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Warrwen Hamilton and Martin Crane, chief executives if the World-Wide Insurance Company, enlist the aid of the Masked Marvel to find Mura Sakima, a former Japanese envoy, whom they suspect of being responsible for extensive sabotage of war industries. But CRane is secretly in league with Sakima, and they arrange for Hamilton's murder. The murdered man's daughter, Alice, joins the Masked Marvel and his three aides in a campaign to expose and apprehend Sakima. The Masked Marvel is one of four men - Bob Barton, Frank Jeffers, Terry Morton and Jim Arnold; he hides his identity beneath a black mask and only Alice knows he is one of the four investigators.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The MASKED MARVEL: Good Example of The Very Quaint and Olde Fashioned Custom of Supporting Our Country
Picture this. It's 1943, we are involved in the greatest conflict in history, namely World War II. Did we have The Senate & The House of Representatives playing games with trying to impose unrealistic deadlines and further making attempt to cut the legs out from under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration? Did we see people, other than Axis Sympathetic, 5th Column Traitors turning "debate" about policy into comfort and emotional aid for America's deadly enemies? No, of course we didn't. But, that was then, this is now. In those days, the whole nation mobilized all of our resources behind the Roosevelt Administration, to give the best support our American and Allied Forces.
Hollywood gave its full support with production of movies putting full support behind the war effort. They even extended to the Juvenile Faire as follows.
The story goes that Republic Pictures was in negotiations with Mr. Will Eisner to get the rights to do a chapter-play bringing his Comic Book/Newspaper Comic, THE SPIRIT, to the movies. For whatever reason, the deal never came to fruition, This was during the height of World War II,at a time when the outcome was very much of an unknown.
But, we must remember that because of the War, there was already a shortage of many commodities. Raw materials, once plentiful, even in surplus, were now being used up, feeding an industrial giant-now re-tooled for War. Whatever we had, it just couldn't be wasted, and in that area, Republic was most conscientious.
The screenplay that was potentially to be THE SPIRIT, became instead another secret crime fighter, THE MASKED MARVEL! The powers that be made sure that nothing was wasted.* The 1st Chapter starts really fast, even for an action packed serial. Using a quick moving montage of destruction, amplified by radio news broadcast and newspaper extras, the story is quickly set up. There has been an epidemic of sabotage directed against the insurance company of Mr. Martin Crane (William Forrest), Mr. Warren Hamilton (Howard C. Hickman), and his daughter Anne Hamilton (Louise Currie).
After suffering through all the humiliation, destruction and robberies; Senior Partner Mr. Hamilton is slain by hold up man.When it becomes known that the enemy agent they are facing is Imperial Japanese Super Spy, Mura Sakima, Anne calls a news conference to announce that the (apparently)well known espionage-agent busting 'Investigator' known only as The Masked Marvel, will be brought in to direct the investigation and secure safety for the insurance company and the War effort.
The M.M. shows a lot of spunk, hitting the ground running-foiling yet another robbery. Soon, one at a time, there are no less than four (4), (you count 'em, folks!)Investigators, all dressed alike on the case. Surely, one of these Detectives is the one who dons the mask to strike fear into wrong-doers, especially Axis spies and traitorous 5th Column, Home Grown,"American" terrorists.
During the following Chapters, there is a lot of action and even loss of life some 'Investigators', leaving us to guess which guy is the Marvel.*** One of the highlights of film is the casting of Caucasian actor,Johnny Arthur, as the ever so evil, blood thirsty Mura Sakima. Mr. Arthur had been prominently featured in Hal Roach's OUR GANG comedies, playing Spanky's Father.
Johnny Arthur's Sakima, speaks in the so slow, deliberate manner. He always feigns politeness, but to such a degree as to demonstrate his lack of sincerity.**** As this writer has stated before, Serials just do not come any better. We're sure that in addition to providing the 40's bubble gum crowd with plenty of action, THE MASKED MARVEL serial also gave good example to the kids, who were bearing witness to the greatest conflict in history.
* To be sure, Republic Pictures had never known as a studio to waste anything, be it a script, or costume, or any filmed 'cafastrophes', which could be blended into any one of a number of serials & westerns.
** The use of the multiple Investigators, and the unknown Masked Marvel was a good ploy to keep us guessing. It is similar to their adaption of THE LONE RANGER to the Serial Screen.They took Lone Ranger's origin, in which he was the only survivor of a massacre of a group of Texas Rangers to having one victim killed on a Chapter by Chapter basis.
*** Actor Johnny Arthur(a Caucasoid) did give a really fine job of creating the characterization of Sakima. Admittedly, it was exaggerated, camp and definitely not politically correct. It was meant to be all of those things (much like J. Carroll Nash's Dr. Daka in Columbia's BATMAN Serial (1943),for we must remember, there was War going on. Mr. Arthur, by the way, looked exactly like The photo of Emperor Hiro Hito, which he displayed over his desk (albeit a 'slightly' older version).
**** Mr. Arthur's characterization would probably be castigated and panned as being 'racist'. For that matter, any dialectition would be branded and banned in today's politically correct, bass-ackwards society!
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