This article originally appeared in a slightly different form at Alfred Eaker’s The Blue Mahler.
“Rescue” is a season one episode in which narrative purpose overrides attachment to character history or bullet points. Prospector Pop has been working his coal mine for a decade, despite warnings that it’s a death trap. Refusing to heed the warnings, Pop gets trapped after a cave-in. Enter Lois Lane, who discovers Pop’s predicament and attempts a rescue. Naturally, being Lois Lane, she too refuses to heed the warnings and attempts a lone wolf rescue, getting stuck herself. A series of near-misses follows in which Kent barely misses hearing news of the mine avalanche. Naturally, Kent being Superman, he would have super hearing. But not if it gets in the way of the plot. Thus, Kent, revving his faulty engine, fails to hear the radio broadcast of Lane’s current troubles.
Kent finally gets wind of the explosion which now seems to have sealed the fate of Pop and Lane. Naturally, our favorite boy scout saves the day, which inspires Lane to quip, “Clark, Superman finally took me out.” “Rescue” is a welcome change of pace, well-directed by Timothy Carr, and crams a lot of plot into twenty minutes.
Carr returns to helm “The Secret of Superman.” Jimmy Olsen’s mom calls Kent in the early A.M., worrying that little Jimmy has not come home. This looks like a job for… Clark Kent, who finds Olsen in a trance-like state at the Daily Planet office after hours. A file is missing, but not just any file! It is the file on Superman! As Kent suspects, dastardly gangster types are trying to find out the secret identity of the Man of Steel.
Next up is Perry White, who gets slipped a mickey in his coffee. White doesn’t know Superman’s identity either, and proves to be of little use to the bad fellas. Inspector Henderson, being the Sherlock he is, finds that both Olson and White were under the influence of sodium amathol and orders round-the-clock police protection for the Daily Planet staff. A little gunplay follows, but we’re still no closer to wrapping up this episode.
Kent, pretending to be fired in an attempt to smoke out the gangsters, drinks from the same cup as White. Of course, Kent fakes a stupor but Lane is more susceptible and is asked the question: “Could Superman have the ultimate disguise? Could he be … a woman?” “Superman—a woman? Nah, but Clark…. well, maybe,” the drugged Lane suggests. Performed with commendable straight faces, the cast deserves credit for convincingly guiding us through 50s naiveté. The world’s greatest mystery gets solved: Kent is Superman behind those horn rims. The henchman who figures it out gets wasted, however, and Lane conveniently forgets her drugged-induced sleuth work. Kent sighs in relief. No wonder he’s so charmingly smug.
The Lee Sholem-directed “No Holds Barred” has been a stapled fan favorite. Wrestler “Bad Luck Brannigan” has sent several opponents to the hospital after using the “paralyzer” move on them. With super-hearing now intact, Kent becomes privy to ringside conspiracies and locker room plots. Perry White sends in his ace reporter to investigate.
Swami Ramm gives Kent a demonstration. It’s all about pressure points. Sure enough, unable to resist his bad habits, Bad Luck Brannigan is back to using shady gymnastics. But it’s not magic that can resist evil. Rather, it’s the magic of knowledge, Kent assures us as he restores broken bodies and faith in humanity.
“The Deserted Village” (dir. Carr): An ominous town sign greets Lois and Clark, with a guarantee of a trip to the twilight zone.
Lane is taking along the boy to thank longtime family friend Mrs. Tazey for her annual birthday present of a ginger bread man. However, when Lane tried to contact Tazey, she finds that no one in the entire town of Cliffton answers phones, despite the fact that the lines are not down.
Next up, a man in protective gear lumbers through Cliffton, throwing rocks into house windows, surrounded by an eerie fog. A dog collapses dead at the strange man’s feet.
In addition to a certain Dr. Jessup and Mrs. Tazey, the pharmacist Mr. Godfrey and his son Alvin seem to be the only occupants of this deserted village, but Kent, spying a gas mask and gun in Jessup’s drawer, and another one hidden in Tazey’s bed of roses, intends to solve this mystery.
