doesn't kill anybody in
Gail kills one man by gunshot
in this chapter.
Chapter 4- Preview of Murder:
Captain America kills three
people in this chapter. A total of 10
so far in this serial.
The motorcycle you see in the
introduction for the serial makes its
first appearance in this chapter.
Chapter 5- Blade of Wrath:
Captain America doesn't kill
anybody in this chapter.
Gail is bound and placed under
blade of guillotine. This is the second time she's bound in this
Chapter 6- Vault of Vengeance:
Cap kills one person in this
chapter. A total of 11 so far in
Cap gets knocked out once in
this chapter. That makes a total of
2 times so far in this serial.
Gail faints once. It's
the first time she's unconscious in this
Chapter 7- Wholesale
Cap kills two men by gunshot.
He has killed a total of 13 people so far in this serial.
The oil plant explosion is
awesome! What a great effect!
Chapter 8- Cremation in the Clouds:
One thug, knocked unconscious, was
killed in the oil plant explosion. Cap kills another man by
gunshot. He has killed a total of 15 people so far in this serial.
The man with the blowgun falls from
a tall building. That was a cool effect. I also like the
idea that they show Gail piloting a plane. That was extremely
unusual for the time period. The plane later blows up in
mid-flight, another interesting effect (Gail lives).
Chapter 9- Triple Tragedy:
Cap punches a man out a window and
he falls to his death. He has killed a total of 16 people so far
in this serial.
Gail is knocked out once by falling
through a trap door. This is the second time she's unconscious in
The barn explosion is another
Chapter 10- The Avenging Corpse:
One thug, knocked unconscious, was
killed in the barn explosion. Cap shoots, and kills, two other
men. He punches another man over a balcony, who falls to his
death. Cap killed 4 men in this chapter alone, and has killed a
total of 20 people so far in this serial.
A bridge blows up, which is another
Chapter 11- The Dead Man Returns:
Bart Matson (George J. Lewis), who
was shot and essentially killed in the last chapter, is brought back to
life by a machine in this chapter.
Cap doesn't kill anybody in this
Chapter 12- Horror on the Highway:
Cap kills one guy in this chapter,
by leaving him in the electricity room to fry. That makes a total
of 21 people Cap has killed so far in this serial.
Chapter 13- Skyscraper Plunge:
Cap shoots a man dead. That
makes 22 people he's killed so far in this serial.
Chapter 14- The Scarab Strikes:
Cap doesn't kill anyone in this
Chapter 15- The Toll of Doom:
Captain America knocks out two thugs
and they're blown up in a house. He shoots and kills three more
men. This is 5 people he's killed in this chapter, for a total of
27 people in this serial.
Gail is bound and gagged. This
is the third time she's been bound in this serial. She is also
put in a glass tank and gassed.
The Scarab is caught. He and
the remaining members of his gang (unknown number) are sent to the
electric chair. I don't put this in Cap's death-count because he
wasn't the one to kill them, although you could argue his capturing
them made it possible.
Captain America's secret identity is
revealed to the public.