The latest Captain America movie is currently making its rounds all over the world. I have not yet decided whether I will see it or not. If you are like me, a bit fed up with all the superhero hype, you may want to consider a classic movie serial instead. Such as the first screen appearance of Captain America from 1944.
In this version of the character, Captain America’s alter ego, instead of being super-soldier Steve Rogers, is district attorney Grant Gardner. Exactly why Gardner sometimes hunts criminals in his suit and sometimes as a masked vigilante is not very clear. It seems to be no more than a matter of effect, since he does more or less the same things. But the most glaring difference between the Captain of the comics and the Captain of the serial is that this one has no shield!
Captain America is a fairly typical serial in the sense that it seems to have been made quickly. Little effort was wasted on the script, and the only acting they invested any real energy into is the spectacularly choreographed fights.
The story is simple: A crook who calls himself The Scarab wants more power and money, and he also wants revenge on some scientists (his motives are rather vague and seem to shift from one episode to the next). In a vaguely chess-like fashion (and very typical of such serials) each of the two opponents tries to out-guess the other’s intentions.
It is hard to imagine that anyone, including directors, actors and audience, took this short and slightly flabby hero seriously even when he first appeared in the theatres. To me, that is the reason why the Captain America serial still entertains. Because it is fun, camp and cult. Not as fancy or well-produced as the three years older Adventures of Captain Marvel (which was an obvious inspiration for this one), it still has its own sparkling energy and a good dose of humour.
This film is best enjoyed if you are not too peculiar about producers messing around with the details concerning your favourite superhero. Like any serial, Captain America should be viewed one episode a day, or less. There is too much repetition beween episodes — most of the cliffhangers involve the hero running or jumping from an exploding or falling building — to enjoy watching them in immediate succession.
Download link (first chapter and links to the other fourteen)
Running time: 3 h 52 min
Directors: Elmer Clifton, John English
Stars: Dick Purcell
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (640×480)
Sound quality: Acceptable
Best file format: MPEG4