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  • "Jack Armstrong" was based on a popular radio series of the day, "Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy". Columbia had had some success in translating popular comic book heroes to the screen, but came up a little short on this one.

    Jim Fairfield (Pierre Watkin) is the head of an aviation company whose head scientist Vic Hardy (Hugh Prosser) has discovered cosmic radioactivity being employed in experiments coming from a distant off shore island. Hardy is kidnapped and taken to the island and forced to aid the evil doers. Fairfield, Jack Armstrong (John Hart) and Fairfield's niece Betty (Rosemary LaPlanche) and nephew Billy (Joe Brown Jr.), decide to investigate.

    There they discover that an evil scientist, Jason Grood (Charles Middleton) is behind a scheme to conquer the world through the development of a super annihilator ray and a space ship called the "aeroglobe". The aeroglobe is capable of launching into space and destroying cities with its deadly ray (shades of Star Wars 50 years ahead of its time). Its up to Jack and the gang to foil the baddies.

    Assisting Grood are Professor Zorn (Wheeler Oakman), Blair (Jack Ingram), Pierce (John Merton) and Lane Bradford, Terry Frost and Don C. Harvey among others as various henchman.

    Assisting the good guys are a native tribe headed by Princess Alura (Claire James) and Umala (Russ Vincent).

    The script is weak and the production values, bottom of the barrel. The acting is for the most part, terrible. Hart and Brown are simply awful. Most of the story takes place outside on what looks to be Columbia's "B" western backlot. The "aeroglobe" looks like a flying garbage can and its interior is very sparsely furnished. There was no imagination (or budget probably) to develop realistic looking space suits either I'll wager.

    John Hart's acting would fortunately improve to the point that he would replace Clayton Moore as TV's "The Lone Ranger" for a couple of seasons. He also appeared in a TV series with Lon Chaney based on "The Last of the Mohicans.

    Charles Middleton, who as the chief villain wasn't even given billing, is best remembered as "Ming the Merciless" in Universal's "Flash Gordon" serials. The venerable Pierre Watkin (probably the best actor in this picture) had long been a staple of the "B" movie scene, playing bankers, lawyers, doctors in featured roles. It was nice to see him in a leading role for once.

    The female leads deserved a better fate. Rosemary LaPlanche and Claire James hardly appear in the last few chapters and could have brightened up the proceedings a little, had they been given more to do.

    John Merton and Lane Bradford were father and son.

    Columbia has done better.
  • As with a few other film serials, this was adapted from the "Jack Armstrong -- The All-American Boy" radio show. Unlike many serials, this one was more in tune with the radio serial's progress.

    Spoilers probably present in the following.

    The radio show involved Jack Armstrong, a high-school student who was nearly perfect: smart, a champion athlete, and good looking. His high-school buddies were Billy and Betty Fairfield. The Fairfields had an uncle, James Farfield ("Uncle Jim"), the owner of an aircraft company, whose duties took him to the far corners of the world. Uncle Jim would usually take Billy, Betty, and Jack Armstrong along with him, exposing them to exciting adventures. The radio show was presented in a 15-minute serial format.

    The movie serial retains most of this formula, and all of the "good guy" characters, including Vic Hardy. Hardy had been recently introduced in the radio series, and appeared in the film while his character was still fresh to listeners.

    Naturally, the serial story is different from the radio program. The radio show was rather educational, with various characters either asking about or relating facts about the out-of-the-way places they were visiting. By contrast, the film threw most of that aside for action. Columbia serials were all a bit that way.

    John Hart looks a little old for a high-school student. However, the story isn't horrible, just not like the radio program.
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Jack Armstrong the All-American Boy (played by 30 year old John Hart) and his friends the Fairfields go to a distant island somewhere to rescue a scientist and also try and prevent Jason Grood take over the world with a cosmic ray of some kind. What follows is lots of running around the island and lots of fights and all in all it's not a bad 15 part serial but not that enthralling. Because of low budgets serials do have a lot of repetition but you can have enough of the same tunnels, the same laboratory and the same hills.

    The cast are adequate but it does have a strangely uncredited Charles Middleton as Grood, the chief villain. He dominates every scene he is in and channelling his Ming the Merciless from 'Flash Gordon' gets megalomaniacal at the end and wants to conquer the universe, and you believe him such is the quality of his acting. John Merton is also good as shifty Gregory Pierce but for some reason he is also doesn't have a credit. Claire James is alluring as Princess Alura but sadly doesn't have much to do.