Search the Western Clippings Site

An Interview With…
        - Archives

Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins
    - Archives

Do You Remember?
    - Archives

Comic Book Cowboys
    - Archives

Westerns of...
    - Archives

Heavies and Characters
      - Archives

The Stuntmen - Neil Summers
    - Archives

Western Treasures
    - Archives

Circus Cowboys
    - Archives

Radio Range Riders
    - Archives

Rangeland Elegance
    - Archives

Western Artifacts
    - Archives

Film Festival Fotos
    - Archives

Silent Western Reviews
    - Archives

Serial Report
    - Chapter 112
    - Chapter 111
    - Chapter 110
    - Chapter 109
    - Chapter 108
    - Chapter 107
    - Chapter 106
    - Chapter 105
    - Chapter 104
    - Chapter 103
    - Chapter 102
    - Chapter 101
    - Chapter One Hundred
    - Chapter Ninety-Nine
    - Chapter Ninety-Eight
    - Chapter Ninety-Seven
    - Chapter Ninety-Six
    - Chapter Ninety-Five
    - Chapter Ninety-Four
    - Chapter Ninety-Three
    - Chapter Ninety-Two
    - Chapter Ninety-One
    - Chapter Ninety
    - Chapter Eighty-Nine
    - Chapter Eighty-Eight
    - Chapter Eighty-Seven
    - Chapter Eighty-Six
    - Chapter Eighty-Five
    - Chapter Eighty-Four
    - Chapter Eighty-Three
    - Chapter Eighty-Two
    - Chapter Eighty-One
    - Chapter Eighty
    - Chapter Seventy-Nine
    - Chapter Seventy-Eight
    - Chapter Seventy-Seven
    - Chapter Seventy-Six
    - Chapter Seventy-Five
    - Chapter Seventy-Four
    - Chapter Seventy-Three
    - Chapter Seventy-Two
    - Chapter Seventy-One
    - Chapter Seventy
    - Chapter Sixty-Nine
    - Chapter Sixty-Eight
    - Chapter Sixty-Seven
    - Chapter Sixty-Six
    - Chapter Sixty-Five
    - Chapter Sixty-Four
    - Chapter Sixty-Three
    - Chapter Sixty-Two
    - Chapter Sixty-One
    - Chapter Sixty
    - Chapter Fifty-Nine
    - Chapter Fifty-Eight
    - Chapter Fifty-Seven
    - Chapter Fifty-Six
    - Chapter Fifty-Five
    - Chapter Fifty-Four
    - Chapter Fifty-Three
    - Chapter Fifty-Two
    - Chapter Fifty-One
    - Chapter Fifty
    - Chapter Forty-Nine
    - Chapter Forty-Eight
    - Chapter Forty-Seven
    - Chapter Forty-Six
    - Chapter Forty-Five
    - Chapter Forty-Four
    - Chapter Forty-Three
    - Chapter Forty-Two
    - Chapter Forty-One
    - Chapter Forty
    - Chapter Thirty-Nine
    - Chapter Thirty-Eight
    - Chapter Thirty-Seven
    - Chapter Thirty-Six
    - Chapter Thirty-Five
    - Chapter Thirty-Four
    - Chapter Thirty-Three
    - Chapter Thirty-Two
    - Chapter Thirty-One
    - Chapter Thirty
    - Chapter Twenty-Nine
    - Chapter Twenty-Eight
    - Chapter Twenty-Seven
    - Chapter Twenty-Six
    - Chapter Twenty-Five
    - Chapter Twenty-Four
    - Chapter Twenty-Three
    - Chapter Twenty-Two
    - Chapter Twenty-One
    - Chapter Twenty
    - Chapter Nineteen
    - Chapter Eighteen
    - Chapter Seventeen
    - Chapter Sixteen
    - Chapter Fifteen
    - Chapter Fourteen
    - Chapter Thirteen
    - Chapter Twelve
    - Chapter Eleven
    - Chapter Ten
    - Chapter Nine
    - Chapter Eight
    - Chapter Seven
    - Chapter Six
    - Chapter Five
    - Chapter Four
    - Chapter Three
    - Chapter Two
    - Chapter One