In the space of moments, Kent is warned to get out of Dodge, Lane is abducted, and the culprits are bested by Superman, saving his gf from a watery grotto death. The best mysteries are hyperkinetic, and “Deserted Village” delivers in spades.
When Lane discovers Kent correcting the sign number, she inquires about the source of his information. “A little bird told me, ” he smiles in best smug Reeves delivery , “and if you’re a good girl, someday I’ll tell you who that little bird is.”
“The Stolen Costume” (dir. Sholem) may be the most startling episode of the series, especially to a newcomer. “T-ball,” the notorious rope burglar of Metropolis, is at it again. With the coppers fast on his heels, he slinks his way into Kent’s vacant apartment with all the clandestine skill of a Grace Kelly in black tights. Kent’s elsewhere; getting his annual checkup, which could prove embarrassing if being prodded through his red-and-blues. Kent’s leaving his super undies at home invites T-Ball to have a peek though the ace reporter’s closet space. Lo and behold, there he finds the glory of the boy’s manhood mystery, which he wads up, sticks under his armpit, and heads to the gangster’s ball, but not before being winged by one of Metropolis’ finest.
Before croaking, T-Ball spits up the red-and-blues to awaiting blackmailing arms. Kent hires a private dick to search for the missing mystery item. Mr. and Mrs. Blackmailer purpose a “deal.” No deals.
So, Superman does what any super guy would do—he flies them to the Mountain of Solitude, props them up on the highest peak, and warns, “don’t try to climb down.”
Intending to keep them indisposed until he finds Professor Pepperwinkle, Supes takes flight. Not heeding his advice, Mr. and Mrs. Blackmailer fall to their deaths.
“Pretty, odd, huh? Them dying like that?”
“Oh well,” shrugs Kent.
“Mystery In Wax” (dir. Sholem) is more like an enigmatic lesson in 50s styled melodrama served up with camp thespian hijinks. Madame Selena has made another death mask. RSVP, Daily Planet.
Her previous death masks all were prophetic omens ending in the suicides of each subject. Now sculpted in wax, Perry White is going to expose this charlatan, but a trip down the river seals his fate.
Lane mourns, Henderson waxes bafflement, and Kent gets down to the dirty business of finishing his final assignment for Perry.
Selena’s orgasmic, narcissistic shrieking puts’s Dr. Vollin from The Raven to shame. Naturally, with fists of steel, Kal-el saves the day, frees the imprisoned, and sends Selena to the big house where she belongs.
“Mystery in Wax” is coated in period grand Guignol, and only the most disaffected will be immune to its Hall of Death charms.
“Treasure of the Incas” (dir. Carr). Memo: be wary when approached by an “arts collector” with a fedora and a scar running down his face. Unfortunately, Lois Lane didn’t get the memo, which sets up this episode.
Professor Laverra wants a tapestry that is being auctioned off so, being a bit shy, he shoves a thousand dollars into Lane’s hands and asks her to buy it for him. The gangster Mendoza wants the same item, kills Laverra, and now goes after Lane, who is unaware of the homicide or Mendoza’s intent. Olson, White, Kent, and Superman all become involved and the drama teleports us from morgue to Peru. Another fun and thrill-packed episode from “The Adventures of Superman.”
“Double Trouble” (dir. Carr) doesn’t deliver double the fun, despite crisp writing and direction. By this time, the actors must have been feeling overworked, and it shows with both hammy and fatigued performances by all. Carr himself pitches in with a winning cameo and, with Reeves, almost saves this story about spies and radium. Alas, it’s to no avail.
“The Runaway Robot” (dir. Carr): How can a team-up between robots and Superman go wrong? It can’t. This is right up there with Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman in terms of combos you just couldn’t wait to see. And before you can sing a single note of “Mr. Roboto,” “Hero” is saving the day from super jewel thieves.
