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Film / The Green Hornet Serials

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In 1940, George Trendle brought his popular radio drama The Green Hornet to the movie screen. The first serial, simply titled The Green Hornet, starred Gordon Jones as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet, Keye Luke as Kato, Anne Nagel as Reid's secretary Lenore Case, and Wade Boteler as reporter/bodyguard Mike Axford. After one chapter showing why Reid took on his masked persona, he got down to business hunting racketeers and trying to find the head of the city's criminal organization. This serial ran for thirteen chapters.

The formula worked well enough that it was used again in the second serial, The Green Hornet Strikes Again! (1941). While Reid (with Kato) was on vacation in Hawaii, a new crime syndicate formed back home. They sent an assassin to Hawaii to kill Reid, in hopes that they could then take over his newspaper "The Sentinel" and end its crusading approach to the news. All they accomplished was to let Reid know it was time for the Green Hornet to get back to work. In this serial, Warren Hull played Reid/The Green Hornet; the other main roles were unchanged. The serial ran for fifteen chapters.

Digitally-restored versions of both serials were released on DVD to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the character.

These serials contain examples of:

  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Kato has an instant-knockout karate chop, but this trope is averted otherwise. Whenever Kato's involved in a fight scene, and he's not using the karate chop or a gas gun, he has the same Hollywood fighting style that everyone else is using.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Some characters suggest that the real reason Case thinks the Green Hornet is really a good guy is that she has the hots for him. (A note for fans of the TV show: Lenore Case is not Britt’s Secret-Keeper in the serials.)
  • Asian Drivers: Averted by Kato — anyone who can drive over 200 MPH on city roads of that time has to be a good driver.
  • Bookcase Passage: The passage connecting Reid’s bedroom to the Black Beauty’s hidden garage is concealed on both ends. The garage end is behind a bookcase (being used as shelving), the bedroom end is hidden by a chest of drawers.
  • Cliffhanger
  • Cliffhanger Copout
    • From "The Green Hornet"
      • Chapter 3 ends with the Hornet in a crashing plane. In Chapter 4, The Hornet somehow acquires enough time and altitude to bail out safely. Having a parachute in the first place is not a copout, we see him put it on in Chapter 3.
      • At the end of Chapter 7, the Hornet and his opponent are in the back of a truck when the bridge gives out underneath them. At the start of Chapter 8, both men fall out of the truck just before it reaches the bridge.
      • In Chapter 9, the Hornet is trapped by Axford and Jenks. Axford shoots through the door of the storage closet the Hornet is hiding in, breaking some chemical bottles. The chapter ends with the Hornet passing out from the fumes. When Chapter 10 starts, Reid has enough time to ditch his disguise before pretending to pass out.
      • Chapter 11 ends with the Hornet and a crook fighting in a caboose, which derails when the other crooks uncouple the end cars. They are clearly seen in the caboose as it tumbles. Chapter 12 shows both men falling out of the caboose before it derails. For bonus copout points, the crooks wanted to uncouple the cars to put pressure on a shipping company. The recap scroll says the company’s cars were uncoupled, but when one crook reports back to Monroe he says the train broke apart behind the target cars, and the shipping company’s cars got through safely.
      • The cliffhanger of Chapter 12 has the Hornet and an extortionist fighting in a burning office. When Chapter 13 starts, there’s no sign of fire. (And both the Hornet and the crook have forgotten about last chapter’s confession.)
    • From "The Green Hornet Strikes Again!"
      • Chapter 5 ends with a warehouse full of illegal munitions being bombed, and the Hornet at Ground Zero. Chapter 6 starts with the Hornet having enough time to take cover in the basement.
      • Chapter 7 ends with the Hornet’s plane crashing after being an accidental test subject for a new antiaircraft weapon. At the start of Chapter 8, he has just enough time for a no-parachute bailout.
      • In Chapter 11, the Hornet and some truck hijackers are fighting when the truck goes over a cliff. There’s a different camera angle spliced in for Chapter 12, showing the Hornet jumping out at the last minute.
      • There’s another warehouse with illegal explosives in Chapter 12. The chapter ends with the Hornet ramming a racketeer’s car through the warehouse door, hitting the explosives, and big boom. Chapter 13 gives him enough time to see the crates of explosives and dive out before the car hits them.
      • Chapter 14 ends with the Hornet and a racketeer fighting in the racketeer’s open car, which goes off the road and wrecks during the fight. Chapter 15 starts with the Hornet being knocked out of the car just before the accident.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask
  • Cool Car: The Black Beauty of the serials wasn't tricked-out like the one from the 1960s TV series, but still qualifies. It was unarmed, but was bulletproof and could easily do over 200 MPH. note 
  • Crazy-Prepared: There is a scene where Britt sees some evildoing on an ocean liner and idly notes to Kato that he would give $1000 to be able to suit up as the Green Hornet. Kato thanks him for that windfall as he reveals that he packed the Green Hornet costume just in case.
  • Deathbed Confession: We don't see the actual confessions, but news articles in "The Sentinel" tend to include a line about the late crook having confessed before he died.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Mike Axford. At one point, one of Axford’s police friends threatens to haul Axford in for "impersonating a motorist".
