18 March 2017 | frontrowkid2002
Jack Armstrong serial lackluster reminder of original
When Columbia's schlockmeister producer Sam Katzman brought the radio character of Jack Armstrong to the screen in 1947. the radio serial had been on the air for 14 years. In the late Forties, it had to share airtime with Sky King in a complete half hour version three times a week. Gone were the cliffhanging episodes which kept the kiddies on the end of their seats until the next day's resolution. Katzman's serials were based on radio and comic book characters whose name appeal would hopefully bring in the Saturday afternoon juvenile audience. Commercial tie-ins through publicity both in newspapers and in comic books told the kids that their favorite comic book/radio heroes were now on the screen. While Charles Flynn played a teenage Jack Armstrong on radio, the listening audience did not realize that he was a young man who just finished military service. John Hart however played a mature leading man who hadnt seen the inside of Hudson High School (Jack Armstrong's alma mater) for years. Rosemary LaPlanche's fame as Miss America of 1941 got her the job of the role of Betty Fairfield, played as a young girl on radio, but on the screen could have been the love interest for John Hart. In this reviewer's opinion, Ms. LaPlanche resembled Republic western actress Helen Talbot facially and in her acting style. She would later appear in Republic's Federal Agents vs. the Underworld Inc. Joe Brown Jr. played her brother Billy, whose radio character was famous for starting his sentences with such phrases "Gee Willikers." Charles Middleton, known as Ming the Merciless, turns in a credible performance as the evil Dr Grood. Jack Armstrong was the first of three Columbia serials produced in 1947 with the other two being the Vigilante, taken from the comic books, and the Sea Hound featuring Buster Crabbe as Captain Silver, another radio adventure serial. Booked in second run theaters, they enjoyed a brief run before being deposited back in Columbia's vaults.