Captain America Chapter 1: The Purple Death (1944)
Captain America is a 1944 Republic black-and-white serial film loosely based on the Timely Comics (today known asMarvel Comics) character Captain America. It was the last Republic serial made about a superhero. It also has the distinction of being the most expensive serial that Republic ever made. It also stands as the first theatrical release connected to a Marvel character; the next theatrical release featuring a Marvel hero would not occur for more than 40 years. It was also the last live-action rendition of a Marvel character in any media until Spider-Man appeared in the Spidey Super Stories segment of the children’s TV series The Electric Company in 1974.
The serial sees Captain America, really District Attorney Grant Gardner, trying to thwart the plans of The Scarab, really museum curator Dr. Cyrus Maldor – especially regarding his attempts to acquire the “Dynamic Vibrator” and “Electronic Firebolt”, devices that could be used as super-weapons.
In a rare plot element for Republic, the secret identity of the villain is known to the audience from the beginning, if not to the characters in the serial. The studio’s usual approach was the use of a mystery villain who was unmasked as one of the other supporting characters only in the final chapter.