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      “It seems as though I had always been a fan of costumed heroes. As a very young child I was a huge fan of Superman -- on his radio and television shows, in movies, on 78 rpm records and, of course, in the character’s newspaper strip and various comic books. Living in Chicago, I was also exposed to a lot of the old chapterplays (see posters of some of these, above) that were playing both in theaters and on local TV. Super-heroes offered many opportunities for amateur moviemakers. Their costumes made them visually striking and their special talents offered challenges for ‘spectacular’ stunt work and special effects. Most of these films were made in an intentionally ‘campy’ style long before the Batman TV show popularized that style.
      “My first super-hero effort was the very primitive Captain Marvel. Subsequent film attempts would show improvements in all respects, mostly in the costuming and special effects (particularly scenes in which the hero flew), after seeing the more professional amateur movies made by my friend Larry Ivie.


      “As I was then a big-time movie-serials fan, I also tried my hand at making a couple of chapterplays, The Adventures of the Spirit and the more polished Spy Smasher vs. the Purple Monster . The latter featured two characters (one of whom, Spy Smasher, originated in comic books) from a couple of favorite serials made by Republic Pictures (which inspired my own unofficial ‘company name’ Democracy Pictures). Future comic-book writer Doug Moench played a henchman who gets killed. The last film I made entirely in the Chicago area, Spy Smasher vs. the Purple Monster climaxed with a gun battle in a garage using real guns -- a snubnose and police special, blasting away a total of 25 full-load .38 blanks! Later I cut a trailer for this serial narrated by Jim Harmon.

      “With my move to Los Angeles in 1964, I continued to make ‘super-hero’ type movies. Batman and Robin (which had been shot in part in Wheeling, IL) and Captain America Battles the Red Skull were filmed in Milbrae, CA, with Larry Ivie appearing in both. Shortly thereafter, Larry and I wore the Cap and Skull outfits (winning prizes for them) at the World Science Fiction Convention held Labor Day weekend in Oakland, CA.


      “My first movie project done as homework at the USC film school was a super-hero effort, Captain America vs. the Mutant. The assignment was to shoot a short film that had a certain amount of pans, cuts, close ups, etc., all done in camera. I also threw in special effects, match cuts and action – all done in camera. The film was shot in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park with great assistance by good friends Bob and Kathy Burns. Randal Kleiser , later one of Hollywood’s most prominent motion picture directors, portrayed Cap, wearing the actual costume from Republic’s 1944 Captain America serial. Bob, wearing the first Don Post mask of the character made from the original Universal mold, enacted the Metaluna Mutant’s (the character from the movie This Island Earth) role.



      “During the middle to late 1960s, when so-called ‘underground movies’ were popular, Spy Smasher vs. the Purple Monster, Batman and Robin, Captain America Battles the Red Skull and also Rocketman Flies Again (in which the original helmet from Republic’s ‘Rocket Man’ serials was used) all became part of the Chicago Film-Makers Co-op catalog, thanks to friend and sometimes movie collaborator D. Ray Craig. As a result the films were shown – for money! – at various colleges, in ‘underground’ movie theaters, on buses, etc. Spy Smasher premiered in 1967 at the Aardvark Theatre in Chicago’s Old Town and then played one chapter per week on local Chicago TV (e.g., Raymond LaRue's Saturday Night Movie Palace). During the 1970s, my Rocketman – including monster-magazine celebrities Larry M. Byrd , Eric Hoffman and stuntman Bart Andrews in the cast -- would be released on 16mm film by Glen Photo Supply.



      “Atom-Man vs. Martian Invaders was a self-contained sequel to my Spy Smasher serial. Featuring an original flying hero, it was influenced by several Republic serials, particularly Zombies of the Stratosphere. Among the cast, as another evil Martian, … was Bobby (‘Dunny’) Donaho, drummer in the Penny Arkade (later re-formed as the Armadillo), the rock band I played in during the late 1960s, produced by then-Monkee Mike Nesmith . The movie includes a bit of the Penny Arkade recording "Love Rain" playing over Atom-Man's radio.
      “ Spider-Man was not only my last super-hero movie, but my last amateur film of any kind. It featured a costume I had also worn at the ‘World Con’ held in Cleveland and which I had hoped might sell a TV show I was pitching to Stan Lee, one of Spidey’s creators. The film featured famous nostalgia author Jim Harmon and also had a cameo by William G. Obbagy , president of the International Bela Lugosi Fan Club (who also shot all the still photos for this movie). It enjoyed one ‘theatrical’ play, slipped by me into an evening of USC student films at the Fairfax Theatre in Los Angeles.
      "Three super-hero movies planned ca. 1963 were The Adventures Of The Black Belt (Karate-based original character), Commando Yank and The Blue Beetle. None of these got made (nor did Torpedoman Strikes, an intended USC student film for which I wrote the script in 1965, featuring an original flying hero).
      “Rocket Man Flies Again, Atom-Man vs. Martian Invaders and Spider-Man, by the way, all had scenes shot in Bronson Caverns , the famous and quite familiar LA movie location.”



