Captain Video and His Video Rangers (partially found early science-fiction television series; 1949-1955)

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The show's logo.

Status: Partially Found

Captain Video and His Video Rangers is a science-fiction television series, which aired new episodes from 27th June 1949 to 1st April 1955. Set in 2254, the show starred Richard Coogan, and later Al Hodge, as Captain Video, a scientist who would invent various technologies and lead the Video Rangers in thwarting the diabolical plans of numerous antagonists throughout the universe. It is historic for being the first American science-fiction television series, airing across 24 stations on the DuMont Television Network. Although a highly popular show amongst children of the era, the majority of the estimated 1,537 episodes were confirmed to have been dumped in the Upper New York Bay during the early-1970s.


Captain Video and His Video Rangers was conceptualised by Larry Menkin, who was instructed by DuMont Vice President and Program Director James L. Caddigan to create a character who could host classic films DuMont had acquired, and also be a favourite among children.[1][2][3][4] Initially airing on 27th June 1949 as simply Captain Video, the show differed greatly to what it eventually became.[4][3][2] Starring Richard Coogan as Captain Video, the original show was exclusively used to feature 12-minute segments of classic Western films, which DuMont had acquired television rights to and were seeking to justify the expenses in doing so.[4][2][3][1] But as DuMont expanded, so too did the Captain Video series, eventually expanding into Captain Video and His Video Rangers.[1][3][4][2] Here, Captain Video was declared "The Guardian of the Safety of the World", with him and his force "The Video Rangers" tasked by the Solar Council of the Interplanetary Alliance to defend Earth and the universe from all sorts of villains in the year 2254.[5][6][1][3][4]

Captain Video himself was a scientific genius, capable of inventing gadgets like the Opticon Scillometer and the Cosmic Ray Vibrator to defeat his enemies, while crucially not killing or maiming them.[5][1][6][4] Indeed, a key aspect of this children-focused show concerned the morality of science, and how scientific and technological inventions should be established to benefit society rather than put to evil use.[1][5][6] This also helped the show defend itself against a growing moral panic over televised violence.[1] Captain Video was contrasted by numerous recurring and one-off villains; the most notable was Dr. Pauli, an evil inventor and president of the Asteroidal Society, whose usage of devices like the Trisonic Compensator, Cloak of Invisibility, and the robot Torbot were harnessed for diabolical plans typically involving conquering Earth and later the universe.[3][1][4][5][6] Incidentally, Torbot is sometimes cited as the first robot character on television, which is not strictly true as the BBC's 1938 adaptation of R.U.R. featured the roboti.[7][1] Captain Video was assisted primarily by The Video Ranger, a male teenager portrayed by Don Hastings, his superior Commander Bell, and noted rookie Ranger Craig, who operate within an undisclosed secret base atop a mountain.[4][1][3][5]

The Show

The show aired live usually between 7:00 to 7:30 pm, airing new episodes 5-6 days per week.[1][6][3][2] Like with other DuMont programs, the series made do with a limited budget, for instance initially having a $25 prop budget for each episode.[5][1][6] As editing was naturally impossible with the show's live premise, action sequences were generally short-lived and would be sandwiched between other segments.[1][6][3][5] Among these included Captain Video showcasing Western films featuring other "Video Rangers" via his Remote Tele-Carrier, to Rangers Messages featuring discussions primarily on more adult-issues like anti-discrimination and freedom.[1][6][3][5] These segments served three purposes; it would enable adequate time to prepare the next scenes and special effects, while also ensuring the show maintained an action-packed presentation.[1][6][5] As previously mentioned, DuMont could also again justify the costs acquiring the Western film televisions rights.[8][1][6][5][2] The show was first filmed at the Wanamaker Department Store in Manhattan, and budgetary concerns meant the inaugural episodes were exclusively set on Earth.[5] However, to ensure the show remained fresh throughout its run, stories set across the universe were eventually regularly showcased.[5][1] Later episodes were then filmed at Dumont Studios on East 67th Street.[5]

Originally, Captain Video and His Video Rangers was a slow burner, with critics not exactly being thrilled with the early script-writing, nor the generally wooden acting.[6][8] However, the emergence of Al Hodge as Captain Video, combined with new scripts from well-regarded science-fiction writers like Damon Knight and Arthur C. Clarke, led to the show becoming a major hit for DuMont, proving especially popular among children.[6][8][1][5][2] By 1951, it attracted an average of 3.5 million viewers per episode across 24 stations.[1][2] The key demographics were especially dedicated to the show, often suggesting new inventions and even demanding that Dr. Pauli and Tobor were brought back after they were initially killed-off.[1] This allowed DuMont to greatly market the show, establishing the Video Rangers Club and selling a diverse range of merchandise.[1][5] Spin-offs were also created, such as the Saturday morning show The Secret Files of Captain Video, a 20-episode prequel series lasting thirty minutes each, which was written by young science-fiction writers and aired from 5th September 1953 to 29th May 1954.[1][2][3][5][4] Additionally, a 1951 15-episode film serial titled Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere was produced by Columbia Pictures, starring Judd Holdren as the titular character.[9][5][1]

Despite the show's success, the experience was gruelling for many of the actors.[10][5] As the program aired new episodes for 5-6 days per week, filming was relentless leading to burnout and a rotating door of actors.[10] For instance, Dr. Pauli was ultimately portrayed by three actors during the show's run: Bram Nossen, Hal Conklin, and finally Stephen Elliott.[3] Meanwhile, Hodge's appointment as Captain Video occurred as Coogan, fed up with the intense schedule and not receiving a share of revenue from sold merchandise, left after 1950.[10][5][3] While Hodge is credited for the show's surge in popularity, he and the rest of the crew were paid pittance for actually starring in it.[10][5] Instead, their income was usually bolstered via public engagements.[10] Hodge also faced severe typecasting following his stint on the show, compromising the rest of his career, and ultimately his financial and mental wellbeing.[5]

