Radar Men from the Moon

Radar Men from the Moon is a 1952 black-and-white Republic Pictures' 12-chapter movie serial, the first Commando Cody serial starring newcomer George Wallace as Cody, Aline Towne as his sidekick Joan Gilbert, and serial veteran Roy Barcroft as the evil Retik, the Ruler of the Moon.[2] The director was Fred C. Brannon, with a screenplay by Ronald Davidson, and special effects by the Lydecker brothers. This serial recycles the flying sequences from Republic's earlier 1949 serial King of the Rocket Men. It was later released by Republic in 1966 as the 100-minute television film Retik the Moon Menace.

Radar Men from the Moon
Directed byFred C. Brannon
Written byRonald Davidson
StarringGeorge Wallace
Aline Towne
Roy Barcroft
Music byStanley Wilson
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date
  • January 9, 1952 (1952-01-09) (U.S. serial)[1]
  • September 30, 1957 (1957-09-30) (U.S. re-release)
Running time
12 chapters (167 minutes) (serial)[1]
100 minutes (TV)[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$172,840 (negative cost: $185,702)[1]

The odd naming choice of the serial's main hero, "Commando Cody," was possibly an attempt by Republic to make young audiences think they were seeing another adventure of Commander Corry, the hero of the popular ABC TV and radio series Space Patrol (1950–1955). However, there is no surviving evidence that this was a consideration by anyone at Republic.[3]


Commando Cody (George Wallace) is a civilian researcher and inventor with a number of employees. He uses a streamlined helmet and a sonic-powered rocket backpack attached to a leather flying jacket. Cody also uses a rocket ship capable of reaching the Moon. When the U. S. finds itself under attack from a mysterious force that can wipe out entire military bases and industrial complexes, Cody surmises (correctly) that the Earth is coming under attack from our own Moon. He then flies his rocket ship there and confronts the Moon's dictator, Retik (Roy Barcroft), who boldly announces his plans to both conquer Earth and then move the Moon's entire population here using spaceships.

During the next 11 serial chapters, Cody, now back on Earth, and his associates Joan (Aline Towne), Ted (William Bakewell) and Dick (Gayle Kellogg) battle an elusive lunar agent named Krog (Peter Brocco) and his gang of human henchmen led by Graber (Clayton Moore) and Daly (Bob Stevenson), who use Lunarium-powered ray cannons to disrupt defense forces and weaken public morale. After a second trip to the Moon, in which he captures a sample ray cannon for duplication in his lab, Cody tracks Retik's minions to their hideout where Krog is killed by one of his own devices, and Graber and Daly subsequently die in an over-the-cliff car chase. Retik flies to Earth to take personal charge of his collapsing operations but is blasted out of the sky by one of his own ray weapons.

Chapter titles

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




Radar Men from the Moon was budgeted at $172,840, although the final negative cost was $185,702 (a $12,862, or 7.4%, overspend). It was the most expensive Republic serial of 1952[1] and was filmed between October 17 and November 6, 1951 under the working title Planet Men from Mars;[1] the serial's production number was 1932.[1]

The serial's budget was so tight that a stunt double was not always used for lead actor George Wallace. His nose was broken by accident while filming an energetic fight scene with actor Clayton Moore. For the camera's close-up flying sequences, Wallace was suspended in mid-air above a sound stage; he was lying on a horizontal board with the rocket suit's jacket closed around it, with a rear projection screen behind him. Wallace performed his own stunt flying take-offs by jumping onto a springboard that would send him up and over the camera rig set-up.[3]

This serial is heavily padded with rocket-suit effects footage first filmed for the earlier King of the Rocket Men, to which some believe this was a pseudo-sequel. A repainted Juggernaut vehicle from Republic's much-earlier Undersea Kingdom serial is also reused here as Retik's lunar tank.[5] All spaceship footage was filmed new for Radar Men from the Moon. Outer space is shown as brightly lit, and the characters are shown walking on the Moon, in normal Earth gravity and in daylight, without pressure suits. The laboratory building is actually a Republic Pictures office building with a prop "Cody Laboratories" sign added to its exterior.[5]

Two different aerodynamic helmets were used with the Commando Cody rocket backpack, with the lighter weight version being used only in the stunt sequences; the single-hinged visors of both helmets were always getting stuck open or closed.[5]



Radar Men from the Moon's official release date is January 9, 1952, although this is actually the date the sixth chapter was made available to U. S. film exchanges.[1]

Republic's next new serial, Zombies of the Stratosphere, which also used some of the Cody flying suit and spaceship footage seen here, followed in the summer and began as a sequel to "Radar Men": for unspecified reasons, Republic changed the character names of Cody and Joan at the last minute.[1] In between these two serials, Republic had begun filming on its first attempt at a TV series, "Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe", but stopped production of that after the first three episodes were filmed to begin work on "Zombies of the Stratosphere". After that serial was finished, Republic resumed filming 9 more episodes of the Commando Cody TV series, but then, after the series was completed, it was theatrically released for contractual reasons, finally going to TV two years later.

Radar Men from the Moon was re-released on September 30, 1957 between Republic's re-releases of the similar Zorro's Black Whip and Son of Zorro. Previously, the final original Republic serial was King of the Carnival released two years earlier in 1955.[1]


Radar Men from the Moon was one of 26 Republic serials syndicated for television in 1966 as 100 minute TV feature films under their Century 66 package marketing name; the title given the TV-movie was Retik the Moon Menace.[1]

In 1979, Firesign Theatre used segments of this and other serials in their made-for-TV parody comedy movie, J-Men Forever.[6]

In 1989, the serial regained notoriety as the first shorts shown by the cult series Mystery Science Theater 3000. The first eight-and-a-half chapters of this Commando Cody serial were lampooned before their main feature-of-the-week (only half of the ninth installment was shown, with the in-show excuse being "the film broke").

Critical reception

In his 1984 book In the Nick of Time author William C. Cline dismissed the serial as a "quickie".[7]

Because of a failure to renew copyright, Radar Men lapsed into the Public Domain in 1979.



  1. Mathis, Jack (1995). Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. Jack Mathis Advertising. pp. 3, 10, 128–129. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8.
  2. Weiss and Goodgold 1973, p. 313.
  3. Weaver, Tom; Parla, Paul (August 1991). "Call Him Commando Cody". Comics Scene. No. #20. Starlog Communications International, Inc. pp. 29–30.
  4. Cline 1984, p. 253.
  5. Harmon and Glut 1973, pp. 288–290.
  6. http://firesigntheatre.com/media/media.php?item=jmen
  7. Cline 1984, p. 91.William C. Cline


  • Cline, William C. "5. A Cheer for the Champions (The Heroes and Heroines)". In the Nick of Time. NJefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  • Cline, William C. "Filmography", In the Nick of Time. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  • Harmon, Jim and Donald F. Glut. "11. New Masks for New Heroes "Get That Masked Trouble Maker". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. London: Routledge Publishing, 1973. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  • Kinnard, Roy. Science Fiction Serials. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-7864-0545-7.
  • Mathis, Jack. Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. South Barrington, Illinois: Jack Mathis Advertising, 1995. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8.
  • Weiss, Ken and Ed Goodgold. To be Continued ...: A Complete Guide to Motion Picture Serials. New York: Bonanza Books, 1973. ISBN 0-517-166259.
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