“CAPTAIN MARVEL” (1962, black & white)"
      Newscaster Billy Batson (Rich Hagopian) broadcasts the story of a giant asteroid on a collision course with the Earth. Billy shouts “Shazam!”, changing himself into heroic Captain Marvel (Don Glut), who flies into space and destroys the asteroid. Returning to Earth, Marvel changes back to Billy, the metamorphosis observed in secrecy by a crook. The crook and his gang capture Billy, binding and gagging him, and then prepare to shoot him while in his vulnerable identity. Working free his gag, Billy hollers “Shazam!” and again becomes Captain Marvel, who uses his powers to defeat the first crook, the remaining two escaping in a car. Captain Marvel flies after the car, stops the vehicle, knocks out the crooks and then flies away.



      “THE HUMAN TORCH” (1963, color)
The Raven (Rich Hagopian), a masked villain, challenges the Human Torch (Don Glut) to meet him. The Torch accepts the challenge, “flaming on” and flying to meet his foe. The Raven douses the Torch with a water hose, putting out his flame and knocking him out of the sky. The Raven puts the stunned torch in a garage and turns on deadly gas. Reviving, the Torch increases his body temperature and burns his way out, then flies off after the fleeing Raven. Surrounding the villain in a ring of fire, Torch swoops down and carries the Raven away.



      “SPY SMASHER VS. THE PURPLE MONSTER” (1964, black & white, four-chapter serial)
Chapter 1: “Menace from Mars”
      An evil Martian called the Purple Monster (Ken Henricks) comes to Earth in a small rocket ship. The Martian, intent on conquering the planet, is met by a henchman. Alan Armstrong (Don Glut), who had seen the approaching rocket from an observatory , changes to his Spy Smasher identity and investigates. When the Purple Monster launches a “Torpedo of Doom” to destroy a city, Spy Smasher pursues the missile through the sky in his flying “Gyrosub.” The Purple Monster blasts Spy Smasher’s craft with his ray gun, exploding it.

Chapter 2: “Cremation in the Clouds”
      Spy Smasher leaps from the Gyrosub just before it explodes, landing atop the soaring missile. Riding the missile down to the ground, the hero launches into battle with the Purple Monster’s henchmen (one played by Doug Moench), using heroics and maneuvers to destroy most of them. When the Purple Monster flees the scene in a car, Spy Smasher pursues him in another car, a chase ensuing. Taking the lead, the Purple Monster stops and tosses a grenade on the road. Spy Smasher’s car rolls over the grenade, which goes off, blowing up the car.

Chapter 3: “Four Seconds to Live”
      Just in time, Spy Smasher jumps from the car. Thinking his enemy dead, the Purple Monster returns to his garage hideout where he boasts to another henchmen about his perceived victory. Meanwhile, Spy Smasher has tracked the Martian to the garage. Breaking in, Spy Smasher commandeers a gun from a henchman inadvertently shot by the Purple Monster, and a raging gun battle ensues. Spy Smasher shoots most of the henchmen, after which the Purple Monster fires at the hero. Spy Smasher drops to the floor, apparently dead.

Chapter 4: “Human Targets”
      Pretending to be dead, Spy Smasher gets up and engages in a fistfight with the Purple Monster and his lone surviving henchman. During the battle, Spy Smasher zaps the henchman with the Purple Monster’s ray gun. Hurling a gas pellet, the Martian escapes, leaving his archenemy to die. Covering his face with his cape, Spy Smasher escapes the gas and chases the Purple Monster to the roof of a three-story building. The two foes fight, the Purple Monster unmasking Spy Smasher – a moment before Spy Smasher sends him flying off the rooftop and to his death.



