Teenage Billy Batson (Frank Coghlan jr - who was actually 25 when this serial
was made) accompanies professor Malcolm's (Robert Strange) expedition to an
ancient temple in Siam,
where the professor & his fellow scientists discover a sculpture of a
scorpion with lenses placed on its tail & in its claws that, when rightly
aligned, can turn any base metal into gold and be used as an atom smasher. Billy meanwhile, cut off from the
others by an earthquake, finds old wise man Shazam (Nigel De Brulier) in one of
the caves, who infests him, the purestt of the expedition, with the power to
turn into the superhero Captain Marvel (then played by Tom Tyler) everytime
Billy says Shazam, to preserve good in the world.
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Not a moment too soon it seems since the hooded badman Scorpion is after the
scorpion, & he won't even be stopped by the fact that the scientists -
fearing the power of the scorpion - have disassembled it into seperate
pieces, with each of them - scientists Malcolm, Bentley (Harry Worth), Carlyle
(Bryant Washburne), Lang (George Pembroke), Fisher (George Lynn) & their
native guide Tal Jotali (John Davidson) - getting one of the scorpion's lenses,
& they have entrusted young Billy with the
scroll with instructions to reassemble it.
When still in Siam, the Scorpion - with the help of a native tribe led by
Rahman Bar (Reed Hadley) who think the Scoprpion their god - gets his hands on the scroll, &
America, he tries to get his hands on the other parts as well, by means of
stealing, terror & murder - & even though Captain Marvel does
everything to thwart his plans he seems to succeed. Only young Billy does
suspect that one of the scientists of the expedition or their guide just ahs to
be the Scorpion, but the others feel only insulted by his suspicions (even
though they are true), & so Carlyle, Fisher & Lang are soon killed by
the Scorpion for their efforts to rotect the lenses, but then it is found out
that Fisher had not taken his lense to America at all but hidden in the temple
back in Siam, so all the survivors of the expedition - besides Malcolm,
Bentley, Tal Jotali & Billy that's also Billy's sidekick Whitey (William
Benedict) & Malcolm's secretary, Billy's love interest & all-around
damsel in distress Betty (Louise Currie) - have to go back to the Siamese
temple ... where they are of course threatened by Rahman Bar's natives every
step of the way. In the end Rahman Bar even goes so far as to cause a
neighbouring volcano to errupt just to show his tribe how angry their god is.
Only Tal Jolali can prevent the natives from making an all-out attack.
Professors Malcolm & Bentley have meanwhile found Lang's lense in the
temple ... when Bentley proves to be the Scorpion & shoots Malcolm in cold
blood, getting away with the lense. But to make good his getaway he has to
convince the natives to take care of Whitey, Betty, Tal Jotali & Billy, who
he has just learned is Captain Marvel ... but when trying to do so, he can't
prevent Billy from turning into Captain Marvel again & ripping of his mask,
identifying him as Bentley & proving to Rahman Bar & the natives that
he was a false god. The natives of course turn against Benton, but he ends when
trying to make a getaway with Betty as hostage but running into the beam of his
own atom smasher.
Captain AMrvel decides that the scorpion is a too dangerour weapon to be
used by mankind & throws it into the volcano ... then he turns back into
Billy Batson, this time for good.
Despite a very formulaic story, many plotholes, & some of its
superhero-ideology at best questionable & definitely childish, Adventures
of Captain Marvel is an extremely entertaining serial - one of the best in
my view -, that excellently blends the mystery-plot with the many well-done
action-, stunt- & special effects scenes & keeps the story at a fast
enough pace that makes it easy to overlook some of the incongruencies.
Captain Marvel was created by Fawcett comics as a rival
to Superman, the most popular title of National Periodicals
However after a quite successful run in the 40's, Fawcett was sued by DC-Comics
over too obvious similartities between the 2 superheroes & the Captain
Marvel-comic series was discontinued. In an ironic turn of events, in the late
60's, DC-Comics (of all
companies) bought the property & started issuing new Captain Marvel
comics as well as reprinting many of the old ones.
However they had to now
call their comic-book Shazam (the word Billy says to turn into the Cap'), since
Marvel Comics had bought the rights to the name Captain Marvel (because
of obvious similarities to their company name) & did even publish some
comic stories about their Captain Marvel, a very different
superhero that was some kind of alien. These stories were pretty unremarkable
& utterly uninteresting,