Research & Consulting

Subscribe to Western Clippings

COLLECTIBLES FOR SALE:

Western Clippings Back Issues

Serial Report Back Issues

Daily Comic Strips
    - Page 1 (1910-1949)
    - Page 2 (1950-1979)

Sunday Comic Strips

Books

Miscellaneous Collectibles

Autographs

Lobby Cards

Laser Copies of Lobby Cards

Movie Posters

Home

Chapter One Hundred Nine

Worth Another Look by Ken Weiss.

Sam Katzman.A while back Boyd Magers covered the serial career of our favorite schlock producer, Sam Katzman. A recent trip to the (NYC) Library of Performing Arts in Lincoln Center uncovered a few more items (some of which might actually be true) that may be of interest to readers.

Apparently Katzman’s reputation was set in stone: CUE MAGAZINE, reviewing “Kissin’ Cousins” in ‘64 mentions him as a producer “who specializes in low-budget, lower-intelligence cinema product.” An obit in VARIETY reminds us that in 1929 Sam wrote and produced his first feature film, “His Private Secretary”, for $9,000, which featured 22 year old John Wayne (who was paid $150). TIME magazine (12/1/52) states “producer Katzman’s most successful serial is his 'Superman', which grossed more than $1,000,000 and was so popular in South America that the whole 31 reel cliffhanger—five hours, ten minutes long—was run off as a single feature.”

A condescending-yet-flattering article in COLLIERS titled “The Happiest Man in Hollywood” (12/30/50) reports, “In one of his recent efforts, ‘Atom Man Vs. Superman’, Sam fears he may have gone off the deep end. ‘There’s never been
Movie poster for "Atom Man Vs. Superman".anything like this on film,’ he modestly declares, and he might be righter than he thinks. The Supermanic feats accomplished in this film by Sam’s hero, played by Kirk Alyn, include steadying the Tacoma Bridge; crashing through a wall of rock; allowing bullets to bounce off his chest; catching a lovely lady in mid-air after she has fallen from a high building; hurling a huge boulder into the stratosphere thus creating a synthetic meteor; transmuting ordinary nails into Plutonium; stopping an onrushing train single handed; using his super sight to decipher impressions on paper; catching a rocket in mid-air and riding it, and battling a space ship in mid-air, forcing it to collide with an asteroid. Katzman discarded the original working title, ‘The Return of Superman’, as too flat and unimaginative. He felt ‘Atom Man Vs. Superman’ was more to the point, although at one time, in an effort to keep pace with tomorrow’s headlines, he toyed with the idea of calling his masterpiece ‘H-Man vs. Superman’.” Sam’s “an avid reader of the comics—from which he gets many of his ideas. Sam uses his 13-year old son Jerry, and Jerry’s school chums, to critique a script. ’If the kids outguess the writers,’ he explains, ‘then we change the gimmick.’ For example, there was a sequence in the script of ‘Cody of the Pony Express’ where the hero had been knocked unconscious and left in a flaming tent to die. It was, of course, a must for him to escape the flames. The question, as usual, was how? Jerry figured the hero would probably come to, slowly crawl along the ground and finally cut his way out of the fiery tent. Actually, that’s how the writers had mapped out the escape, but after the boy’s deduction Sam ordered the writers to come up with a new twist. They did. Instead of the hero cutting his way out of the tent they had him stumble onto the opening of a secret underground passage.” [It needn’t be pointed out to serial readers that this was hardly a new twist.
]

Another example: “Viewing an episode of a Katzman opus, ‘The Adventures of Sir Galahad’, at a local movie house not long ago, young Jerry returned home in plain disappointment. ‘You’ve got them fighting with their fists,’ he reproached his father. ‘That’s too modern. They didn’t fight like that in the time of King Arthur. What’s more, you can tell the armor they’re wearing is phony. They’re supposed to be wearing that heavy stuff and yet they get on and off their horses as it they didn’t have any armor on at all.’ Sam heard out this critique with some chagrin. ‘The kid’s right,’ he admitted.”