The show's downfall occurred parallel to DuMont's worsening financial situation.[1][6] Captain Video and His Video Rangers was one of the few DuMont shows to receive considerable sponsorship, primarily from brands like Skippy Peanut Butter and Post Cereals.[1][6][2] In fact, it would become the only sponsored DuMont program by the time it aired its final episode on 1st April 1955, the program's end arising as DuMont could no longer afford to produce it.[11][1][5][6][4][2] Nevertheless, Captain Video himself featured in later programming; in 1955, he hosted Captain Video's Cartoons, which simply had him showcase Paramount Pictures animated works Betty Boop, Fearless Fosdick, Little Lulu, and Superman, in addition to episodes of Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere.[12][9][5][4] Alas, the folding of DuMont Television Network on 6th August 1956 consequently signalled the end of Captain Video's television presence.[11][1][6][4]


Captain Video and His Video Rangers is historic for being first science-fiction television show serial, producing about 1,537 episodes according to some estimates.[13][10][1] But despite its significance, very few episodes are known to have survived.[14][15][16][17][10] Originally, Captain Video and His Video Rangers, alongside other DuMont programming, was safely stored away in kinescope and 2" videotapes.[15][17] Following the collapse of DuMont, Metromedia took over its phoenix company Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation, who initially kept the original DuMont recordings.[18][15][17] However, in the early-1970s, Metromedia was in intense negotiations about a possible buy-out.[15][16][17] One of the issues discussed with lawyers concerned the responsibility of storing the DuMont archive.[15][17][16] As Adams noted, the party responsible faced several challenges in preservation, such as routinely renewing copyright and ensuring the recordings were carefully stored in an expensive temperature-controlled facility.[15][17][16]

According to Edie Adams during a Television/Video Preservation Study Los Angeles Public Hearing held on 6th March 1996, one lawyer attempted to settle proceedings by requesting he "take care of it", a request which was granted.[15][17][16] This lawyer would then be responsible for causing one of the largest ever losses of television media.[15][17][16] The following morning, at around 2am, the lawyer arrived with three large lorries, which he filled with the DuMont kinescopes and 2" videotapes.[15][17][16] The lorries then reached a barge in New Jersey, which carried the recordings to the Upper New York Bay. In one fell swoop, the recordings were dumped into the river, never to be seen again.[15][17][16] The identity of the lawyer remains unknown.[15][17] However, the Metropolitan Broadcasting Corporation was also complicit in destroying DuMont kinescope recordings, doing so in 1958 to reclaim the silver encased within them.[17]

Adams did her best to recover what was left of the archive, among which included hundreds of audio tapes and daily television scripts.[15] These, along with what is left of the television recordings, are stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, with some private collectors also gaining a few rare kinescopes.[15][14][16] Of an estimated 1,537 episodes of Captain Video and His Video Rangers, just 24 are known to still exist.[14][8][10] The availability of these episodes is somewhat unusual; five of them, consisting of three Coogan episodes and two starring Hodge, have been made fully available on home media releases and on video-sharing websites like YouTube.[8][10] However, the other 19 are less accessible, as one can only view them upon appointment to UCLA Film and Television Archive's facilities.[8][10] Whether they will ever receive a wider public release remains unclear.



Surviving episode of the series.

Surviving episode of the series.

Surviving episode of the series.

Surviving episode of the series.

Surviving episode of the series.

See Also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 Television Academy Foundation providing a quote from Encyclopedia of Television's summary of the show. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 From Daytime to Primetime detailing the show's conception. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Crime Fighting Heroes of Television detailing the creation and eventual end of the show, also noting the lack of information surrounding certain episodes and spin-offs. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 Through 2010 detailing the show's original premise in 1949 and summarising the show's concept, heroes and villains. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 5.18 5.19 5.20 5.21 5.22 Nostalgia Central detailing the show's premise, spin-offs, budget constraints, and noting Hodge becoming typecast. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 Classic Kids TV summarising the show, its growing success after initial poor critical reception, and its eventual end. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  7. Smithsonian Magazine detailing the BBC's 1938 adaptation of R.U.R. which is the first science-fiction television program, beating out Captain Video and His Video Rangers by eleven years. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 American Science Fiction Television detailing the show's turnaround by harnessing noted science-fiction writers, and the 24 episodes known to have survived. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 Columbia Pictures Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1928-1982 summarising Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere and Captain Video's Cartoons. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 10.9 Jerry's House of Everything summarising the show's budget issues, change of actors, and the few episodes that survived. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  11. 11.0 11.1 Clarke Ingram's DuMont Television Network documenting the end of the DuMont Television Network. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  12. 18th August 1956 issue of Billboard reporting on Captain Video's Cartoons. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  13. Guinness World Records declaring Captain Video and His Video Rangers as the "First science-fiction television show serial". Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Clarke Ingram's DuMont Television Network listing the surviving tapes at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  15. 15.00 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 15.11 15.12 Television/Video Preservation Study: Los Angeles Public Hearing, March 1996 where Adams discussed the massive loss of DuMont television media and her attempts to preserve some of it. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 Clarke Ingram's DuMont Television Network relaying Adams' story and noting how some DuMont television has survived. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  17. 17.00 17.01 17.02 17.03 17.04 17.05 17.06 17.07 17.08 17.09 17.10 17.11 29th May 2003 issue of Metropolitan News-Enterprise detailing the destruction of the DuMont archive in 1958 and the early-1970s. Retrieved 31st Mar '23
  18. Company Histories page on Metromedia. Retrieved 31st Mar '23