DISCOVER--the Columbia serials in chronological order

by jonabbott56 | created - 17 Aug 2013 | updated - 28 Jan 2016 | Public

One of the three main players alongside Republic and Universal, Columbia entered the serials game relatively late, moving in when the competition had thinned out a little bit. Many of their titles were taken from earlier films made in the silent era. They were the cheapest and most slapdash of the three, in a genre not known for its largesse and attention to detail in the first place, but they got lucky early by securing the rights to Superman and Batman, and many of their serials were built around comic strip characters and popular culture icons of myth and legend. Their stories are also the most ridiculous of a wild lot, but of course with hindsight that makes them more fun today. However, we shouldn't make the rookie mistake of assuming the audience was as dumb as the product; Republic and Universal were acknowledged by public and industry alike as superior. Still, we'd be worse off without most of the following...

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1. The Phantom (1943)

Passed | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Professor Davidson and his niece Diana Palmer search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz, reputed to be the source of a large hidden treasure. Also searching is a local crook, Singapore Smith... See full summary »

Director: B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Tom Tyler, Jeanne Bates, Ernie Adams, John Bagni

Votes: 335

This entry is just a place-holder so we have a picture. The list starts below...

2. Jungle Menace (1937)

Passed | 308 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

In the Asian province of Seemang where the Bay of Bengal meets the jungle, Chandler Elliott (John St. Polis) owns a large and prosperous rubber plantation. His attractive daughter, Dorothy (... See full summary »

Directors: Harry L. Fraser, George Melford | Stars: Frank Buck, Sasha Siemel, Reginald Denny, Esther Ralston

Votes: 31

3. The Mysterious Pilot (1937)

Passed | 300 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

A 15-episode serial in which our hero, Jim Dorn helps hide Jean McNain from a man she can implicate in a murder.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Frank Hawks, Dorothy Sebastian, Esther Ralston, Rex Lease

Votes: 56

4. The Secret of Treasure Island (1938)

Approved | 300 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

In the Prologue, pirates hide a treasure on an island off the Mexican coast. And the pirates, the map and the treasure disappear in a volcanic eruption. The legend of the island draws ... See full summary »

Director: Elmer Clifton | Stars: Don Terry, Gwen Gaze, Walter Miller, Grant Withers

Votes: 177

5. The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1938)

Approved | Action, Western

A short plot summary finds Wild Bill Hickok (Bill Elliott), the U.S. Marshal in Abilene, Kansas, opposing the Phantom Raiders, a gang of renegades raiding the cattle drives over the ... See full summary »

Directors: Sam Nelson, Mack V. Wright | Stars: Bill Elliott, Monte Blue, Carole Wayne, Frankie Darro

Votes: 35

6. The Spider's Web (1938)

Passed | 300 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A crime fighter known as The Spider battles a villain called The Octopus, who is out to sabotage America and install his own government.

Directors: James W. Horne, Ray Taylor | Stars: Warren Hull, Iris Meredith, Richard Fiske, Kenne Duncan

Votes: 104

Many consider this fellow to be the partial inspiration for Marvel's Spider-man character and costume and when you look at his design, it's difficult to argue...

7. Flying G-Men (1939)

Passed | 257 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Three government aviators called the "Flying G-Men", one of whom is disguised as "The Black Falcon", fight to protect the US and its allies from an enemy spy ring and to avenge the death of the fourth Flying G-Man.

Directors: James W. Horne, Ray Taylor | Stars: Robert Paige, Richard Fiske, James Craig, Lorna Gray

Votes: 24

8. Mandrake, the Magician (1939)

Approved | 215 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Mandrake and his assistant Lothar are working the cruise lines and make the acquaintance of Professor Houston who has developed a radium energy machine, which is much coveted by a masked Crime Lord known as "The Wasp".

Directors: Norman Deming, Sam Nelson | Stars: Warren Hull, Doris Weston, Al Kikume, Rex Downing

Votes: 152

An early newspaper strip character of the King Features Syndicate, this uninspired magican later turned up in comic books and cartoon shows. This is the only Columbia serial not to run to fifteen parts; it's only twelve episodes long.

