DISCOVER--the Republic serials, 1935--1955by jonabbott56 | created - 17 Jan 2013 | updated - 28 Jan 2016 | Public
Before television, a trip to the cinema might include a cartoon, a newsreel, and a serial along with the main feature/s. The serials--nicknamed cliffhangers, for their tendency to leave the hero in dire straits (such as, say, hanging from a cliff)--ran between twelve to fifteen chapters, and were deliberately designed to lure the audience back to the next show to see the outcome.
There were three major suppliers of serials (or chapter plays, as some like to call them), and these were Universal (best known for Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers), Columbia (the cheapest outfit, offering Superman, Batman, and Jungle Jim), and Republic (briefly known as Mascot), widely regarded as the best of the three.
The following is a chronological checklist of all the Republic serials. Whether westerns, detective dramas, espionage thrillers, or pulp sci-fi, they all basically had the same plot, but ya know what? They were so energetic and full-on, it never got old... There were many returning two-fisted, square-jawed leading men, but the real stars were Howard and Theodore Lydecker, who did the model work and special effects, and the small army of regular recurring stunt-men, who smashed up the sets in fights that seemed to last forever (or at least until the last unbroken stick of furniture).
If you've never seen one, try one drected by John English and William Witney from the late '30s/early '40s when they were at their peak, and then you'll be dipping into this list like a box of chocolates... Mmm--mm.
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1. Darkest Africa (1936)
Approved | 269 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
A 15-episode serial in which Beatty goes to darkest Africa to rescue the Goddess of Joba, who is being held by the high priest.
2. Undersea Kingdom (1936)
Approved | 226 min | Sci-Fi, Adventure
Crash Corrigan, a recent graduate of Annapolis, and Diana, a go-getting reporter, join Professor Norton for a search for the source of a string of earthquakes, Atlantis. They ride Prof. ... See full summary »
3. The Vigilantes Are Coming (1936)
Approved | 229 min | Action, Adventure, Romance
A masked hero called "The Eagle" leads California ranchers in a struggle against Russian Cossacks who are plotting to take over California and turn it into a Russian colony.
Also known as The Vigilantes Are Coming.
4. Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island (1936)
Approved | 256 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
A 14-episode serial in which Mala, a Polynesian in the employ of U.S. Intelligence investigates sabotage on Clipper Island. A gang of spies causes the eruption of a volcano, for which our ... See full summary »
Also known as Robinson Crusoe on Clipper Island.
6. The Painted Stallion (1937)
Approved | 212 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
The period is the 1820's and the first wagon train leaves Independence heading west to Santa Fe. In order to maintain his power, the ruthless Official at Santa Fe must not let them arrive ... See full summary »
8. Zorro Rides Again (1937)
Approved | 212 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
The California-Yucatan Railroad, being built for the good of Mexico, is under siege by a gang of terrorists hoping to force its sale; no one can prove their connection to profiteer Marsden.... See full summary »
9. The Lone Ranger (1938)
Approved | 264 min | Western
CHAP. 1, HI YO SILVER: An outlaw leader planning to take control of Texas after the Civil War kills Colonel Jeffries, a man empowered to levy taxes, and assumes his identity. His men then ... See full summary »
11. Dick Tracy Returns (1938)
Approved | 260 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
Dick Tracy battles spies and saboteurs in his efforts to bring to justice the Stark gang, a criminal family led by the vicious Pa Stark.
12. Hawk of the Wilderness (1938)
Approved | 213 min | Adventure
An expedition arrives on an uncharted jungle island to rescue the local natives, led by a jungle boy, from a volcano that is about to erupt.
13. The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939)
Approved | 263 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Homesteaders are moving into the valley settled many years ago by rancher Craig Dolan. He wants to keep them out by legal means but his nephew Bart brings in outlaws to drive them out. The ... See full summary »
14. Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939)
Approved | 211 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
Using a diabolical disguise, Harry Crowel embarks on a vengeful career of destruction...opposed by three heroic daredevils.
15. Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939)
Passed | 302 min | Action, Mystery, Crime
A mad doctor named Zanoff uses a drug to bring himself back from the dead after his execution in prison. Dick Tracy sets out to capture Zanoff before he can put his criminal gang back together again.
16. Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939)
Passed | 212 min | Action, Adventure, History
The masked hero leads a fighting force to fight a villian who plots the conquest of The Republic of Mexico.
17. Drums of Fu Manchu (1940)
Passed | 269 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
The nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu searches for the keys to the tomb of Genghis Khan, in order to fulfill a prophecy that will enable him to conquer the world. His nemesis, Dr. Nayland Smith, and ... See full summary »
18. Adventures of Red Ryder (1940)
Approved | 205 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Mesquite banker Calvin Drake plans to profit from the Santa Fe Railroad's acquisition of right-of-way by gaining control of the land in the territory. In the ensuing war of intimidation ... See full summary »
19. King of the Royal Mounted (1940)
Approved | 211 min | Action, Adventure
Canadian Tom Merritt has discovered a substance, Compound X, that will cure infantile paralysis, which he extracts from a mine at Caribou, Canada. A country at war with Canada (unnamed ... See full summary »
20. Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940)
Passed | 267 min | Adventure, Action, Crime
A mad scientist plots the domination of America and only the masked hero, The Copperhead, can stop him.
21. Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)
Passed | 216 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
To protect a magic talisman from being used for evil, a teenage boy named Billy Batson is given the power to become an adult superhero, Captain Marvel, with a single magic word: "Shazam!"
22. Jungle Girl (1941)
Passed | 267 min | Adventure
Dr. John Meredith has been driven from civilization by the criminal activities of his twin brother Bradley Meredith. With his infant daughter, he settles in the African jungle, where his ... See full summary »
25. Spy Smasher (1942)
Passed | 215 min | Action, Adventure
Alan Armstrong, aka Spy Smasher, battles a Nazi villain known as The Mask, who heads a gang of saboteurs determined to spread destruction across America.
27. King of the Mounties (1942)
Approved | 196 min | Action, Adventure, Western
The chapter-crunched version of this 196 minutes, 12-episode serial from Republic finds Canada being bombed mercilessly by a mysterious-enemy plane (shaped like a boomerang) called the ... See full summary »
28. G-Men vs. The Black Dragon (1943)
Passed | 243 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
American, British and Chinese secret agents battle the Japanese Black Dragon Society, a secretive ring that smuggles enemy agents into the U.S. disguised as mummies.
29. Daredevils of the West (1943)
Passed | 196 min | Action, Adventure, Western
Foster (Charles Miller (IV)', owner of the local stagecoach line in Canyon City in the 1880s, has received a Federal Franchise Commission grant and is rushing to complete a new road through... See full summary »
32. Captain America (1944)
Approved | 244 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Superhero Captain America battles the evil forces of the archvillain called The Scarab, who poisons his enemies and steals a secret device capable of destroying buildings by sound vibrations.
33. The Tiger Woman (1944)
Approved | 196 min | Adventure, Thriller
Greedy oil speculators, led by Morgan, are trying to force Tiger Woman and her band of warriors from their jungle home. Allen Saunders of Inter-Ocean Oil wants to develop the oil, too, but fights with Tiger Woman to stop the bad guys.
34. Haunted Harbor (1944)
Approved | 243 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
A sea captain about to be hanged for a murder he didn't commit is rescued from the gallows by two of his crewmen. They head for the island of Pulinan, where they believe the real murderer--... See full summary »
35. Zorro's Black Whip (1944)
Approved | 211 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
Hammond, owner of the town's stagecoach line and a leading citizen, is opposed to Idaho becoming a state, and kills Randolph Meredith, owner of the town's newspaper, for endorsing it. ... See full summary »
36. Manhunt of Mystery Island (1945)
Not Rated | 219 min | Action, Sci-Fi
A young couple journeys to Mystery Island to rescue the girl's father, who is being held prisoner by the evil Captain Mephisto, a pirate from 200 years ago who uses his Transformation ... See full summary »
37. Federal Operator 99 (1945)
Passed | 169 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
Crime lord Jim Belmont escapes FBI custody and begins a reign of thievery that is thwarted at every turn by Jerry Blake, the FBI's Operator 99.
38. The Purple Monster Strikes (1945)
Approved | 201 min | Action, Sci-Fi
A Martian spacecraft crash-lands near the observatory of Cyrus Layton, designer of Earth's first spaceship. The survivor, forerunner of an invasion, can assume the form of any earthman. ... See full summary »
39. The Phantom Rider (1946)
Approved | 167 min | Action, Adventure, Western
A reservation's new doctor masquerades as the legendary Indian god, "the Phantom Rider", to catch gang looting the reservation, unaware the leader is a phony Indian Agent.
41. Daughter of Don Q (1946)
Approved | 167 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
When the unscrupulous Carlos Manning discovers that an old Spanish land grant recently unearthed will leave a huge section of California real estate to the heirs of Don Quantero, he employs... See full summary »
42. The Crimson Ghost (1946)
Approved | 167 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
A criminal mastermind known as the Crimson Ghost is out to steal a device called the Cyclotrode, which can short-circuit all electrical currents on the planet.
This is the guy who adorns all those biker t-shirts...
43. Son of Zorro (1947)
Approved | 100 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
Young cavalry officer Jeff Stewart returns to his home in the west after the Civil War to find that a ring of crooked politicians has taken over the county, bleeding the citizens with 50% ... See full summary »
44. Jesse James Rides Again (1947)
Approved | 180 min | Action, Adventure, History
Outlaw Jesse James and his friend, on the run from Missouri, ride into a town where a gang is trying to drive area ranchers off their land because there's oil underneath it. They take ... See full summary »
45. The Black Widow (1947)
Approved | 180 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
The Daily Clarion hires detective story writer Steve Colt to investigate the deaths of a group of scientists working on an atomic rocket development project. Behind the killings is fortune ... See full summary »
46. G-Men Never Forget (1948)
Passed | 167 min | Action, Adventure, Crime