Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940)

Article #1703 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-12-2005
Posting Date: 4-11-2006
Directed by John English and William Witney
Featuring Eduardo Ciannelli, Robert Wilcox, William Newell

An evil scientist plans to take over the world with an army of robots, but he needs the secret for a control cell created by a noted professor. In his attempts to get this information, he encounters resistance from a masked hero known as the Copperhead.

The villain here is the real draw; he was played by Eduardo Ciannelli, who had a long career playing villains of this sort and was very good at it. It’s no wonder this is one of those rare serials in which the villain nabs the title rather than the hero (like THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES or THE PHANTOM CREEPS). Like so many other villains, Doctor Satan wants to take over the world with an army of robots, though he’s only created one of them, and if the robot he has created looks familiar, look no further than THE UNDERSEA KINGDOM; this is the second entry in a row here to feature a recycled robot. However, I’m thinking the title would have been different if the original plan for the serial (it was supposed to feature Superman as the hero) had gone through. Certainly, the Copperhead is no Superman (doesn’t fly, no super powers); in fact, he wins an award for the hero with the least secret secret identity I’ve encountered. All he does is to don his face mask (no other change of costume) to become the Copperhead, and I’m willing to bet that everyone who doesn’t know who he really is is just pretending so as not to hurt his feelings. Nevertheless, this is a strong Republic serial; it’s well-paced, has decent cliffhangers, and fairly fun. Yes, I would have liked to have seen more of the robot, but that’s just me.

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