9. Overland with Kit Carson (1939)

Approved | 300 min | Action, Adventure, Western

A mysterious outlaw known as Pegleg dreams of an empire in the vast, rich wilderness west of the Mississippi River. Army Lieurenant David Brent (Richard Fiske) is sent from Washington to ... See full summary »

Directors: Norman Deming, Sam Nelson | Stars: Bill Elliott, Iris Meredith, Richard Fiske, Bobby Clack

Votes: 24

10. The Shadow (1940)

Passed | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The Shadow battles a villain known as The Black Tiger, who has the power to make himself invisible and is trying to take over the world with his death ray.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Victor Jory, Veda Ann Borg, Roger Moore, Robert Fiske

Votes: 219

The popular radio character, brought to life by the great Victor Jory.

11. Terry and the Pirates (1940)

Passed | 300 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Dr. Herbert Lee (John Paul Jones), an archaeologist seeking to decipher ancient Mara inscriptions, is aided by his son, Terry (William Tracy), and Terry's pal, Pat Ryan (Jeff York), and ... See full summary »

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: William Tracy, Jeff York, Joyce Bryant, Allen Jung

Votes: 60

Another popular newspaper strip.

12. Deadwood Dick (1940)

Approved | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Deadwood Dick, a masked and mysterious hero, is in reality Dick Stanley, editor of the Dakota Pioneer Press and a leading member of Statehood For Dakota. He is on the trail of a masked ... See full summary »

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Donald Douglas, Lorna Gray, Harry Harvey, Marin Sais

Votes: 47

Deadwood Dick was a pulp novel character from the late 19th century whose name was appropriated by several real-life individuals at that time. Needless to say, this serial is one of those fictions.

13. The Green Archer (1940)

Passed | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The struggle over the Bellamy estate ends with Michael Bellamy accused of murder and killed on the way to prison, while his brother, Abel Bellamy, takes control of the estate for his own nefarious plans.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Victor Jory, Iris Meredith, James Craven, Robert Fiske

Votes: 125

14. White Eagle (1941)

Approved | 290 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

White Eagle is the son of a massacred army officer, who has been raised by an Indian tribe and believes himself to be the son of the tribal chief. White Eagle is working to get a peace ... See full summary »

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Buck Jones, Raymond Hatton, Dorothy Fay, James Craven

Votes: 32

15. The Spider Returns (1941)

Approved | 300 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The evil and masked "Gargoyle" is sabotaging all of America's industrial plants. It is up to the Spider to save the country.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Warren Hull, Mary Ainslee, Dave O'Brien, Joseph W. Girard

Votes: 226

More crime-fighting fun with the original webbed hero... Busy Warren Hull returns to the role...

16. The Iron Claw (1941)

Approved | 289 min | Crime

Miserly old Anton Benson once recovered a treasure in gold from a sunken Spanish galleon, and in his greed murdered anyone who got in his way of keeping it. Now his family is gathered at ... See full summary »

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Charles Quigley, Joyce Bryant, Forrest Taylor, Walter Sande

Votes: 34

17. Holt of the Secret Service (1941)

Approved | 278 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A murderous gang of counterfeiters has kidnapped the government's best engraver and is forcing him to print virtually undetectable phony money. The Secret Service sends its toughest agent, Jack Holt, and a female partner after the gang.

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Jack Holt, Evelyn Brent, C. Montague Shaw, Tristram Coffin

Votes: 59

18. Captain Midnight (1942)

Passed | 270 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Secret Service Major Steel (Joseph W. Girard), is one of the few men in America aware of the fact that Captain Albright (Dave O'Brien) is also Captain Midnight, daring masked aviator ... See full summary »

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Dave O'Brien, Dorothy Short, James Craven, Sam Edwards

Votes: 85

Later a TV series in the 1950s.