  • Election Day Episode: Two chapters of the first of the serials focused on the election of a new mayor. (Specifically, on how the crooks were rigging the election to get their candidate into office.)
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: One episode dealt with the gangsters trying to take over a zoo. We see a tiger get loose due to sabotage, and it's indicated that this wasn't the first time.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Hornet’s justification for stopping one criminal plot in the second serial.
    I’m known as an outlaw, but I don’t want to see the safety of our country jeopardized.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: "The Sentinel" puts out several extra editions throughout the serials, as normal for the time period.
  • Film Serial
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Britt deliberately goes for this one. Not only does the Hornet frame himself for murder in his first outing, Britt's paper has a standing reward for the Hornet's capture.
  • Hollywood Darkness: It's a good thing the characters regularly refer to the Green Hornet as "that night-riding bandit", because otherwise people might think the action was taking place at noon. It gets really obvious when Stock Footage filmed at night is spliced in.
  • Idiot Ball: Called on one group of racketeers by their superiors in the syndicate, after they steal Britt Reid's car from a public parking lot. (Would not have been this trope had they stolen the car as a threat/to get back at Reid. No, they simply saw Reid park his car and decided to chop-shop it.)
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The only justification for the Hornet not getting shot in some of those fight scenes. At least, there's never any mention of his Badass Longcoat being armored — which means the crooks are missing him from 10-20 feet away.
  • Instant Sedation: The gas gun.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Jenks in the first serial, Lowry in the second. Reid quickly becomes an Intrepid Publisher. To be honest, anyone working for "The Sentinel" probably qualifies.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: A variant at the end of the first serial. The Hornet tricks two groups of racketeers into thinking each group is about to betray the other. They all have guns, and with the Hornet absent they’re allowed to use them well, so it's a short fight.
  • Made of Incendium:
    • The liner Paradise (from the second serial) must have been made from flash paper. In the time it takes the Hornet to force a one-page confession from a crook, a fire in one of the holds takes over most of the ship.
    • Justified in Chapter 3 of the first serial, when two planes catch fire immediately after crashing. There were incendiary bombs on those planes; the racketeer-run flying school was collecting insurance on both the student pilots and the planes.
  • The Münchausen: Axford has a habit of exaggerating.
  • My Card: The Hornet's idea of introducing himself is to hold out a disk with a picture of a hornet and the words "The Green Hornet" on it. He also uses those disks (called in-universe "the seal of the Green Hornet") to show he's been present, much like a calling card.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Everyone at the Grimbolt Steel Mill seems blasé about a worker passing out and falling into a vat of molten steel.
  • Officer O'Hara: Axford is a retired cop, but otherwise matches this trope. Some of his old police buddies fit as well.
  • Opening Scroll: The recap at the beginning of each chapter after the first.
  • Outside Ride: used by Reid both as the Hornet and (occasionally) as himself, either the "ride on back bumper" version or the "stand on the running board" version.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • Kato's attire as the Green Hornet's chauffeur/assistant is identical to what he wears as Reid's chauffeur, right down to identical driving goggles. Possibly justified in that Reid normally drove himself around town unless he was going to a formal event, in which case no one would pay attention to a "servant".
    • During the Election Day Episode, gangsters use paper-thin (and seen through by other characters) disguises in order to vote multiple times.
  • Rail-Car Separation: The gangsters in the first serial intend to uncouple the freight cars used by a shipping company to put financial pressure on that company to sell out to the gang. To boost the pressure, they intend to uncouple the cars once the train gets into the hills (rolling back with no brakes = decent chance of a derailment and destroyed instead of just late shipments) After the Hornet interferes, the caboose he and a gangster are in gets detached from the moving train to set up a Cliffhanger.
  • Title Drop: In the second serial, the first few chapters included Reid delivering some variant of "Tonight, Kato, the Green Hornet strikes again!"
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Used at least twice by gangsters pulling "turn your business over to us while you still have a business" plots.
  • The Voice: In the first serial, none of the racketeers ever saw their leader's face. They got their orders over an intercom system in the office of Monroe, the second-in-command. The orders were prerecorded by Monroe to hide his identity as the boss.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Britt Reid, surprisingly enough. His original motive to create a hidden garage and build a super-roadster in secret (with Kato's help) was to prove to his father that Britt wasn't just a playboy. This motivation vanished after the first chapter. Britt's father was an Intrepid Publisher himself, so Britt becoming involved in actively running "The Sentinel" probably would have taken care of matters had Dad ever shown up in the serials.