Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (1953)

TV Series / Serial
Article 3688 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-4-2011
Posting Date: 9-19-2011
Directed by Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon, and Fred C. Brannon
Featuring Judd Holdren, Aline Towne and Gregory Gaye
Country: USA
What it is: Science fiction series

A nefarious tyrant from outer space called The Ruler has his sights on attacking and defeating the Earth. Only Commando Cody and his crew can save the world.

I actually could have covered this one some time ago, but at the time, it appeared to be a TV series that was for some reason listed in my reference books as a serial. It was only later than I realized that the history of this one was somewhat more complicated; though obviously filmed as a TV show, it apparently had to be shown in theaters before it could be shown on TV due to certain contractual obligations. Apparently, this is the source of a certain amount of controversy; since it doesn’t engage in cliffhangers, some purists won’t classify it as a “serial”. I have no problem doing so; there is an overriding story arc, and there are some early silent serials that also eschewed the cliffhanger format, such as THE PERILS OF PAULINE. As a serial, I find it more entertaining than either ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE or RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON; the necessity of coming up with a new episode-length threat every time out made things a little more creative than usual. As a TV series, it’s certainly faster-moving and more energetic than some of the other series of the time, such “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger” or “Space Patrol”, and the wealth of stock footage (from earlier serials and other sources) is well used. In this one, Commando Cody wears a mask under the helmet to keep his real identity a secret. One of the oddest touches for me was the presence of Richard Crane as Cody’s assistant in nine of the 12 episodes (the first three featured William Schallert in the position); given that he played the heroic title character in “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger”, he’s essentially in that series’ Winky role here. All in all, I was rather entertained by this one.

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