19. Perils of the Royal Mounted (1942)

Approved | 275 min | Action, Western

Mountie sergeant and his three constables find themselves facing multiple perils at the hands of an outlaw gang which, aided by a corrupt Indian medicine man and his followers, have brought... See full summary »

Director: James W. Horne | Stars: Robert Kellard, Nell O'Day, Kenneth MacDonald, Herbert Rawlinson

Votes: 15

20. The Secret Code (1942)

Approved | 275 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

A police detective goes undercover and joins a gang of Nazi agents using explosive gases and artificial lightning to sabotage the war effort, whom he battles in disguise as The Black Commando.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Paul Kelly, Anne Nagel, Trevor Bardette, Rudolph Anders

Votes: 43

21. The Valley of Vanishing Men (1942)

Passed | 280 min | Action, Adventure, Mystery

Wild Bill Tolliver and Missouri Benson ride into the territory of New Mexico to search for Bill's father, Henry Tolliver, who disappeared while prospecting. They discover that a ruthless ... See full summary »

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Bill Elliott, Slim Summerville, Carmen Morales, Kenneth MacDonald

Votes: 29

22. Batman (1943)

Approved | 260 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Japanese spymaster Prince Daka operates a covert espionage organization located in Gotham City's now-deserted Little Tokyo which turns American scientists into pliable zombies.

Director: Lambert Hillyer | Stars: Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish, Shirley Patterson

Votes: 1,708

The first live-action Batman, marred by anti-Japan sentiment that was more than understandable at the time but embarrasses today.

23. The Phantom (1943)

Passed | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Professor Davidson and his niece Diana Palmer search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz, reputed to be the source of a large hidden treasure. Also searching is a local crook, Singapore Smith... See full summary »

Director: B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Tom Tyler, Jeanne Bates, Ernie Adams, John Bagni

Votes: 335

Another King Features comic strip hero revived for comic books and cartoons, plus a live action feature in 1996 that bombed. Lead Tom Tyler had been Captain Marvel for Republic.

24. The Desert Hawk (1944)

Approved | 285 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

Evil Hassan slips back into his native land of Ahad and plots to overthrow his twin bother, Kasim, who has just been crowned the Caliph. Hassan enlists the aid of the chief Chamberlain, ... See full summary »

Director: B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Gilbert Roland, Mona Maris, Ben Welden, Kenneth MacDonald

Votes: 27

25. Black Arrow (1944)

Approved | 270 min | Action, Adventure, Western

Buck Sherman and Jake Jackson, a couple of evil carpetbaggers, illegally enter a Navajo reservation to prospect for gold and end up killing Aranho, the Navajos chief. Black Arrow, presumed ... See full summary »

Directors: Lew Landers, B. Reeves Eason | Stars: Mark Roberts, Adele Jergens, Robert B. Williams, Kenneth MacDonald

Votes: 31

26. Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945)

Approved | 243 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

Chapter 1 finds Daily Flash newspaper reporter Brenda Starr (Joan Woodbury), and her photographer, Chuck Allen (Syd Saylor), assigned to cover a fire in an old house where they discover the... See full summary »

Director: Wallace Fox | Stars: Joan Woodbury, Kane Richmond, Ernie Adams, William 'Billy' Benedict

Votes: 53

Based on the popular syndicated comic strip that began in 1940, this is the first of four screen incarnations, to be followed by two unsold TV pilots in the '70s and a little-seen film in the late '80s.

27. The Monster and the Ape (1945)

Passed | 295 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller

At the Bainbridge Research Foundation, Professor Franklin Arnold, displays his creation, the Metalogen Man, a robot, to Professor Ernst and three other colleagues. Shortly afterward, the ... See full summary »

Director: Howard Bretherton | Stars: Robert Lowery, George Macready, Ralph Morgan, Carole Mathews

Votes: 52

Bonkers barnstormer about a murderous scientist who has a secret tunnel from his house to a giant gorilla's cage in the local zoo and designs on a mechanical man he wants to use for evil intent. Future second Batman Robert Lowery is the hero, a very young George MacReady the villain (the raspy voice and craggy visage sadly not yet in place!).

28. Jungle Raiders (1945)

Passed | 284 min | Action

Ann Reed travels to a mysterious land following her father who disappeared into its interior many years ago. Ann falls in with Bob Moore and Joe Riley who have just been mustered out of the... See full summary »

Director: Lesley Selander | Stars: Kane Richmond, Eddie Quillan, Veda Ann Borg, Carol Hughes

Votes: 24

29. Who's Guilty? (1945)

Approved | Action, Crime, Mystery

Walter Calvert (Davison Clark) calls upon his brother Henry (Davison Clark) at his eerie old house and demands a share of the family fortune, and threatens to kill Henry if he doesn't get ... See full summary »

Directors: Howard Bretherton, Wallace Grissell | Stars: Robert Kent, Amelita Ward, Tim Ryan, Jayne Hazard

Votes: 20

Old dark house mystery.

30. Hop Harrigan America's Ace of the Airways (1946)

Approved | Action, Adventure, Drama

Hop Harrigan (William Bakewell) and his pal "Tank" Tinker (Sumner Getchell) operate a small airport and flying service, and are hired by J. Westly Arnold (Emmett Vogan) to fly an eccentric ... See full summary »

Director: Derwin Abrahams | Stars: William Bakewell, Jennifer Holt, Robert 'Buzz' Henry, Sumner Getchell

Votes: 43

31. Chick Carter, Detective (1946)

Approved | 228 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Detective Chick Carter (Lyle Talbot)finds himself on his most exciting case when Sherry Martin (Julie Gibson), a singer at the Century Club, reports the robbery of the famous Blue Diamond, ... See full summary »

Director: Derwin Abrahams | Stars: Lyle Talbot, Douglas Fowley, Julie Gibson, Pamela Blake

Votes: 23

Not a short film, a Columbia serial.

32. Son of the Guardsman (1946)

Adventure

England, 12th century. David Trent is a nobleman who forms an outlaw group to combat his evil uncle Sir Edgar Bullard. Bullard has kidnapped Louise, the daughter of his rival Lord Markham. ... See full summary »

Director: Derwin Abrahams | Stars: Robert Shaw, Daun Kennedy, Robert 'Buzz' Henry, Jim Diehl

Votes: 29

33. Jack Armstrong (1947)

Not Rated | 279 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, battles the evil Dr. Grood, who has placed a death ray aboard his spaceship orbiting Earth.

Director: Wallace Fox | Stars: John Hart, Rosemary La Planche, Claire James, Joe Brown Jr.

Votes: 46

Future Lone Ranger John Hart stars.

34. The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West (1947)

Approved | 285 min | Action, Crime

The Vigilante, a masked government agent, is assigned to investigate the case of the "100 Tears of Blood", a cursed string of rare blood red pearls sought by a gang led by the unknown X-1 that may have been smuggled into the country.

Director: Wallace Fox | Stars: Ralph Byrd, Ramsay Ames, Lyle Talbot, George Offerman Jr.

Votes: 66

Ralph Byrd, better known to serials fans as Dick Tracy, stars.

35. The Sea Hound (1947)

Approved | 240 min | Adventure

Captain Silver and his crew receive a distress call in the South Pacific. They rescue the crew of a yacht from modern pirates and get caught up in a search for lost treasure.

Directors: W.B. Eason, Mack V. Wright, Sam Newfield | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Jimmy Lloyd, Pamela Blake, Ralph Hodges

Votes: 51

Buster Crabbe of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers fame stars.

36. Brick Bradford (1947)

Approved | 257 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

An adventurer travels to the moon to stop a madman from getting hold of the Interceptor Ray, a weapon that could destroy Earth.

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr | Stars: Kane Richmond, Rick Vallin, Linda Leighton, Pierre Watkin

Votes: 56

Insane science-fiction jumble with Spy Smasher Kane Richmond.

37. Tex Granger: Midnight Rider of the Plains (1948)

Approved | 270 min | Action, Western

When Tex Granger rides into Three Buttes, Helen Kent persuades him to buy the local newspaper. However, loan shark Rance Carson appoints the bandit Blaze Talbot as town marshal to act as ... See full summary »

Director: Derwin Abrahams | Stars: Robert Kellard, Peggy Stewart, Robert 'Buzz' Henry, Smith Ballew

Votes: 19

With Duke the Wonder Dog!!

38. Superman (1948)

Approved | 244 min | Sci-Fi

Superman comes to Earth as a child and grows up to be his home's first superhero with his first major challenge being to oppose The Spider Lady.