“BATMAN AND ROBIN”(1964, color)
      Batman (Don Glut) and Robin (Jerry Blum) surprise the Mask (Larry Ivie and, in some scenes, Don Glut) and his gang in the act of kidnapping Vickie Vale, who has papers including the combination of the Gotham City National Bank. A fight ensues, in which Batman is knocked unconscious and Robin is taken prisoner. The crooks escape in a car with their hostages and Batman goes after them on foot. Batman finally arrives on the scene and frees Robin and Vickie, the Caped Crusaders again fighting the criminals. When the Mask tosses Batman a hand grenade, the hero throws it back, destroying the masked villain.



“CAPTAIN AMERICA BATTLES THE RED SKULL” (1964, color)
      The Red Skull (Larry Ivie), a crazed Nazi, is about to destroy an American city with a ray rifle as a show of power and majesty. Steve Rogers (Don Glut), observing the Nazi in his tower stronghold, changes to Captain America and leaps into action, confronting the Skull before he can shoot. A fight starts between the two archenemies, during which the ray rifle is accidentally set off, starting a chain reaction in the tower laboratory. Captain America escapes, but the Red Skull, in trying to save his laboratory from destruction, dies in the resulting explosion.



“CAPTAIN AMERICA VS. THE MUTANT” (1964, black & white)
      Steve Rogers (Randal Kleiser) observes the landing of a flying saucer and switches to his other identity of Captain America. A weird alien Mutant (Bob Burns) emerges from the craft. Cap tries befriending the alien, only to be attacked by the creature. A fight follows, during which the Mutant inadvertently drops its ray gun, then knocks Captain America unconscious. As the Mutant comes down to kill the hero, Captain America revives, grabs the ray gun and blasts the alien, vaporizing the creature.



“ROCKETMAN FLIES AGAIN” (1966, color)
      While flying, Rocket Man (Don Glut) spots two crooks (Larry Byrd, Bart Andrews) on the ground in the act of robbing a man (Eric Hoffman) of an important briefcase. Swooping down, the hero launches himself into a fight against the thugs, turning one crook’s gun against him. Rocket Man continues to fight the other crook, finally flipping him into the canyon below.



“ATOM-MAN VS. MARTIAN INVADERS” (1967, black & white)
      A Martian spaceship creates a wave of destruction on Earth. Then the craft lands inside a cave, and out step Queen Marzanna (Melody Raber), intent on conquering the Earth, and her Martian assistant (Bobby Donaho). They are met by their Earth accomplice (Larry Byrd). Marzanna sends the henchman out to blow up a railroad yard as a show of Martian power, boasting of this via a radio broadcast. Hearing the broadcast, Atom-Man takes to the air, but doesn’t get to the yard in time to prevent its destruction. The flying Atom-Man does, however, manage to follow the returning henchman back to the Martians’ canyon base of operations. Marzanna, having no further use for her Earthling henchman, has her partner destroy him and his car with a ray. Seeing Atom-Man flying on his way, Marzanna and the other Martian flee back to the cave and take off in their spacecraft. A ray fired by Atom-Man brings the rocket ship back down into the canyon, where it crashes and explodes.



“SPIDER-MAN” (1969, color)
      Spider-Man (Don Glut) swings through the city. Meanwhile, the daughter of the masked Dr. Lightning – who went insane after his face was disfigured in an electrical explosion – surrenders pertinent information regarding her father to Randy at his Daily Bugle newspaper office. Lightning’s henchman Rekov (Jim Harmon) shoots Randy and kidnaps the girl, forcibly taking her back to the doctor. Learning from the wounded Randy what has happened and finding a clue in the material left by the kidnapped girl, Spider-Man swings off to Dr. Lightning’s cavern hideout. There, Spidey fights Rekov, who gets inadvertently killed by the doctor’s lightning gun. In trying the protect Lightning’s daughter, Spidey also gets zapped by the gun. Dr. Lightning escapes in his car. Saved by his spider-strength, Spider-Man swings after the villain. Using his web like a lasso, Spider-Man hoists the car up from the road, hanging it in mid-air. Rather than be taken alive, Dr. Lightning zaps the car with his gun, blowing himself up.



TO BE CONTINUED



Super & Serial Heroes Chapter 1    Captain Marvel    The Human Torch   Spy Smasher VS. The Purple Monster
Batman And Robin    Capt. America Battles The Red Skull   Capt. America VS. The Mutant    Rocketman Flies Again
Atom-man VS. Martian Invaders # 1   Atom-man VS. Martian Invaders # 2   Spider-man # 1    Spider-man # 2
Super & Serial Heroes Chapter 2    Superduperman   The Adventures Of The Spirit
Superman VS. The Gorilla Gang # 1    Superman VS. The Gorilla Gang # 2   Sitemap


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