This is a review of the 1944 “Captain America” serial from Republic.

This isn’t a traditional review. Rather, it’ll be a series of impressions and opinions about the experience.

People I Recognized

Prof. Lyman: “How did you find out about my vibrator?”

  • Dick Purcell as Grant Gardner aka Captain America. Accomplished boxer and judoka and it shows. Dude died shortly after the serial was wrapped, due to over-exertion in the role. RIP.
  • Lionel Atwill as the Scarab aka the Least Appreciated Doctor from the Expedition. He mostly steals inventions from, and/or bumps off, other scientists.
  • Lorna Gray as the Woman Who Gets To Do Nothing. Fuck the 1940s. Got to appear in Drums of the Desert, which I’m doing my best to finish one of these days.
  • George J. Lewis as the lead heavy. Absolutely a delight to watch because he’s always up to something, even when he’s a good guy.
  • John Davidson as the backup heavy. Also shows up in a notable role in The Adventures of Captain Marvel, so he’s double dipping on DC & Marvel serials.
  • Charless Trowbridge, who I first saw as the bad guy in a Mr. Wong movie. Doesn’t get to do much here.
  • Russell Hicks as another guy who didn’t achieve much other than sound authoritative on the telephone.
  • Crane Whitley as a minor goon who gets killed quickly. One of my favorite guys to play a heavy since he’s got a great accent.
  • an assortment of other character actors, most of whom get aced by the Scarab and/or Captain America.

The Plot

Prof. Lyman: You! the Scarab.
The Scarab: Yes. I’m the Scarab. It is my vengeance that is striking at all of you.

The Scarab is a third-rate scientist who’s tired of being underappreciated for his contributions to a mysterious Mayan expedition, so he does what I think most of us have thought about doing at our jobs, and starts mercilessly bumping off his coworkers. He starts with a drug called the Purple Death, but that gets shut down quickly when his source for a rare orchid is uncovered. Dude should have started a private garden, this serial would have been six episodes long if he’d been smart.

Opposing him is Captain America, aka the District Attorney of some fucking city or something. Everyone kinda knows that the DA is Cap, but since the bad guys are doing their best to kill both DA and Cap anyway, and everyone else is willing to let him murder his way through a dozen or more bad guys no matter who he is, it hardly matters.


Gail Richards: This is murder!
Bart Matson: That’s right, wholesale murder.

This ain’t your father’s Captain America. In this version, District Attorney Grant Gardner goes by the alias “Captain America”. He has a costume but no shield. Whether or not he’s wearing the costume at any given moment is pretty arbitrary, because he fights the bad guys in both identities.

Aside from that, despite going up against a ruthless murderer with a small army of henchmen, it’s basically him and his useless secretary. Give the guy a couple backup detectives or something, he keeps getting his ass kicked solo.

This serial is fucking brutal. People routinely get shot, thrown off buildings or out of windows, electrocuted, blown up, and so on. The thugs tell a couple hapless morgue workers to get out of their truck and start walking, then shoot them in the back. The biggest thing standing in Gardner’s way on the case of the Scarab is that everyone who could give him a clue fucking dies within 5 minutes of meeting him. My god this serial is deadly.

Technology escalates extremely fast. We got mind control drugs, a ray gun that cracks bank vaults, blow guns, ancient Mayan diamond mines, even a machine that resurrects the dead (and is used to bring a henchman back). We’ve got the usual arsenal of exploding airplanes and crashing cars we’ve come to expect from Republic.

So many explosions. They blew up a barn, a chemical plant, and the top of a skyscraper. The Scarab could have done 20% as much damage and people today would be freaking out about his terrorist acts. Unless he was a Republican bombing an abortion clinic or shooting up a school, anyway.

The girl with nothing to do. I am as usual underwhelmed by how serials of the period treat women. An exchange from Radar Men From the Moon kind of sums it up for me: “I still think this is no trip for a woman.” - “You’ll be very glad to have someone along who can cook your meals.” Jesus Christ.

I think I appreciated The Adventures of Captain Marvel more for this, as Betty Wallace got a lot done there and the script literally had to knock her unconscioua a few times to keep her from getting out of danger on her own.


A cosplaying crusader for justice goes up against some extremely bloodthirsty goons and their eccentric tech-thief leader. No connection whatsoever to the Marvel character other than the name. Watch it if you want to see people bumped off in assorted sadistic ways, or if you’re a fan of Lionel Atwill scheming shit. Which I am.

Full movie here: