Tom Steele and The Masked Marvel


In the Masked Marvel (1943), Tom Steele played the lead, did all his own stunts, played a bit part as a heavy and doubled three other actors to do all their stunts, and he never got any billing on the series. It was common during these days to not give credit to the stuntmen on these pictures. It’s interesting to note, that he did so much stunt work on this film, that at one point, there’s a scene in which Tom Steele is being chased up a fire escape by the Masked Marvel. Now, knowing that Tom played the Masked Marvel in all the action scenes, he is literally chasing HIMSELF up that fire escape!masked marvel 1943

As a side note, Stuntmen are often selected because of their resemblance to the star they are doubling for. In contrast to this, many of Republic Pictures’ western stars in the 1940s and early 1950s, such as Allan Lane, Bill Elliot, Rex Allen and Monte Hale, were selected in part due to their resemblance to Steele, who would do their stunts.  His trick for keeping his hat on in fight scenes in these pictures (so the audience couldn’t tell it wasn’t the star) was to put rubber surgical tubing in the sweatband to make it fit tight.

The Masked Marvel is one of the kings of action serials.  By my count there were 19 fights (four or more men fighting in two or more rooms were counted as one fight), an even 20 killings by gunshot, 15 deaths by miscellaneous means (explosions, knifes, auto accidents, to include the same shot of a car going over a cliff in Episodes 2 and 8, etc.) and 15 explosions (including cars going over a cliff and the three explosions at the beginning).marvel in danger

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page):

Glossary of film terms as defined by the Wikipedia – Masked Mystery Villain is a stock character in genre fiction. The Masked Mystery Villain was frequently used in the adventure stories of Pulp magazines and Movie Serials in the early twentieth century. They can also appear in Crime fiction to add to the atmosphere of suspense and suspicion. The “Mask” need not be literal (although it often is), referring more to the subterfuge involved.

He or she is the often main antagonist of the story, often acting behind the scenes with henchmen confronting the protagonists directly. Usually, the protagonists must discover the villain’s true identity before they can be defeated. Often the Masked Mystery Villain will turn out to be either one of the protagonists themselves or a significant member of the supporting cast. The author may give the viewer or reader clues, with many red herrings, as to the villain’s identity – sometime as the characters find them and sometimes for the audience alone. However, the identity is not usually revealed to the audience before it is revealed to the characters of the story. Even the villain’s henchmen rarely know the truth about their master.

The concept was reversed in the serials “The Lone Ranger” and “The Masked Marvel”, where the true identity of the hero is unknown and a number of characters remain possible candidates until the end.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM