31 May 2003 | Cutter-2
Oh, to be 9 again!!!
If you have never seen a `real' serial before, they can be more fun that a true classic. By a "real" serial, I do not mean something made to fill 20 minutes of time on a Saturday afternoon like The Phantom Empire, The Brute Man or Radar Men From the Moon. The low budgets, the obvious stunt doubles (Sakima's stunt double in Episode 10 could have been any short man on earth other than Sakima) and the impossibility of the hero escaping tragedy at the end of each episode are all extremely enjoyable. In the Masked Marvel, I especially enjoyed all four investigators wearing the same suit with identically folded breast pocket handkerchiefs. Keeping track of everything that is going on can keep the viewer very busy.
For an adult, serials can be particularly enjoyable because they are mindless entertainment. One does not have to interpret any metaphors. There are no words of wisdom, no dissecting the characters and no symbolism to decipher. Just sit back and let the action roll!
The Masked Marvel is one of the kings of action serials. By my count there were 19 fights (four or more men fighting in two or more rooms were counted as one fight), an even 20 killings by gunshot, 15 deaths by miscellaneous means (explosions, knifes, auto accidents, to include the same shot of a car going over a cliff in Episodes 2 and 8, etc.) and 15 explosions (including cars going over a cliff and the three explosions at the beginning). Given that the killings by gunshot, the miscellaneous killings and the explosions are all divisible by 5, I may have missed a fight (I did not double count the deaths, explosions, etc. that occurred in the rehashing of the end of the previous episode at the beginning of the next episode). The entire serial runs 3 hours and 17 minutes. Subtracting 2 minutes for rehashing of the end of the previous episode at the beginning of the next episode (11 times) leaves 2 hours and 55 minutes. So on average there is a fight every nine minutes, a killing every 5 minutes and an explosion every 12 minutes. And they took The Wild, Wild West off the air because it was too violent. Parents/adults are no fun at all.
The next time I watch the video, I am going to have to count the number of times they use the same staircase. In the hospital scene there was a gurney on the landing. In the warehouse scene there were boxes on the landing. And in the office building scene there was nothing on the landing. The staircase was used a few other times, but I do not remember the exact scenes.
With the exception of the two bodies falling from the top of a building (the dummies could have been Raggedy Andy wearing a man's hat), the special effects were very good. The explosions were especially realistic and the stunts were top notch. There have been other comments regarding Tom Steele's excellent stunt work so I will not dwell on the subject.
Please do not take my comments as criticism. Much of the enjoyment in watching a serial is paying attention to the detail, or lack thereof, and catching the irregularities one would not be able to catch if they were nine or typically would not find in a higher budget film. The Masked Marvel is a top notch serial.