The Masked Marvel
William J. O'Sullivan (associate) for Republic
directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet
starring William Forrest, Louise Currie, Tom Steele, Johnny Arthur, Rod Bacon, Richard Clarke, Anthony Warde, David Bacon, Bill Healy, Howard C. Hickman, Kenneth Harlan, Thomas Louden, Eddie Parker, Duke Green, Dale Van Sickel, Wendell Niles, Lester Dorr, Ernie Adams, Roy Barcroft, Fred Graham, Stubby Kruger, George J. Lewis, George Pembroke, Stanley Price, Herbert Rawlinson, Edward Van Sloan, Crane Whitley, Gayne Whitman (voice)
written by Royal K. Cole, Ronald Davidson, Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Grant Nelson, George H. Plympton, Joseph F. Poland, music by Mort Glickman, special effects by Howard Lydecker, Theodore Lydecker
American World War II propaganda
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Several companies involved with the war effort are sabotaged or
outright blown up by a ring of saboteurs led by Japanese superspy Sakima
(Johnny Arthur), and the only thing in common is, that all those companies
sabotaged are insured by the Worldwide Insurance Company. Not the company
owner Hamilton (Howard C. Hickman) promises to deliver evidence that will
lead to the capture of Sakima, but before he can, he's killed and the
documents are stolen. Hamilton's daughter Alice (Louise Currie) and his
partner Crane (William Forrest) promise to investigate his murder, and are
soon joined by four investigators, Jim (Rod Bacon), Frank (Richard
Clarke), Bob (David Bacon) and Terry (Bill Healy), sent to them by masked
crimefighter The Masked Marvel (embodied by an uncredited Tom Steele,
voiced be the equally uncredited Gayne Whitman, to keep the audience
guessing), who's of course secretly one of them, but even his colleagues
don't know which. From here on, Sakima and company try to hamper US war
efforts in any way possible, with varying degrees of success, as they are
often thwarted by the investigators or the Masked Marvel himself.
how come Sakima's crimes are so closely connected to Worldwide Insurance?
Why because Crane is secretly a traitor of course, and Sakima resides
right under his office where Crane, Alice and the investigators routinely
discuss the cases. Obviously, nobody suspects Crane until very late, and
even two of the investigators, Jim and Frank, have to die in the line of
duty, but eventually (and actually rather out of the blue, the Masked
Marvel finds a trail to Crane and eventually is quick enough to
catch up with Crane and Sakima, trying to make a hasty getaway - and while
Crane dies in a car crash, Sakima blows himself up with Crane's house. The
Masked Marvel by the way was Bob, but it's only revealed in the last scene
and is of little relevance.
Of course, The Masked Marvel
is a blunt propaganda piece as propaganda movies just tend to be blunt
(they're only slicker now), and of course it often suspends credibility to
the limit, if not beyond ... but it's also a rather fine example of action
serial filmmaking, with hardly a dull moment, many a fun idea (if not all
make sense), well staged fights and stunts, plus it's also quite violent
for a serial, with many an on-screen killing (including two of the
serial's heroes), an especially ruthless secondary baddie (Anthony Warde)
who lets several of his accomplices die if it helps his own escape, and in
all quite a body count.
True, it's not essential viewing, a classic or
even a hidden gem within the cliffhanger genre - but it's good
entertainment all the same!