Fictional account of a 1940s Sub-Mariner screen-test featuring Buster Crabbe. Took idea from actual (apparently) Sub-Mariner TV pilot considered in the 1950s featuring Richard Egan. Hope it makes for good reading~ jerod
The October 1977 issue #9 of Starlog contained a brief story and photos of a purported Sub-Mariner production from the 1940s. Grainy images offered a tantalizing but incomplete base for the story.
As it turns out, original photos uncovered from Universal storage in 2009 validate the previously questionable claim. Along with the photos were general notes of the failed production. In February of 1940 Timely approached Universal about a Sub-Mariner serial feature based on their new character whom premiered several months previous. Universal saw the potential that this character could perhaps match the popularity of Superman from 1938. The hope was to get in the ground floor with Namor and be in a position to prosper if the character did indeed blossom like National’s Superman. Universal looked to an aquatic star already in their stable, Olympic swimming hero Buster Crabbe. Coupled with his contemporary fame from several Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials, Crabbe seemed a perfect fit for the role.
Buster Crabbe had just finished his third portrayal of Flash Gordon in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe; released in Spring of 1940. In mid-May 1940 Universal called the main cast back to the studio to run tests for the proposed Sub-Mariner feature. The recently used Conquers soundstage had been quickly removed for a new feature. In it’s place sets ands costumes were pulled from the 1936 Flash Gordon feature to double as Atlantis. Charles Middleton went back to the earlier bald-cap version of Ming to portray an Atlantian villain in the shots.
It became clear that technical issues with a realistic setting for Atlantis would be a strain on the budget. No known underwater footage was shot. Despite initial enthusiasm, the project ended abruptly. These are apparently the originals of the only test shots that exist; portions of which were used in the 1977 Starlog story.