An evil gang of hijackers have been stealing precious cargos of government uranium, special equipment, explosives and materials that are critical to national security from various trucking companies and selling them to foreign powers. They have destroyed tucks in the process. The government sends J.J. Paterson (John Phillips) to talk to the trucking company owners. Hal Duncan (Walter Reed) is a trucking company owner but during the war he was an experienced undercover agent. The government asks him to lead the investigation into the thefts. Hal enlists his partner Sam Bradley (John Pickard) to help him with his investigation.
The company owners, Willard (George Meeker), Armstrong (Pierce Lyden), Thompson (Mauritz Hugo) and Crandall (Arthur Space) are members of the Interstate Truck Owners Association. Duncan and Bradley meet with them on a regular basis, along with the association secretary Kay Roberts (Mary Ellen Kay), to formulate their changing plans to handle the hijackers. Duncan uses the Owners Association clubhouse as his base of operations.
The leader of the gang is a shadowy figure that remains unknown to his various minions. He relies on Regan (Dick Curtis) and Cady (Fred Colby) to handle the upfront work and deliver orders to the rest of the gang.
Duncan and Bradley attempt to interfere with each hijacking event by changing routes and keeping secret the shipments coming in. The gang seems to be one step ahead each time a new shipment of equipment is stolen. Although they come up against Regan and Cady many times they have yet to find out who is the leader of the organization. The more the gang does the more Duncan believes that the head of the syndicate may be one of the members of the Interstate Truck Owners Association.
“Government Agents vs the Phantom Legion” was released in 1951 and was directed by Fred C. Brannon. It is a twelve chapter espionage, action Republic serial. The serial’s special effects were done by the legionary Lydecker brothers. We can thank them for all the nifty truck crashes in the beginning of the serial. The production used five stunt men. Among them Tom Steele.
The title is a little misleading. The phantom legion is your average hijacking gang. They don’t make any nifty weapons with the stuff they steal. They just sell it to foreign buyers. The hero is your average truck company owner that once was an undercover agent. Despite the unusual resume he has no super powers and doesn’t wear a mask and cape or even a jet pack. Just a suit and fedora. The bad guy is just in it for money not the usual “rule the world” reason for being evil.
The serial is a decent little production. It’s only about two hours and forty-five minutes long so it goes rather quickly. It has Republic’s standard cliffhangers, fist fights and explosions. Perhaps it’s not fancy but it’s not bad. It’s a low budget serial as a lot of the later ones were. Also, like many later serials, stock footage is used whenever possible to cut costs.
There were a couple unusual things in the serial. In one instance when the hero Duncan is driving a convertible his hat actually flies off. It’s the only time in the serial that anyone loses a hat, even in the fight scenes. Also there is one chapter where the bad guys are in the back seat of a car ordering the hero to drive. Bad idea. Knowing that the bad guys are gonna kill him as soon as they get to where they’re going the hero drives crazy and threatens to drive the car off a cliff. Of course he screwed up later but that particular scene was priceless. As far as plot points are concerned, you’d think the government could spare more than two agents to handle a gang that’s stolen enough stuff to make a small country a first world power, but alas no.
CHAPTER TITLES: 1. River of Fire; 2. The Stolen Corpse; 3. The Death Drop; 4. Doorway to Doom; 5. Deadline For Disaster; 6. Mechanical Homicide; 7. The Flaming Highway; 8. Sea Saboteurs; 9. Peril Underground; 10. Execution By Accident; 11. Perilous Plunge; 12. Blazing Retribution.