The 1952 sci-fi serial “Radar Men from the Moon” was parodied by the Firesign Theatre

By on January 15, 2019

If you were a fan of one of Night Flight’s more popular features, the Firesign Theatre‘s made-for-TV parody-comedy J-Men Forever, you may recognize some of the footage they used as coming from Republic Pictures’ extremely low-budget 1952 sci-fi serial Radar Men from the Moon, which was shown in B-movie matinee episodes before being divided up into twelve distinct chapters and syndicated for television.

Watch Radar Men — the full two-hour and forty-six minutes have been edited together, much like it was originally packaged as a TV movie titled Retik the Moon Menace — now find streaming on Night Flight Plus.


The plot of the Radar Men serial — directed by Fred C. Brannon from a screenplay by Ronald Davidson — begins with a government agent named “Henderson” (Don Walters) briefing “Commando Cody” (George Wallace), a scientist and man of action with a secret jet-propelled flying suit.

There’s been an unusual amount of atomic activity on the moon which Henderson believes is connected to strategic targets on Earth, military bases and industrial complexes, which are being destroyed by atomic blasts from an unknown space weapon.

Cody is sent to the moon to investigate, where he encounters “Retik” (Roy Barcroft), the moon’s ruler, who explains that the blasts are meant to weaken Earth’s defenses as a prelude to his people’s planned mass invasion.


This extra-terrestrial invasion is a direct result of the moon people not being able to raise crops because the atmosphere on the moon is to thin and dry, and migrating his people to Earth is the only way to ensure their survival.

The rest of the story unfolds in the next eleven chapters of the story, and we’ll let you discover what happens once the evil Retik begins hiring criminals on Earth through his minion “Krog” (Peter Brocco), including TV’s “Lone Ranger” Clayton Moore as a thug named “Graber.”


Commando Cody and his assistants “Joan Gilbert” (Aline Towne) and “Ted Richards” (William Blackwell) only actually make two trips to the moon during the entire series, due to the extreme budgetary restraints.

The first moon trip comes late in Chapter One (“Moon Rocket”) — carrying over into the first part of Chapter Three (“Bridge of Death”) — and the second trip occurs in both Chapter Eight (“The Enemy Planet”) and Chapter Nine (“Battle in the Stratosphere”).

Exterior sequences were also filmed at Red Rock Canyon State Park and at Vasquez Rocks, north of Los Angeles, as well as at Iverson Ranch and the Chatsworth Railway Station.

The full list of the chapters (which are mostly thirteen minutes long) are as follows: “Moon Rocket,” “Molten Terror,” “Bridge of Death,” “Flight to Destruction,” “Murder Car,” “Hills of Death,” “Camouflaged Destruction,” “The Enemy Planet,” “Battle in the Stratosphere,” “Mass Execution” (a re-cap chapter), “Planned Pursuit,” and “Death of the Moon Man.”

Read more about Radar Men from the Moon below.


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Republic Pictures’ sci-fi serial Radar Men was a seriously low-budget production.

Filming began on October 17, 1951, and continued for next three weeks and completed on a final overall production budget of just $185,702.

Much of the show — which began screening in theaters as of January 9, 1952 — was shot in front of a process screen showing stock footage from Republic’s clip library, utilizing footage that had already aired in previous Republic serials (twenty-six of those were syndicated for television).

1945’s The Purple Monster Strikes had previously featured actor Roy Barcroft as an alien, so, to match footage from that serial, Barcroft wore his Purple Monster’s costume in Radar Men.


Footage was also re-purposed from Republic’s earliest serial, 1936’s Darkest Africa, which was the first to use Howard “Babe” Lydecker’s miniatures shot in front of the moon’s Roman-style walled city where Retik’s people live.

Scenes from the serials SOS Coast Guard (1937), Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941), The Crimson Ghost (1946), Flying Disc Man from Mars (1950) and Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) were also re-used.


Radar Men’s flying sequences were originally created by the the special effects team of Howard Lydecker and his brother Theodore, a.k.a. the Lydecker Brothers, for King of the Rocket Men (1949), which had presented more of a “mad scientist” threat instead of the show’s hero facing off against extra-terrestrials (in this case from the moon).


In the early ’50s, audiences couldn’t get enough of sci-fi serials like Radar Men, filling movie theaters across America on weekends to watch unfolding B-movie serialized storylines which usually took several months to tell the entire story.

Radar Men was apparently so popular that all twelve chapters were shown again in 1957.


Four months after filming of Radar Men from the Moon Republic Pictures’ founder and president Herbert Yates greenlit a brand new 12-part serial, Commando Cody — Sky Marshal of the Universe.

He’d wanted to use the name Commando Cody because he thought it would remind Republic’s young audiences of “Commander Corry,” the hero of the popular ABC TV & radio series Space Patrol.

Actor Judd Holdren took over the role that had originated with George Wallace, although actress Aline Towne reprised her role as his assistant Jane.


Commando Cody’s flying suit — a streamlined helmet and a sonic-powered rocket backpack attached to a leather flying jacket, originally designed for King of the Rocket Men — was dusted off for use again two more times, in Commando Cody and Zombies of the Stratosphere.

In 1989, Radar Men was lampooned by the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

Watch Radar Men from the Moon on Night Flight Plus.


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.