Sam and Tamba from Jungle Jim movies.There’s mention of Sam’s sister Ruth, an attractive blonde of 20, who has been appearing in small roles in Katzman pictures since she was a child, under the name of Ruth Kaye. In “Atom Man Vs. Superman” she plays a telephone operator.

“For years now Sam’s annual income has never fallen below $100,000. In 1937 he made his first serial, ‘Blake of Scotland Yard’. Sam bought the story from Robert F. Hill, a director-writer, at a price under $3,000. In anybody’s book this was a bargain. The purchase price included Hill’s services as a writer and director and, moreover, he helped design the sets, although that wasn’t part of the deal.”

“Speed, not perfection, is the essence of serial production. What careful preparation there is goes into the readying of a Katzman script—the responsibility of George Plympton, a veteran of the film capital, who since 1920 has been associated with the writing of 85 cliffhangers. The script was written, rewritten and polished before the first scene is filmed. ‘It’s necessary,’ Katzman explains, ‘to know in advance exactly where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.’ Once filming
Three very different men at Columbia, circa late '40s. Director William Castle (at the time helming various Crime Doctor and Whistler Bs), serial producer Sam Katzman and serial director Spencer Gordon Bennet. Appears to be some sort of walkie-talkie Sam has in his ear and hand. begins, however, the pace is breakneck by feature-length movie standards. Cast and crew move swiftly from one scene to another. The director briefly explains the action, calls ‘camera’ and the action starts and ends quickly. There are no retakes. A scene, in order to be passable, does not have to be 100% right. The Katzman criterion is ‘will it get by with the serial audience?’ That it usually does is proved by the fact virtually no Katzman serial is without profit at the box office. Profits range from $10,000 all the way up to half a million.” The legend of Sam the Man will no doubt add luster as the years go by.

Incidentally, GIs in Korea in the early ‘50s were reportedly big fans of Sam Katzman and would cheer and laugh when his name appeared on screen. Well, miraculously, I recently came across a couple of clippings from a 1954 PACIFIC STARS AND STRIPES (the Army newspaper) which at least confirms the whole thing. The first article is dated August 21 and starts this  way: “Enter any armed forces theater in the Far East, take a seat and wait for the picture credits to flash upon the screen. Familiar names will come and go and the audience will remain impassive. But let the words ‘Produced by Sam Katzman’ appear and the entire crowd goes berserk—clapping, whistling, hooting, hollering and groaning in great good humor. Everybody knows Old Sam.” The article goes on to recount imormation you’re probably already familiar with, his reputation as “King of the Cliffhangers” and his penchant for pennypinching. The second article (undated) is headlined “’Jungle Sam’ Reverts to Form” and is a review of “Drums of Tahiti”, which, the reviewer tells us, proves “it’s definitely possible to make a movie in which nothing—absolutely nothing—is accomplished from beginning to end.” This phenomenon fascinates me. I haven’t a clue as to when or how it started, but it’s another fact of the Katzman legend.

 

Image of plane crashing.

With the recent release of “Shazam” in theaters—here’s a look back at the real Captain Marvel!

Ad for Republic Pictures' "The Adventures of Captain Marvel" serial. Gene Autry welcomes Captain Marvel to Republic.

Popular singing cowboy, Gene Autry welcomes Fawcett Publications’ comic book super-hero, Captain Marvel (Tom Tyler) to the movies in this ad for Republic Pictures’ “The Adventures of Captain Marvel” serial, which appeared in WHIZ COMICS #16 (April 1941).

Later that year Fawcett also began publishing a Gene Autry comic book. The first issue carries a December 1941 cover date.

 

top of page