February 1, 2013

SPY SMASHER RETURNS

Three days left to enter! Celebrate Spy Vibe's birthday by entering to win cool vintage collectibles. See the main contest page for details. Entries must be in by February 3rd. What else is new on Spy Vibe? Scroll down for posts about the new Barbarella tv show, Man From U.N.C..L.E. illustration, British spy comics in the 1960s, Piper Gates retro spy designs, Cinema Retro celebrates James Bond, and Spy Vibe's 2012 top ten, including my review of Skyfall.


The 1942 cliffhanger serial Spy Smasher from Republic Pictures was sold and re-edited as a TV movie in 1966. The film version, Spy Smasher Returns, is a steady stream of Republic-style brawls, chase scenes, and special effects from the Lydecker brothers. Kane Richmond as Spy Smasher (based on the Fawcett comic hero) leads us on the trail of Nazi evildoers in the United States before we entered WWII. In the first twenty minutes, viewers are thrilled by a crafty escape from a firing squad in Europe, then follow the clues and action by train, plane, speedboat, and submarine. The Lydeckers provide an especially thrilling escape from a flood of oily flame down a mineshaft! To save money, Republic would sometimes reuse footage from earlier serials. We'd have to ask Leonard Maltin, who has studied the cliffhangers extensively, if this escape scene was shot especially for Spy Smasher. The original 12 serial chapters have been widely available on Archive.org and Youtube, but a nice print of the 1966 film version is now streaming on Netflix. Atypical of low-budget releases, it even includes optional subtitles. The character was first introduced in Whiz Comics in 1940 and followed the formula of rich playboy-turns-hero with the aid of cool gadgets and daring-do. He became Crime Smasher after the war and continued in print until 1953, when Whiz crumbled under the lawsuit from DC over Captain Marvel. DC brought Spy Smasher back in 1972 and he appeared in the 1990s Power of Shazam. More recently, the character has been resurrected as a female anti-terrorist agent in Birds of Prey

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