A man on his way to see the Governor is shot in the street. Bob Wayne (Robert Wilcox) arrives just after the shooting. He too is on the way to see the Governor. Governor Bronson (Charles Trowbridge) raised Bob after his parents died. The Governor tells Bob that the man who died was a great criminologist he hired to track down an evil mastermind called Dr. Satan (Eduardo Ciannelli).
The Governor believes that his own life may be in danger as well. In case something does happen to him he wants Bob to know some things about his father. He tells Bob that his father was a notorious vigilante known as The Copperhead. He gives Bob the copper mask that his father used to wear. When the Governor is killed Bob swears vengeance against Dr. Satan and vows to bring him to justice. He adopts his father’s alter ego as The Copperhead.
Dr. Satan wants to build an army of robots to… all together now… take over the world. He has a prototype robot all finished. What he needs now is a remote control devise that will work over long distance. Professor Thomas Scott (C. Montague Shaw) has such a devise. Dr. Satan is bent on stealing it.
Scott is scheduled to return from Washington with his plans. Bob manages to board his train and foil Dr. Satan’s attempt to steal them. Later at a meeting with Scott, the Professor’s daughter Lois (Ella Neal) and Scott’s secretary Alice Brent (Dorothy Herbert), Bob finds out that The Professor will be testing his devise on a ship. That night Dr. Satan tries to steal the plans again and threatens to blow up the ship if he doesn’t get them. The plans end up going up in flames and it’s up to the Copperhead to save the day. Or at least the people on the ship. One of them being Lois Scott.
With the plans gone Dr. Satan now tries to steal the devise itself. Time and time again Dr. Satan is thwarted in his evil plans. Finally he steals Professor Scott and forces him to build a new remote devise. Now it’s up to Copperhead to save Professor Scott and thwart Dr. Satan’s evil plans.
“The Mysterious Dr. Satan” was released in 1940 and was directed by John English and William Witney. In 1966 the serial was condensed into movie form for television and released under the name “Doctor Satan’s Robot”. The serial was produced by Republic Pictures who originally wanted to do a Superman Serial, however, they couldn’t get the rights so they reworked it using a character called Copperhead as the hero. Good for them.
Also, having the bad guy get top billing is something not seen often. It's another interesting facet of this serial. Add to it hunky soft spoken Robert Wilcox as The Copperhead and shifty eyed Eduardo Ciannelli as the evil Dr. Satan and Republic seems to have managed to create a quality product and a fun to watch serial.
Another pleasant aspect to this entertaining piece of art is Alice. The character Alice Brent played by Dorothy Herbert is kick-ass cool. She can ride a horse with her hands tied behind her back and the reins in her teeth. She can also swing from a rope and take out a henchman holding a gun. And she can ride on the side of a horse facing backward and shoot a gun.
Toss in a funky robot and this serial is a winner. Said robot is the well known Republic Robot having had versions of it in “Undersea Kingdom” 1936, “Zombies of the Stratosphere” 1952 and more than one Commando Cody serial. I believe a facsimile of it was also used in the “Star Trek Voyager” series as the robot in the holodeck program “The Adventures of Captain Proton”. I’ve only seen clips, but yeah, it’s cool. I believe the guy in Dr. Satan’s robot suit is Tom Steele.
There have been a few people who have noted that the famous Wilhelm Scream was used in this serial in a couple places. This is incorrect since the serial was made in 1940 and The Wilhelm Scream was not recorded until 1951.
If you like serials, this is a good one.
CHAPTER TITLES: 1. Return of the Copperhead 2. Thirteen Steps 3. Undersea Bomb 4. The Human Bomb 5. Doctor Satan's Man of Steel 6. Double Cross 7. The Monster Strikes 8. Highway of Death 9. Double Jeopardy 10. Bridge of Peril 11. Death Closes In 12. Crack-Up 13. Disguised 14. The Flaming Coffin 15. Doctor Satan Strikes