Use the cosmic vibrator!

Captain Video (Judd Holdren) is the leader of a group of crime fighters known as the Video Rangers. Along with his trusty sidekick Ranger (Larry Stewart) and the brilliant Gallagher (Don C. Harvey), Captain Video protects the Earth from evil both domestic and alien. The maniacal Vultura (Gene Roth), from the planet Atoma, has his sights on Universal domination.

Vultura attacks its sister planet Theros, intent on forcing the planet to accept his domination. Once Vultura has Theros under his full control his plans, with the aide of the evil and traitorous Dr. Tobor (George Eldridge), to attack Earth and force it to his will. Captain Video and Ranger are tasked with freeing Theros and foiling the wicked Vultura's plans before he can turn his sights on planet Earth but Vultura will not go down without a fight. He has, at his disposal, an army of cardboard robots painted silver (complete with silver cowboy hats), the cloak of invisibility, the space platform, and paralysis gas. These are only a few of his vast arsenal of wicked weapons.

Captain Video is not without his gadgets as well. The electronic mind reader, that niffy jet-mobile, the super sonic detector, a utility belt full of wonderful devises, the hose-inator, and my favorite, the cosmic vibrator (taser), just to name a few. There are many more toys either at Captain Video's disposal or controlled by the ever vigilant Gallagher.

"Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere" was released in 1951 and was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet, and Wallace Grissell. The movie was produced by Sam Katzman. This was the first film (and the only serial) based on a television series. It was the second of only three science fiction serials released by Columbia. The third, "The Lost Planet" (1953), is considered by most to be a sequel, although with different character names.

I suspect that the reason there are no women in the serial is due to the fact that these science fiction stories are aimed at boys and not girls. The producers erroneously assume that only boys would be interested in technically named doohickeys and space ships. Women were in serials, however, they were usually portrayed as damsels in distress that needed to be rescued by the hero. I’m not sure if it is better to not have them at all or only have them as weak and emotional messes. This is a product of the 50’s and unfortunately that is, in large part, what it was like back then.

The robot suits worn by actors were originally designed for and used in Mascot's Gene Autry serial "The Phantom Empire" (1935). To cut costs, the same cave and doorway set used for Dr. Tobor's laboratory on the planet Theros, was slightly re-dressed to become the entrance to the doctor's underground freezing chamber beneath his laboratory on Earth. Both Atoma and Theros are filmed at Bronson Canyon, and Vasquez Rocks, so to distinguish the two separate planets, the Atoma footage is tinted red and the Theros footage is tinted green in the original release prints.

Although the sets and special effects are cheap there is something endearing about the serial. It could be all the un-scientific gizmos (my money's on the cosmic vibrator), the seriousness of the actors, or just the silly dialogue. Whatever it is it's thoroughly entertaining.

Chapter Titles: 1. Journey into Space 2. Menace of Atoma 3. Captain Video's Peril 4. Entombed in Ice 5. Flames of Atoma 6. Astray in the Stratosphere 7. Blasted by the Atomic Eye 8. Invisible Menace 9. Video Springs a Trap 10. Menace of the Mystery Metal 11. Weapon of Destruction 12. Robot Rocket 13. Mystery of Station X 14. Vengeance of Vultura 15. Video vs. Vultura

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3