Zombies of the Stratosphere is the third of the Rocketman serials from Republic. It was made at about the same time as a proposed television version of the series (more on that later) and stars the same guy as Rocketman. It's another invasion, this time from Mars and not content to merely take over the Earth, this time they have to destroy it to make way for Mars to assume its orbit.
Judd Holdren plays the Rocketman this time, and he's called "Larry Martin" and not Commando Cody. He has the same team as last time mostly with Aline Towne repeating her role as girl assistant. They are asked to help with a potential alien threat and they get right on it.
Marex (Lane Bradford) is the leader of the Martians and he has another Martian with him played by Leonard Nimoy. They land on Earth and immediately hook up with some thugs and an Earth scientist to plot the Earth's destruction. There's much running about, a lot of it in the water. In fact this serial has a really aquatic theme with many of the cliffhangers involving boats or water of some kind. The Martians can hold their breath for a really long time and they have their secret headquarters in a spot which require them to trudge though water, a neat trick if somewhat slow for the film.
Again it seems that the plot depends on bank robbery for funding and there is a lot of that stuff, even a quasi-Western moment with some very unconvincing stock footage getting used. You sometimes get the feeling they forget about the rocket pack from time to time in this one.
The big highlight of this one is the Republic Robot getting a call. He's in several chapters and it used by both sides. It's pretty incredible watching this lumbering hunk of metal take on the heroes and lots of fun.
|(Poster for the feature version of the movie)|
UPDATE: This one is a hoot, an uneven hoot, but a hoot nonetheless. The story is ramshackle at best, but the aliens being rooted on Earth spare us trips to the Moon, though sadly those are replaced by a lot of time at the docks. There's a real planes, trains, and automobiles feeling to this one as they cobble together cliffhangers from the stock film shelf. We see a tank chasing a train which I recently saw in two Dick Tracy serials. The robot is good and is used with some wit and imagination as the story unfolds. Lane Bradford gets little credit, but I always find him a compelling presence on screen and that's certainly the case here as he is the rare main villain and not a henchman.