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Commando Cody: Sky Marshal Of The Universe (Blu-ray Review)

Commando-CodyThe prolific Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe producer (as well as the director of several episodes) Franklin Adreon, would helm a number of the highly popular and entertaining Republic Pictures theatrical serials including The Invisible Monster and Radar Men from The Moon.  All twelve pulse-pounding episodes of Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (includingEnemies of the Universe, Nightmare Typhoon, Robot Monster from Mars and the exciting final installment, Captives of the Zero Hour), directed by Fred C. Brannon (The Invisible Monster, The Crimson Ghost), Harry Keller (Tammy and the Doctor) and Franklin Adreon (Panther Girl of the Kongo) are now available for your home viewing enjoyment in one exciting package from Olive Films on September 13th.

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Film 

Commando Cody, the venerable Sky Marshal of the Universe, along with trusted aids Joan Gilbert and Ted Richards and later joined by Dick Preston, must foil the various schemes of The Ruler, an evil alien life form hell-bent on taking over Earth.

Growing up, I was a big fan of the old movies serials of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.  My discovery of this lost art was through the love of Batman.  When Burton’s original film in 1989, Goodtimes Video began distributing the original 2  Batman serials on VHS.  Through this I learned more and more about them.  I then got into Captain American, Captain Marvel, Superman and Dick Tracy serials as well.  There were also westerns and other genres, but superheroes and comic book adaptations were my cup of tea.  Then there was Commando Cody, specifically Radar Men From The Moon.  This was a serial that, like Flash Gordon, was an inspiration to George Lucas.  So, I had to check that one out.

This movie is not that one.  Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe is a really weird anomaly and an early example of studio tampering, interference and just dumping out a product.  It was released as a movie serial in 1953, but was never intended to be one.  Sky Marshal was put into production intending to be a series for television, not theaters.  The whole idea of it was to reboot it or be a prequel to Radar Men as well.  That way they could keep the budget low and have things more Earth bound.  It wound up airing all 12 episodes on TV in 1955, but not before it went through an odd production and changed decision to be a serial after the fact.

Sky Marshal began and finished production on its first three episodes before being halted in order to go and film a feature film.  That film however, decided later to NOT be a Commando Cody movie (Despite retaining the costume) and was something similar but different.  They then went back and finished the remaining 9 episodes of this series after.  At that point it was still intended for TV.  But, somewhere along the line, somebody got tired of it and just switched it to being a serial.

As a serial, it has some big problems that don’t work with it.  For one, each episode is a half hour.  Most serials may have had their first episode at that length, but the following ones would run 13-15 minutes.  Sky Marshal also lacks any real sort of engaging cliffhangers as these moreso end like TV episodes.  Some feel like they have a kind of satisfying conclusion to them.  Overall, its decent and not overly long in episodes (only 12), but Radar Men From The Moon it is not.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC 

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Clarity/Detail:  Olive Films transfer on the 63 year old serial looks very good.  Its nifty to see this one cleaned up and looking clear and natural.  There’s been some sort of restoration work done on it.  There is a good solid amount of detail and fun full looking image.

Depth: Dimensional work is actually pretty solid here.  Rear projection scenes actually give a good space between actor and screen.  Movements are cinematic and natural.

Black Levels:  Blacks are nice and solid, providing a good amount of shades and tints to the picture. Some detail lost, but it comes with the territory. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones:  N/A

Noise/Artifacts: Some grain and specs here and there.  No real crazy print damage at all, which was kind of surprising. 

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Olive’s mono track here is also impressive.  This retains a very full and crisp sounding mix that still carries some of the restrictions of that era’s technology, but still sounding full and as new as it may ever sound.  For what you get here, this is impressive.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue comes out very clear and clean.  A slight analog hiss is present, but that comes with the sourcing.  

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Extras 

This release comes with no supplemental features.

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Summary 

Fans of movie serials rejoice, this is sort of a break through for Blu-ray.  I can’t recall any others making it to the format.  There are a bunch more I would love to see get a jump, especially if they look and sound as good as Olive Films has done with this one.  I don’t know if they’re considering this a TV show release or a serial, but its kinda both.  Hopefully more are on the way.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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