Science Fiction Serials

A Critical Filmography of the 31 Hard SF Cliffhangers; With an Appendix of the 37 Serials with Slight SF Content

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About the Book

Destination Moon; George Pal’s 1950 Technicolor epic, is generally cited as the first noteworthy science fiction film. Usually ignored or casually dismissed in genre histories are the serials, the low-budget chapterplays exhibited as Saturday matinee fare and targeted almost exclusively at children. Lacking stars and top-notch writers or directors, the serials went largely unnoticed and unacknowledged by either critics or by the film industry. Yet serials were financially important to the Hollywood studios, and were often free to exploit risky or outlandish subjects that producers of “distinguished” movies would not touch.
Influential serials such as The Phantom Empire (1935) and Flash Gordon (1936) finally brought science fiction themes to the big screen. Those serials and 29 others are exhaustively covered in this work, which provides complete cast and credit information along with plot descriptions and historical commentary for each serial. Video distributors (if available) are also listed.

About the Author(s)

Roy Kinnard is the author of many books on such topics as Flash Gordon, science fiction serials, Fay Wray, horror, silent films and Willis O’Brien. His essay on the Flash Gordon serials, written at the invitation of the Library of Congress, appears on the website of the National Film Registry. He lives in Chicago.

Bibliographic Details

Roy Kinnard
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 223
Bibliographic Info: 89 photos, appendix, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008 [1998]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3745-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0413-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      iv

Introduction      1

The Vanishing Shadow (1934)      11

The Lost City (1935)      14

The Phantom Empire (1935)      22

Flash Gordon (1936)      30

Undersea Kingdom (1936)      41

Dick Tracy (1937)      48

Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938)      53

The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938)      61

Buck Rogers (1939)      69

The Phantom Creeps (1939)      77

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)      84

Mysterious Dr. Satan (1940)      91

Dick Tracy vs. Crime, Inc. (1941)      98

Batman (1943)      103

Manhunt of Mystery Island (1945)      109

The Monster and the Ape (1945)      116

The Purple Monster Strikes (1945)      121

The Crimson Ghost (1946)      126

Brick Bradford (1947)      132

Superman (1948)      136

Batman and Robin (1949)      141

King of the Rocket Men (1949)      148

The Invisible Monster (1950)      152

Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)      156

Flying Disc Man from Mars (1951)      160

Mysterious Island (1951)      164

Captain Video (1951)      170

Radar Men from the Moon (1952)      175

Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952)      179

The Lost Planet (1953)      184

Panther Girl of the Kongo (1955)      189

Appendix: 37 Serials with Incidental Science Fiction Elements      197

Bibliography      205

Index      207

Book Reviews & Awards

“clear and succinct…entertaining and useful”—Booklist; “fascinating…useful”—ARBA; “very entertaining, as well as informative…an instrument of educational value…this is the book that you’ve been waiting for…must-read” —Canyon News; “the book is a hoot…. The author’s research skills and eye for details adds depth”—ForeWord Magazine; “more than welcome. Brilliantly illustrated with rare stills, posters and lobby cards, this is an engaging read—Film Review; “detailed information…. Complete credits and chapter titles are given, along with the storylines, detailed commentaries and information as to video availability”—Classic Images; “everything you ever wanted to know”—VideoScope; “very entertaining…a major source…recommended”—Little Shoppe of Horrors; “useful”—Interzone.