La Legion Heroica Mexican Movie Poster 1938-9 AP529

This was 1938’s The Fighting Devil-Dogs, a Republic Pictures serial that found a release in Mexico. As you can see, every expense was spared, but we bet it entertained the kids really well. One of its two leading man (a former shot-put champion and one of movie land’s Tarzans in the the 30s), Herman Brix, broke out of the Poverty Row rut by changing his name to Bruce Bennett, and enjoyed a more distinguished career thereafter. The other, Lee Powell, was the first Lone Ranger and died in the Second World War.

The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938) is a 12-chapter Republic movie serial starring Lee Powell and Herman Brix, the latter better known by his later stage name, Bruce Bennett. It was directed by William Witney and John English. While not often considered one of the best serials ever made, as it contains a lot of stock footage and two recap chapters, it is famous for its main villain, The Lightning—the very first costumed supervillain. There is some speculation that George Lucas used The Lightning as a template for Darth Vader.

Plot: In Singapore, two Marine Lieutenants, Tom Grayson and Frank Corby, uncover the threat of a masked terrorist called The Lightning, who uses an arsenal of powerful lightning based weaponry in his bid for world conquest. However, the battle becomes personal when The Lightning annihilates the officers’ unit, and later kills Lt. Grayson’s father as he was helping the investigation of the weapon. Now, the marines have dedicated themselves to stopping The Lightning and bringing him to justice…

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Herman Brix was a star shot-putter in the 1928 Olympics. After losing the lead in MGM’s Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) due to a shoulder injury, he was contracted by Ashton Dearholt for his independent production of The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935), a serial and the only Tarzan film between the silents and the 1960s to present the character accurately, as a sophisticated, educated English nobleman who preferred living in the jungle and was able to speak directly with animals in their own language. He subsequently found himself typecast and confined to starring roles in other serials and character and even bit parts in poverty row features and two-reeler comedies. After starring in the Republic Pictures serial Hawk of the Wilderness (1938) as the Tarzan-like Kioga, he dropped out of films for a few years, took acting lessons, and changed his name to Bruce Bennett. He made many movies after that, gaining fame as a leading man in many Warners products. In 1960, he retired from acting and went into business, becoming sales manager of a major vending machine company, making only occasional TV guest appearances. A reclusive man, he eschewed interviews, although he did appear at one Burroughs-oriented convention in the 1970s and discussed some of his experiences during the making of his Tarzan serial. In 2001, he allowed himself to be interviewed for a slender biography by a Mike Chapman, and held signings at local bookstores, enjoying his “rediscovery” by the general public in the few years remaining before his death.