Of course things run amok, as they often do with 50s robots. The design of Hero is a bonafide classic, on a par with the robots of The Phantom Creeps, Robby the Robot, Tobor the Great, Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, or Robot Monster.
Fortunately, Superman is wilier than a runaway robot, and made of sterner stuff too.
Don’t get all 21st century elitist on this one. Let it wash over you.
“Drums of Death” (dir. Sholem): From robots to jungle voodoo. Lois and Clark, along with Perry and Jimmy, are doing some adventure traveling.
Perry White’s sister and cub reporter Jimmy Olsen have gone missing on an expedition to Haiti. Superman to the rescue. The gang gets a lot of mileage in under a half hour, but the narrative they are stuck in short-circuits.
“The Evil Three” is a ham sandwich overdose. White and Olsen have gone fishin’, but they’re just a wishin’.
Watching the principal baddies trying to outdo each other doing belly flops is like witnessing Great Dictator stool, or Kirk vs. Kahn. Reeves and Larson join the fun and seem as entertained as we are.and Jack Oakie compete for the highest
“Riddle of the Chinese Jade” takes us back into period noir. Sinister oriental types straight outta The Mysterious Mr. Wong accompany trap doors, a jewel heist, and deadly explosions.
This could have been produced by PRC and we kept expecting a cameo from Peter Lorre, Bela, or Boris, but Reeves handles it all by himself. Lane gets in a classic scream queen moment and thirty minutes moves by like quicksilver.
Gambling addict “Bet a Million” Butler is the focus of “The Human Bomb” (dir. Sholem). Butler will bet on anything, even if it means a little jail time. He has wagered one hundred thousand dollars that he can preoccupy Superman for thirty minutes (while his comrades pull off a museum heist). Strapping dynamite to himself, Butler strolls into the Daily Planet and handcuffs himself to Superman’s gal pal Lane. Kent’s not amused by such shameless publicity, which gives him a much-needed out. Olsen goes all hero on us, which of course necessitates a save from Superman.
Superman’s response? “No comment until the time limit is up.” Butler proves a little dense and easily bamboozled.
“Czar of the Underworld” (dir. Carr) usually makes the top ten episodes of “Adventures” lists. Crime boss Luigi Donelli has plenty of headaches stemming from Clark Kent’s series of exposés. Worse, Kent, with Inspector Henderson, is heading out to Hollywood to serve as a technical advisors for the film Czar of the Underworld. Donelli and his thugs plot an assassination attempt, but naturally fumble it. A series of further attempts follow, one of which gets film actor Allen Dexter killed on set. It plays out a bit like Phantom of the Opera, with a mystery murderer behind shady film location hijinks.
The phantom is unmasked, the bad men get punished, and one’s head spins from almost overdosing on so much plot in so little time. The consensus, again, is right on the quality of this remarkable episode.
“Ghost Wolf” (dir. Sholem) is about a werewolf. No kidding. Sort of. Rather, it’s actually about a she-wolf. Sort of. Kent, Lane, and Olsen embark upon an eerie mystery deep in the Oregon forest. They better hurry up. Perry White is running out of pulpwood to produce his paper and the Lone Pine Timber Company isn’t making his job easier with a she-wolf terrorizing its lumberjacks.
Werewolf? Check. Lane getting to do a helluva scream queen? Check. Superman putting out a forest fire? Check. What the hell more do you need?
“Crime Wave” (dir. Carr) has made more than one list as the best episode of “Adventures.” While that’s debatable, it is a balls-to-wall-action packed 30 minutes with the Son of Krypton kicking ass and taking names.
In addition to bulldog edition deadlines, an underground Number One crime boss, hijackings, a mortal threat from a mad scientist, assassinations, assassination plots, and Kent’s secret identity being made quite vulnerable (which, oddly, never gets resolved), “Crime Wave” is all Superman, with Clark Kent almost reduced to a cameo.
Needless to say with Superman in charge, “there is no Number One Crime Boss in Metropolis… anymore.”