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr | Stars: Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Tommy Bond, Carol Forman

Votes: 870

Kirk Alyn premieres as the first live-action Superman. Great stuff.

39. Congo Bill (1948)

Approved | 270 min | Action, Adventure

A girl is about to inherit a fortune, but she is missing in Africa. Only then, family charges Congo Bill, an adventurer, to find her, and bring her back to civilization. He follows a legend about some White Queen, but his path is full of difficulties, by an inhospitable jungle, and the man who will lose the fortune if the girl is found alive.

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr | Stars: Don McGuire, Cleo Moore, Jack Ingram, I. Stanford Jolley

Votes: 58

40. Bruce Gentry (1949)

Approved | Action, Adventure, Crime

Famed aviator Bruce Gentry is working with scientist Andrew Benson, setting out to uncover the origin of a deadly secret weapon---an electronically controlled flying disc which can be ... See full summary »

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr | Stars: Tom Neal, Judy Clark, Ralph Hodges, Forrest Taylor

Votes: 36

41. Batman and Robin (1949)

Approved | 263 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

The caped crusaders versus The Wizard, black-hooded mastermind.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Robert Lowery, Johnny Duncan, Jane Adams, Lyle Talbot

Votes: 1,502

The second live-action appearance of Batman and Robin. A great shame that the adversary couldn't have been Joker or Catwoman...

42. The Adventures of Sir Galahad (1949)

Approved | 252 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Sir Galahad, a knight of the Round Table, searches for the legendary sword Excalibur.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: George Reeves, Nelson Leigh, William Fawcett, Hugh Prosser

Votes: 62

Future second Superman George Reeves stars.

43. Cody of the Pony Express (1950)

Approved | 270 min | Action, Adventure, Western

An Eastern syndicate, plotting to gain control of the western frontier, hires a gang led by Mort Black to drive out the settlers. Army undercover agent Lt. Jim Archer and young Pony Express... See full summary »

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Jock Mahoney, Dickie Moore, Peggy Stewart, William Fawcett

Votes: 28

44. Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)

Approved | 252 min | Sci-Fi

Superman battles Lex Luthor who is using a teleportation device and a new identity as Atom Man in his criminal plans.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Lyle Talbot, Tommy Bond

Votes: 582

Bizarrely, the bad guy gets top billing as Kirk Alyn returns for his second and last flight as Superman.

45. Pirates of the High Seas (1950)

Approved | 260 min | Action, Crime

Two ex-Navy buddies travel to a tropical island to help search for a fugitive Nazi and a fortune in diamonds stolen by him during WWII, and encounter multiple dangers at the hand of a gang ... See full summary »

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr | Stars: Buster Crabbe, Lois Hall, Tommy Farrell, Gene Roth

Votes: 26

With Buster Crabbe and several familiar serials names supporting.

46. Roar of the Iron Horse - Rail-Blazer of the Apache Trail (1951)

Approved | 260 min | Western

A railroad agent named Jim Grant opposes hard-nosed German, Karl Ulrich, called The Baron. Head of a strong ring in America, the infamous Baron was thwarted time and time again as he tried ... See full summary »

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr | Stars: Jock Mahoney, Virginia Herrick, William Fawcett, Harold Landon

Votes: 7

A Jock Mahoney western.

47. Mysterious Island (1951)

Approved | 252 min | Action, Sci-Fi

Union prisoners use a balloon to escape a Southern prison camp near the end of the Civil War and end up marooned on a mysterious volcanic island with very unusual inhabitants.

Director: Spencer Gordon Bennet | Stars: Richard Crane, Marshall Reed, Karen Randle, Ralph Hodges

Votes: 149

The Jules Verne story, with added aliens. Future Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and Commando Cody Richard Crane stars.

48. Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere (1951)

Approved | 287 min | Sci-Fi, Adventure

Space hero Captain Video battles the evil Vultura on the planet Atoma.

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Wallace Grissell | Stars: Judd Holdren, Larry Stewart, George Eldredge, Gene Roth

Votes: 91

Serial version of the popular TV show, with Judd Holdren in the lead.