Captain Midnight AKA Captain Albright (Dave O’Brien) is an aviator superhero. His sidekicks are Chuck Ramsey (Sam Edwards) and Ichabod ‘icky’ Mudd (Guy Wilkerson). Captain Midnight has been called in by Secret Service Major Steel (Joseph W. Girard) to deal with the evil Ivan Shark (James Craven) and his gang of minions. Steel is one of the few people who know the true identity of Captain Midnight.
Shark has been bombing major American cities. Assisting him is his daughter Fury (Luana Walters). He learns about a new and more powerful range finder that was recently developed by scientist John Edwards (Bryant Washburn). Shark’s men invade Edward’s home trying to get the plans for the range finder as well as a model of the invention. Unbeknownst to the bad guys, Edward’s daughter Joyce (Dorothy Short) has just gone to the post office to mail the model to Captain Albright at his mountain laboratory for safe keeping.
The evil henchmen take Edwards captive as well as stealing the plans. Shark realizes that the plans are in code. Edwards refuses to decipher the code. Shark decides that in order to get Edwards to cooperate he needs to kidnap his daughter. Fortunately Captain Midnight shows up in time to save her. Edwards escapes but is injured and loses his memory. Shark decides that his priority is to get rid of Captain Midnight.
“Captain Midnight” was released in 1942 and was directed by James W. Horne. It is the seventeenth serial released by Columbia Pictures. Captain Midnight was originally a radio serial done between 1938 and 1949.
Although the serial has mostly standard cliff hangers it also has a couple unusual ones. Chapter 6 had a room that filled with water and a metal grate lowered to push the victim under the water to drown him. This one is only slightly unusual. It’s Chapter 10 that has the strange funhouse style deathtrap. Chapter 10 has a room that turns into a turntable that rotates. The top lowers to crush the captive. If he flies off the turntable he ends up on a lower level of burning flames. There is also a strange cliffhanger that everyone is involved in toward the end of the last chapter. It has something to do with spiked walls closing in, electrocution and sparklers.
As for Dave O’Brien in the title lead, he makes a competent Captain Midnight, in fact he’s quite dashing, but there is no mistaking that voice. As either Captain Albright or Captain Midnight he sounds exactly the same. Of course part way through the serial he freely admits to the bad guy who he is, which is just as well. James Craven as Ivan Shark does a better job of disguising himself than Captain Midnight/Albright does. Even Shark quickly drops his Indian garb and opts for the forties style double breasted suit.
Granted it’s not a great serial but it’s action packed, full of wonderful disguises and a fair amount of explosions and crashed planes. The fist fights are a little on the sloppy side but numerous. It’s your average forties style Columbia serial.
Don’t look for a plot here. It’s never really said why Shark is bombing stuff. There is no mention of what he gets out of it. No ransom, no axis power behind him. He just seems to want to blow stuff up and he wants the range finder so he can blow stuff up more accurately.
Chapter titles: 1 Mysterious Pilot 2 The Stolen Range Finder 3 The Captured Plane 4 Mistaken Identity 5 Ambushed Ambulance 6 Weird Waters 7 Menacing Fates 8 Shells of Evil 9 The Drop to Doom 10 The Hidden Bomb 11 Sky Terror 12 Burning Bomber 13 Death in the Cockpit 14 Scourge of Revenge 15 The Fatal Hour