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Film / Radar Men from the Moon

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Radar Men from the Moon (Republic Pictures, 1952) is the first Commando Cody Film Serial note , in 12 chapters.

With the Moon's atmosphere growing thinner and less capable of sustaining life, the titular Radar Men have decided to forcefully relocate to Earth. To this end, they hire a pair of human henchmen, hand them some advanced weaponry and set them to work softening up Earth's defenses and infrastructure in anticipation for the impending invasion. It's up to professional hero (and Jet Pack trustee) Commando Cody and his small team to stop the threat of the evil Moon King Retik and his unscrupulous underlings.

The first eight chapters (and half of the ninth) were featured in several episodes from the first nationally-aired season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. For details of those particular episodes, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Chapter Titles

  1. Moon Rocket (20 min)
  2. Molten Terror (13 min 20 sec)
  3. Bridge of Death (13 min 20sec)
  4. Flight to Destruction (13 min 20 sec)
  5. Murder Car (13 min 20 sec)
  6. Hills of Death (13 min 20 sec)
  7. Camouflaged Destruction (13 min 20 sec)
  8. The Enemy Planet (13 min 20 sec)
  9. Battle in the Stratosphere (13 min 20sec)
  10. Mass Execution (13 min 20 sec) (Recap Episode)
  11. Planned Pursuit (13 min 20 sec)
  12. Death of the Moon Man (13 min 20 sec)

Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alien Invasion: The threat of one drives the plot.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Lampshaded by Cody when he meets Retik. Retik simply answers that all of his people are required to speak English so they can work more efficiently in the USA.
  • America Saves the Day: Although the Moon Men's stated intent is to conquer the entire Earth, they are shown attacking only American targets (in fact, only Southern California targets), and only American personnel are shown dealing with the crisis. Highlighted by the Aliens Speaking English (and only English). See also Minimalist Cast, below.
  • As You Know: In this standard Film Serial device, Retik keeps reminding Krog that the Moon Men's invasion of Earth cannot commence until the targets' infrastructure and defenses are sufficiently weakened.
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  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Moon Men's atomic pistols can vaporize practically anything in a (literal) flash, but must be reloaded with Unobtanium after every individual shot. Cody exploits this to escape an assassination attempt. Note that the larger, mounted cannons do not seem to possess this limitation.
  • Bad-Guy Bar / Malt Shop: Al's Diner. To Al's credit, it's not a Bad-Guy Bar by design; it's just where the henchmen happen to hang out, and Al helps out the good guys whenever he can.
  • Big Bad: Moon King Retik commands things from afar.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: At one point the sabotage team needs more money to continue their odious operations. Graber, who is on parole for bank robbery, refuses to go back into that line of work — until Krog threatens to hand him over to the police.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: As usual in Republic serials, the Fight Scenes feature furniture throwing a'plenty.
  • Car Fu: Daly drives a stolen ambulance right at Cody's car in an attempt to off him.
  • The Chick / Neutral Female: Joan. Particularly evident during the occasional trip to the Moon, where her duties consist — solely, entirely and explicitly — of cooking for the menfolk; she is shown doing practically nothing else. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that it's The '50s, but c'mon now.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: As early as the third episode. "Commando Cody and Ted are trapped in a cave by the moon men, who use their ray-gun to melt the rock walls."
    Cody: Maybe we can get out along that side?
    [And they do]
  • Les Collaborateurs: It's never made clear exactly what motive the human henchmen have for essentially selling out their entire world to the Moon Men. Although the threat of being handed over to the police and a brief mention of "being paid" (neverminding how much) do crop up over the course of the story, these are situational instances, meant to provide context-sensitive incentive for specific tasks rather than to describe overall motivations.
  • Disintegrator Ray: Retik's Ray Gun. There is no visible ray, stuff (and Mooks) just disappears in a puff of smoke.
  • The Dragon / The Heavy: Krog may (or may not) be Retik's official second-in-command, but he definitely fills this role as head of the preliminary invasion.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": On occasion the characters (and the narration) will address Cody as "Commando", as if that were his real name rather than a title or rank. And it may very well be.
  • Heavy Worlder: Averted. In what would be an inversion of the usual trope, Cody should be a Heavy Worlder on the moon, and the Moon Men should be correspondingly weaker on Earth. It never comes into play.
  • Human Aliens: The Moon Men look exactly like humans. note 
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: As with most Republic serials of the time, each episode title hints at the Cliffhanger to come.
  • Idiot Ball: At one point Graber is being hauled off in an ambulance after a hillside crash. Daly shoots the lone police guard but sends the ambulance driver on a long hike instead of killing him too; very soon after, the driver has called it in and the heat is on. Graber calls Daly out for this.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Usually applied to shooting guns out of enemies' hands.
  • Instant Death Bullet: On those rare occasions when a gunshot hits its mark. However, an even-more-rare (for its day) subversion occurs in the third episode, when a Redshirt cop is wounded during a gunfight and it's made clear that he survives the encounter.
  • Jet Pack: Commando Cody's flying suit, basically a leather jacket with a jet engine attached.
  • Just Between You and Me: Retik kindly fills Cody in on the whole Alien Invasion plot. When Cody lampshades the trope, Retik justifies it by saying that, after having made the effort to travel to the moon, Cody deserves some form of reward, then further justifies himself by promising that Cody will not live to bring this information back to Earth. Needless to say, he does exactly that.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: Retik's lab seemingly doubles as his throne room. Krog also has one on Earth, hidden in a cave.
  • Minimalist Cast / The Main Characters Do Everything: Although Henderson (Cody's boss) talks about mobilizing military units in response to the impending invasion, we never see anyone actively working against the Moon Men's plans except Cody and his small circle of friends/co-workers. That's a grand total of three people (four, if you count the pilot who flies them to and from the Moon). Likewise, the Moon Men don't simply invade the Earth in full force, despite the oft-mentioned fact that the Earth would be unable to fend off their superior weaponry; instead, they use a small team of three core people to carry out clandestine acts of sabotage. Admittedly, we occasionally see both sides acquire situational Redshirt cops or Mooks, but never more than a couple at a time and never for longer than a scene or two.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Graber. He is occasionally shown working independently of his partner Daly (or, at the least, with different Mooks), and is clearly the dominant one of the pair.
  • No Sense of Distance / No Sense of Time / No Sense of Velocity: It seemingly took them about two hours to travel to the moon. Could be a matter of not-entirely-well-done time compression; Joan does mention the need to prepare meals during the trip.
  • Outside Ride:
    • Cody does this briefly whilst trying to board a light plane in-flight.
    • During one chase scene, a cop rides on the running board of a squad car.
  • Plot Armor: Graber and a nameless mook are fleeing the police at one point and drive off a cliff. The mook is killed while Graber survives (albeit pretty banged up); the only explanation is this trope.
  • Ray Gun: From small handheld guns to big cannons used in tanks and mounted to trucks. They disintegrate, melt rock and make stuff explode.
  • Reality Ensues / Throw It In!: During one car chase, Cody rounds a corner so fast and so wide he momentarily drives off the road. Another car takes a turn so sharply that the driver very nearly loses control.
  • Recap Episode: In Episode 10, "Mass Execution", the characters reminisce about the early parts of their adventure. They try to justify it by hoping to think of a clue they'd missed before, but nothing really comes of it (other than, you know, stretching the production budget).
  • Retro Rocket: Looks like a zeppelin, flies like a rocket, takes off and lands like a plane.
  • Rule of Three: See Spinning Paper, below.
  • Selective Magnetism: Retik uses what presumably is an electromagnet to disarm Cody. Cody's gun flies out of his hand and get stuck to the wall, but nothing else is affected.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man / Fedora of Asskicking: The Earth men are all quite snazzy dressers. Well, it is The '50s, after all.
    Joel: Are you going to go flying around in that tie?
  • Shock and Awe: Krog gets pushed up against a large electronic device, which immediately overloads and kills him. Subverted when the same happens to Cody, because his Jet Pack absorbs most of the current.
  • Space Clothes / Future Spandex: The Moon Men wearz em. King Retik supplements his own Future Spandex with a long white royal raiment.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way:
    • For one thing, it's very bright and sunny in space.
    • Space Is Noisy too; you can hear that Retro Rocket coming a mile out.
    • Did you know there are fluffy white clouds in space? Must be the Cumulo-Nebula.
    • Then there's the depiction of the Moon as having a (formerly) breathable atmosphere. Of course, we know better these days.
  • Space Suits Are SCUBA Gear:
    • Cody's space suit consists of his usual Jet Pack suit (which is just a leather jacket with a rocket engine and a bullet-shaped helmet) combined with an oxygen tank and a couple hoses leading into his helmet; it's not even sealed up. Naturally, leading into one cliffhanger his air hose gets knocked out.
    • By contrast, the Moon Men's space suits are fully sealed and self-contained; yet these too have air hoses on the outside. Cody kinks the hose on one guy's suit in order to subdue him.
  • Spinning Paper: In the start of Episode 1. Oil wells get blown up and it fades to a newspaper with the headline "MYSTERY ATTACK RAZES OILFIELD"; transmission lines get blown up and a paper with the headline "TRANSMISSION LINE WRECKED" spins up; a skyscraper gets blown up and it cuts to a woman holding a paper with "OFFICE BUILDING WRECKED BY MYSTERIOUS EXPLOSION".
  • Stock Footage:
    • All the footage of the flying "rocket man" was recycled from the 1949 Republic serial King Of The Rocket Men, as were shots of folks parachuting. And a melting, lava-filled cave. And a plane crash, and...
    • Also, the footage of Retik taking off in his own rocket and getting shot down was taken from 1945's The Purple Monster Strikes note . So was an ambulance crash, and...
    • Over the course of the serial the heroes make two trips to the Moon; each voyage uses the exact same sequence of footage, completely whole and uncut, with only a couple key lines of dialogue modified.
    • One episode depicts a series of floods using newsreel footage of actual flooding.
  • Tap on the Head: Typical for action fare of the day, but Joan seems particularly susceptible; in one instance she is knocked out by bumping her head against a padded headrest.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Graber and Daly are, for the most part, the invasion's visible operatives; Cody does not come face to face with Krog until the penultimate chapter, and Retik conducts affairs from the Moon for most of the story.
  • 2-D Space: Taking off from the surface of the moon, Cody tells his pilot to "Come about 180 degrees and head back to the Earth!"
  • Unobtanium: Lunarium, used to power the Moon Men's Ray Guns. Not only is it more powerful than uranium, it can be handled bare-handed.


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