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The Masked Marvel Serial

The Masked Marvel (1943) - William Forrest - 12 Chapter Serial from Republic Studios


In it the Masked Marvel, a hero dressed in a business suit and a face mask fights the Japanese saboteur Sakima and his espionage organization. The hook of the story is that, in a reversal of the common serial "Masked Mystery Villain" stock character, the audience doesn't know who the hero is until the final reel; all the audience is told is that The Masked Marvel is one of a group of special investigators (the same plotline is used in the first Republic serial The Lone Ranger).  The audience are given clues and red herrings about the hero's identity throughout the serial. Four possible candidates are shown: Bob Barton (David Bacon), Frank Jeffers (Richard Clarke), Terry Morton (Bill Healy) and Jim Arnold (Rob Bacon).  The Masked Marvel is really stuntman Tom Steele in all but the very final shot in which he removes his mask. The mask was directly molded from Steele's face. The voice of the Masked Marvel was Gayne Whitman. Despite this, Tom Steele was given no screen credit at all, even for the bit parts and stunts he performed in addition to the title role. The voice of the Masked marvel was dubbed in by radio actor Gayne Whitman, since Steele's natural voice was a light tenor, somewhat similar to Henry Fonda's, and did not record as particularly "tough." However, in Steele's most visible secondary role, as a murderous assassin, he disguises his voice, apparently believing that his natural voice would be used for the Marvel. Bob Barton was a "jinxed" role. David Bacon got the role because four previous actors had injured themselves and were unable to work. While filming one of the serial’s big fight scenes, every actor but Bacon was seriously injured. "I’ll probably get hurt going home in the car," he had joked. Bacon was murdered and found in his car just two weeks after the production of the serial had been completed.


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