George Wallace as Commando Cody. The character Commando Cody is introduced in this serial, being announced before the title in the opening credits and above both the title and actors names in the movie posters.
Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert
Roy Barcroft as Retik, Ruler of the Moon. Barcroft was cast as Retik to match stock footage of him from Republic's The Purple Monster Strikes; he wears the same costume in both serials.
William Bakewell as Ted Richards
Clayton Moore as Graber. Moore plays Krog's chief gangster assistant and later, gain fame as the star of the Lone Ranger TV series.
Peter Brocco as Krog
Bob Stevenson as Daly
Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Written by Ronald Davidson
Starring George Wallace
Music by Stanley Wilson
Distributed by Republic Pictures
Troma Entertainment (DVD)
January 9, 1952
12 chapters (167 minutes) (serial)
100 minutes (TV)
Country United States
Budget $172,840 (negative cost: $185,702)
Radar Men from the Moon is a 1952 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. 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.
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). There is, however, no surviving evidence that this was a consideration by anyone at Republic.
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.
On Earth, Cody battles an elusive lunar warrior named Krog (Peter Brocco) and his gang of human henchmen, hired to steal and stockpile various supplies for the coming invasion.
"Moon Rocket" (20 min)
"Molten Terror" (13min 20s)
"Bridge of Death" (13min 20s)
"Flight to Destruction" (13min 20s)
"Murder Car" (13min 20s)
"Hills of Death" (13min 20s)
"Camouflaged Destruction" (13min 20s)
"The Enemy Planet" (13min 20s)
"Battle in the Stratosphere" (13min 20s)
"Mass Execution" (13min 20s) - a re-cap chapter
"Planned Pursuit" (13min 20s)
"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. It was filmed between October 17 and November 6, 1951 under the working title Planet Men from Mars; the serial's production number was 1932.
However those numbers are interpreted, in practice the budget for this serial was so tight that no stunt double was used for lead actor George Wallace. His nose was broken by accident while filming an energetic fight scene with actor Clayton Moore. Wallace was also suspended in mid-air, lying on a board with the rocket suit's jacket closed around it, in front of a rear projection screen for the in-studio shot flying sequences. 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.
This serial is heavily padded with footage first filmed for the earlier King of the Rocket Men, to which this was a pseudo-sequel. A repainted Juggernaut vehicle from the much earlier Undersea Kingdom serial is also reused here as Retik's lunar tank. Radar Men from the Moon shows outer space as brightly lit and the characters walking on the Moon in normal Earth gravity and daylight without pressure suits. His laboratory building is actually a Republic Pictures office building with a prop "Cody Laboratories" sign.
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.
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.
This was followed by a re-release of Perils of Nyoka, re-titled as Nyoka and the Tigermen, instead of a new serial. Republic's next new serial, Zombies of the Stratosphere, which also used the Cody flying suit and related stock effects footage seen here, followed in the summer.
This serial 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.
Radar Men from the Moon was one of twenty-six Republic serials re-released on television in 1966 as 100 minute TV films under their Century 66 project; the title was changed to Retik the Moon Menace. In 1979 Firesign Theatre used segments of this and other serials in their made-for-TV parody comedy movie, J-Men Forever.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
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").
William C. Cline dismisses this serial as just a "quickie" in his 1984 book In the Nick of Time.
Because of a failure to renew copyright, Rader Men lapsed into the Public Domain in 1979.