“You mean you can change the orbit of the planet?”
Larry Martin (Judd Holdren) is a security agent in the Inter-Planetary Patrol. A jet powered rocket suit and helmet are two of the tools he uses to perform his duties. He is assisted by Sue Davis (Aline Towne) and Bob Wilson (Wilson Wood). When a rocket on an approach to Earth is detected he flies to its last known coordinates to check it out. He plants a homing devise on a truck seen near the craft.
Later he flies where the truck has stopped. Larry finds the cave and some ashes. He takes the ashes back to his lab. Using a special light filter they discover that the ashes use to be a railroad map. They follow the map and find that the train has been, basically, train-jacked. Bob jumps onto the train to try to stop the bad guys. When Larry gets there he sees Bob fighting with some men on top of the train. Larry jumps into a near-by tank (yes I said tank) and rolls on after the train. In the meantime the bad guys see the tank and, after handcuffing Bob to the train, high-tail it out of there. Larry jumps from the tank to the train to try to save Bob. Bob is saved but this is only the beginning.
Unknown at the time is that Martian invaders, led by Marex (Lane Bradford) have set up a base on the Earth. Because Mars is now orbiting too far from the Sun its ecology has been dying. The Martian invaders want to move Mars into Earth’s orbit. In order to do that they need move Earth out. They plan on using super-duper hydrogen bombs, placed at specific areas, on both planets, to move the two planets. The main goal is to send the Earth spinning off into space and then move Mars into Earth’s old orbit. Piece a cake.
The Martians have stolen plans from Earth scientists that will instruct them on how to create the bombs they need. The Martins have bribed a supply of Earth minions to help them accomplish their goal. One of the minions is Dr. Harding (Stanley Waxman). Along with him and two henchmen, Roth (John Crawford) and Shane (Ray Boyle), the Martians believe they will be able to complete their mission.
“Zombies of the Stratosphere” was released in 1952 and was directed by Fred C. Brannon. It was the 60th serial produced by Republic and was released the same year as “Radar Men From the Moon”. It was one of two Republic serials colorized in 1995 for television broadcast. The serial was intended to be Republic's second featuring their new hero Commando Cody. There is some speculation as to why the hero was named Larry Martin instead, but nothing definitive. It was, however, the third 12-chapter serial featuring the rocket-powered flying jacket and helmet introduced in “King of the Rocket Men” (1949). The next Commando Cody serial was in 1953 and it was actually a 12 episode TV series with no cliffhangers.
Leonard Nimoy has a small part as Narab, one of the humanoid zombies from Mars. It was one of his first screen appearances. Actually they are not zombies they are Martians. And they are not hanging around the Stratosphere. There were many fist fights and probably enough concussions to give everybody Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Through pretty much most of the serial Martin and his team have no idea they are dealing with Martians. As far as they know it’s just a gang of cold war bad guys. It’s not exactly the best serial out there but at least I got to see a dopey robot.
Chapter Titles: 1) The Zombie Vanguard, 2) Battle of the Rockets, 3)Undersea Agents, 4) Contraband Cargo, 5) The Iron Executioner, 6) Murder Mine, 7) Death on the Waterfront, 8) Hostage for Murder, 9) The Human Torpedo, 10) Flying Gas Chamber, 11) Man Vs. Monster, 12) Tomb of the Traitors.