1941-1950AdventureThrillerUSAWilliam Witney

William Witney – Spy Smasher (1942)

One of the best serials ever made, Spy Smasher has managed to find favor even among non-serial aficionados. Like his fellow masked avenger, Batman, Spy Smasher possessed no super-human powers but was a mere mortal of flesh and blood.

In brief, Spy Smasher, alias Alan Armstrong (Kane Richmond, and his twin brother Jack (also Richmond) pursue a nefarious German agent known only as The Mask (Hans Schumm). Witney and screenwriters Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Joseph Poland, William Lively and Joseph O’Donnell imbued their hero with a dark uniform very similar to the one he wore in the comics, but added a fancy belt decorated with a large “V” for “Victory” and the morse code symbol for the letter, three dots and a dash. The coup de grace, so to speak, was Mort Glickman’s signature score adapted from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Leading man Richmond managed to make his identical twins a little less identical than the usual routine split-screen characterizations. “Hero’s Death,” is perhaps the most unique chapter ending in the history of serialdom.

Kane Richmond, who had been around Hollywood’s action studios since 1930 and had even appeared as a Martian in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938), became a major genre icon on account of his stellar performance as the Spy Smasher. Borrowed from Columbia Pictures, flaxen-haired Howard Hughes discovery Marguerite Chapman proved one of the best purveyor’s of serial pulchritude thus far as Jack Armstrong’s imperiled fiancee Eve Corby, and Tristram Coffin, later a serial hero himself, was capital as Drake, The Mask’s chief henchman who manage to insinuate himself as Jack’s friend. The subsequent feature release Spy Smasher Returns constituted not a sequel but an edited-down version of this serial. — Hans J. Wollstein – AMG

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