More cops-and-robbers than science fiction in ‘Purple Monster’

Leave it to Republic Pictures to stage an invasion from Mars on the cheap.
That basically is the premise of “The Purple Monster Strikes” (1945, 15 chapters).
Roy Barcroft stars as the Purple Monster, the advanced guard sent to obtain the plans to a jet plane created by Professor Cyrus Layton (James Craven) that can be used to construct a fleet of spaceships to bring the Martian hordes down to Earth.
Why Barcroft’s character calls himself the Purple Purple Monster Strikes 1945 Ch. 6Monster is never explained ā€” and it doesn’t help that the serial is in black and white. He could just as easily have called himself John Jones and attracted less attention.
But then we wouldn’t have 15 episodes of the usual fisticuffs, explosions and last-minute escapes that were the trademark of the studio.
What is most maddening about “The Purple Monster Strikes” is its cut-rate attitude toward the entire invasion process.
You’d think if you were going to overrun a planet, you would send more than one guy. And Barcroft’s Purple Monster is not a good judge of character.
He hires the dumbest henchmen to assist him in his plan. Bud Geary is Hodge Garrett, the main action heavy, and the usual group of bad guys turn up throughout ā€” Tom Steele, Dale Van Sickel, Fred Graham.
The Purple Monster also brags about how advanced his people are. So, why does he resort to using a revolver. Couldn’t he have brought some of his nifty gadgets with him or at least blueprints to build them once he arrived?
So, is the Army, the National Guard, the Marines or even the Boy Scouts notified of this threat?
Hell, no, it’s just Dennis Moore and Linda Stirling battling Monster and his minions. You’d think Moore’s Craig Foster would at least give one of his old Secret Service buddies a heads-up about what is going on.
OK, you get the point.
Now, don’t infer that I fail to enjoy “The Purple Monster Strikes.” I find it a slam-bang and amusing serial.
I enjoy the performances by Barcroft and Craven. Moore, unfortunately, has about as much personality as a cigar store Indian. But, as in most serials, he was not hired for his acting.
I just wish the script could have broadened the scope of Monster’s nefarious plans. The problem with “The Purple Monster Strikes” is that it plays almost like a gangster serial rather than a science fiction chapterplay.
It would have been much, much better if more of that genre has been played up.

Chapter One: The Man in the Meteor
Chapter Two: The Time Trap
Chapter Three: Flaming Avalanche
Chapter Four: The Lethal Pit
Chapter Five: Death on the Beam
Chapter Six: The Demon Killer
Chapter Seven: The Evil Eye
Chapter Eight: Descending Doom
Chapter Nine: The Living Dead
Chapter 10: House of Horror
Chapter 11: Menace From Mars
Chapter 12: Perilous Plunge
Chapter 13: Fiery Shroud
Chapter 14: The Fatal Trial
Chapter 15: Takeoff to Destruction

Care to comment? Let me know what you think about this serial.


  • Steve Harris

    When Roy Barcroft was told he would wear tights for this role he decided to lose weight by jogging to work. Every day he would run from his apartment in Boyle Heights to the studio. Barcroft referred to tht serial as “The Jerk In Tights From Boyle Heights”.