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Captain America
(1944 Serial)
Captain America
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About This Movie
Cast
Chapters





Cast:

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 America (1944)
:  This is the most unfaithful live-action adaptation of Captain America ever produced.  The most accurate portrayal to date would be the 1989 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 outfits.


    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 comic Captain:
    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.


    The absence 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.

*****

Chapters:

Chapter 1- The Purple Death:

Chapter 2- Mechanical Executioner:
Chapter 3- Scarlet Shroud:
Chapter 4- Preview of Murder:
Chapter 5- Blade of Wrath:
Chapter 6- Vault of Vengeance:
Chapter 7- Wholesale Destruction:
Chapter 8- Cremation in the Clouds:
Chapter 9- Triple Tragedy:
Chapter 10- The Avenging Corpse:
Chapter 11- The Dead Man Returns:
Chapter 12- Horror on the Highway:
Chapter 13- Skyscraper Plunge:
Chapter 14- The Scarab Strikes:
Chapter 15- The Toll of Doom: