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20 November 2010 @ 04:29 pm

This is a pretty weak entry, straggling in the door in 1950,
rather late in the day for cliffhangers. Is it just my imagination or does this serial contain almost no new footage? There are so many lengthy clips from half a dozen earlier Republic cliffhangers that FLYING DISC MAN seems like one of those cheater TV episodes where the characters sit around and reminisce over past highlights. After the final credits, I was left with the nagging feeling that nothing had happened and the whole adventure had been a prolonged case of deja vu.

Anyway, Mars is gearing up for another attempt to take over the Earth through a handful of hired human gunmen. A Martian emissary named Mota (spelled backwards, it's.... oh, never mind) arrives in a forced landing and immediately contacts the dubious Earth scientist who shot his ship down to help him begin his conquest. The Martians are worried that our new H-bomb technology will blow up the Earth, disrupting the rest of the Solar System as well. Only a brave young aviator stands in the way of Mota's campaign of blowing up vital installations and so forth.

Now, I understand that by 1951 Republic had cut their budgets to almost nothing and that big chunks of stock footage had to be used. At the time, this probably wasn't that noticeable to audiences. After all, kids were seeing these chapters only once in a theatre, and the footage reprised had been by them (if at all) a few years earlier. So only a few of the veteran serial fans probably got the feeling of "hey, wait just a minute..." Today, when we can study these serials at home at our leisure, we're really not giving them a fair break. They weren't designed to be scrutinized in slow motion or played in close sequence ---- they were meant to seen once at a Saturday matinee before the main feature and this is one reason why they could get away with fudging their solutions to the previous week's deathtraps.

So let's see. We have the flying disc crash from THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES. We have the scenes of the cool looking flying disc in action from KING OF THE MOUNTIES (where it was originally Japanese secret weapon, explaining the Rising Sun tail emblem). And there's also clips from G-MEN VS THE BLACK DRAGON and SECRET SERVICE IN DARKEST AFRICA to provide car chases and plane crashes. To be honest, I think they might as well have thrown in the robot from THE MYSTERIOUS DR SATAN too, and made this sort of a "Republic's Greatest Hits" serial. What the heck, maybe in the last chapter, Walter Reed (not the guy who connected yellow fever with mosquitos) as the hero could have unpacked the old Commando Cody rocketsuit as well and taken flight for a big finale.

The serial is not very creative or exciting, but it's not hopelessly dreadful either. If you haven't seen the earlier epics that the footage was cribbed from, you might find it more entertaining. Still, Gregory Gay as the villain is nowhere near being in the same league as the menacing Roy Barcroft, and Walter Reed is bland as the hero. James Craven essentially repeats his role from THE PURPLE MONSTER (you'd think he'd have learned to keep away from these Martians with the scaly outfits). This is the most disappointing serial I've seen recently, although I'm sure there are many more out there that will make this look like a classic.

Dir: Fred Bannon - 12 Chapters