Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Sunday Evening Video: The Big Screen Debut Of “Shazam”

I don’t often recycle Sunday Evening Videos, but this week we are once again bringing you the original Adventures of Captain Marvel movie serial from 1942.

I originally posted this here in 2016, but that video has been yanked from YouTube, so this week we’re going to present, for the second time a new and improved print that also edits out all the redundant openings and closings from each serial, and gets the running time down to under three hours.

With the much-hyped “Shazam” movie currently ruling the box office, I thought it might be good to show how cool this superhero could be when he’s not played as a comedic super-powered version of the movie Big. I first posted this version last August but it seemed like an apt time to repeat it, plus I’ve got a magazine deadline staring me in the face, so it helps to lighten the load a bit. I just did the historical run-down of why Captain Marvel can’t use his original name in last Friday’s PopCulteer, so I’ll edit a bit out of this spiel.

Suffice to say, Captain Marvel was huge in the 1940s, and experienced a surge in popularity again in the 1970s, thanks to a top-rated Saturday morning live-action show on CBS.

“Shazam” was one of DC’s four most-merchandisable heroes. Kids in the 1940s and the 1970s fell in love with Billy Batson, who could turn into the super-powered Captain Marvel just by saying “Shazam.” DC had mixed results with the character in terms of sales, though, and the original Captain Marvel has been rebooted, with great versions and not-so-great versions many times over the years.

Adventures_of_captain_marvelTonight we once again go back to the original incarnation of the hero at the height of his popularity for the entire 12-chapter serial, The Adventures of Captain Marvel. from 1941. This is widely considered to be the greatest superhero movie serial from the golden age of Hollywood, and while it’s not entirely faithful to the comic book, it’s a great adaptation and a lot of fun.

So set aside just under three hours and enjoy the show, or order the DVD, which was released last year, so you can watch one chapter at a time. Either way, this is the REAL Captain Marvel, not a lady using the name, or a big dumb guy calling himself “Shazam.”

The current comic book version is pretty bad, demonstrating a complete misunderstanding of what made the character work so well on the part of Johns. The movie is faithful to the awful comic, and gives the character the mind of a kid, and not even a good kid at that (in the original comics he has the wisdom of Solomon, which sort of blows that crappy idea out of the water).

Last year I wrote, “It’s a double-edged sword for fans of the original Captain Marvel:  If the movie fails, then DC will never try to make another movie with him, and will probably abandon the idea of publishing any comics beyond what Geoff Johns wants to do.  If the movie is a success, then generations of kids will grow up with this lousy parody of the original concept, and won’t know just how good the original comics were.”

It looks like future generations will grow up with a pretty lame copy of the original.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Wheeler

    EXCELLENT article. I suppose I don’t mind that the new Shazam movie is faring well at the box office, but I hate the fact that the character is being used for laughs, and that they’re using the Geoff Johns version (while I respect what he did with Green Lantern, I don’t much care for this). Thanks for showing us that the REAL Captain Marvel (not Shazam, not Carol Danvers) has had some proper screen time!

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