Monday, September 20, 2010

Movie Monday - Superman, 1948, Chapters 5-8

Continuing our recap of the first Superman serial from 1948:

The Story So Far: Superman was sent to Earth as an infant, last survivor of a doomed planet. He was raised on a farm, where he decided to use his incredible powers for the good of mankind. He went to Metropolis, where he became a reporter for the Daily Planet, along with Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. He also ran afoul of the Spider Lady, an evil mastermind bent on stealing the super-destructive Relativity Reducer Ray.

At the end of Chapter 4, Lois was a captive of the Spider Lady, being electrocuted by her Electro-Web. As Chapter 5, "A Job For Superman" opens, the Spider Lady shuts down the web, leaving Lois unconscious on the floor. She has decided it's best not to kill Lois here, despite the fact that in the last chapter, Leeds's assistant Morgan was killed in exactly the same way just moments before. But that's what a week between chapters is for, to give us time to forget. She sends Lois off with a couple of thugs to be killed at a warehouse or something.

Meanwhile, Jimmy has called the Planet to report Lois's kidnapping. Clark goes to meet Jimmy. They decide to follow the street the thugs took, and run across the bad guys coming the other way. Clark sees Lois in the car (apparently with his X-Ray vision), so he tells Jimmy to drop him off so he can call the cops. He changes to Superman, stops the thugs (by letting cartoon bullets bounce off his chest, then doing his patented move of lifting two bad guys up simultaneously and thumping them together to knock them out) and saves Lois.

Later, the Spider Lady taunts Superman over the police radio that she is going to steal the Kryptonite. Say what you will about the Spider Lady (like how stupid she is to keep announcing her plans ahead of time), she's nothing if not self-confident.

Lois goes to meet Professor Leeds, who still has the meteorite (which he had promised to destroy after running some tests - he's apparently still waiting on Morgan to come back and finish them). Suddenly, a car crashes in the street and catches fire; the trapped driver's terrified screams draw away the museum guards. Superman arrives and blows out the car like a birthday candle, but discovers the screams came from a record player in the car!

That's one seriously robust record player. Not only did the record not melt in the fire, but the needle didn't even skip when the car crashed. My record player used to skip when you sat on the couch too hard.

The Fabulously Gay Duo, meanwhile, have used the distraction to break into the museum with an electrified welding torch or something. They also use it to break into the safe and take the Kryptonite, but are caught in the act by Lois and Leeds (He's a Professor, She's a Reporter--Together, They Fight Crime!). Lois and Leeds are knocked out, and the FGD take off, leaving the torch to wave menacingly in the air like some kind of spastic snake. Danger!

As in "Superman in Danger!" which is the title to Chapter 6. Superman hands the record player to the cops and pursues the Fabulously Gay Duo, but Lois comes out of her faint just long enough to scream at the torch, then faint again. Superman rushes back and saves Lois, then flies off to stop the Duo. But he doesn't count on the Kryptonite, which causes him to pull a Lois and faint.

Now that Superman is no longer a serious threat, the Spider Lady and Driller discuss their plans to steal the Reducer Ray. The Spider Lady decides she needs scientific help and plots to break mad genius Dr. Hackett out of prison. Hackett will soon become this serial's equivalent of Lex Luthor. The break-out itself is never shown; one second, the Spider Lady says they need to work out a plan to get him out of prison, and the next, he's out. Brilliant plans work so much better when you just assume they worked without sweating the details.

Perry White assigns Clark to the Dr. Hackett break-out. Clark heads straight to Hawkins, the stool pigeon. Hawkins is scared off by the sight of the FGD, however, and gives Clark the brush-off. So Clark follows the Duo.

Lois arrives just as Clark is leaving and gets Hawkins to tell her what's going on by buying him a spaghetti dinner. He's such a cheap date.

Meanwhile, Clark, driving his inconspicuous Daily Planet car,...

follows the FGD to a cabin where Hackett is being held. The FGD give Hackett bandages to wrap himself up in and take off to fetch a fake ambulance so they can bluff their way through police roadblocks. After they leave, Clark ties Hackett up and calls Perry to send the police, then wraps himself in bandages to be taken to the Spider Lady's hideout.

Lois arrives moments after the fake ambulance leaves and discovers Hackett tied up. Not knowing who he is, she unties him. D'oh! Hackett pulls a gun and takes Lois prisoner.

Meanwhile, the FGD discover Clark isn't Hackett. But apparently, head bandages work just like Kryptonite, because the FGD beat Superman senseless...

and dump him over a cliff that is similar to, but not the same as, the cliff where Batman got hit with the CrazyLegs Ray!

The FGD head back for Hackett, while Clark recovers and decides to change into Superman. Meanwhile, Hackett and Lois pass the ambulance going the other way. Hackett tells Lois to stop, but she grows a pair and keeps the car moving, daring him to hurt her. He knocks her out and jumps out of the car, which hurtles toward the edge of a cliff. Hey, this is starting to look a lot like Gotham!

In Chapter 7, "Into the Electronic Furnace," Clark switches to cartoon Superman and saves Lois. And as much as I make fun of the cartoon special effects, this is actually a pretty nicely executed shot, matching the movement of the car nicely and even matching the puffs of dust pretty well.

The Spider Lady greets Hackett and tells him about the Kryptonite. Hackett comes up with a plan to trap Superman using one of his friends as bait, say, that Clark Kent fella.

However, when they set up Hawkins the stoolie to make the call, Lois intercepts it. Being the weasel she is, she takes Jimmy to the meeting, thinking to scoop Clark. Instead, it's Jimmy who gets scooped up by the crooks.

The thugs then call Clark at the Planet and tell him to get word to Superman. When Clark demands they prove that Jimmy's still alive, instead of putting him on the phone even though he's in the same room with them, they instead set up a secret rendezvous with Clark.

The meeting is at the corner of 9th and Columbia, which I figure was an in-joke for the guys on the backlot, naming the street after the studio.

Clark goes to the meeting (secretly followed by Lois), where he is handed a paper by a passing extra. Hey, it's Professor Hammil from Batman and Robin!

The paper has a note in it that tells Clark where to meet the bad guys, who take him to their hideout. Clark has told the bad guys that Superman will come to them after they release Jimmy, but the bad guys decide to hold Clark as well, in a 2-For-1.

They show Clark the Kryptonite fragment (much smaller than the original meteorite) that they intend to use against Superman. Clark tries to fight, but the crooks knock him out (is this more bad writing, or is Clark just faking--hard to tell, the way it's cut). The crooks dump Clark's unconscious body in another room, but Jimmy slips his bonds and tries to escape, so they knock him out and throw him onto a conveyor belt leading Into the Electronic Furnace! Hot!

In Chapter 8, "Superman to the Rescue," Clark changes to Superman and attacks the thugs. One of the thugs pulls out the Kryptonite and throws it at Superman (brilliant plan). He misses, and it goes Into the Electronic Furnace, causing clouds of Kryptonite vapor that make Superman stagger and faint (maybe that was the plan--it worked, anyway).

But then the crooks hear a police whistle outside and beat it out the back way. Superman staggers into the other room. Jimmy comes to and sees Lois walk in, with the whistle she used to fool the bad guys. They find Clark on the floor in the next room, where Superman told him to wait. Lois is disgusted at his unmanliness. Clark tells them about Spider Lady's plan to steal the Reducer Ray.

Hackett derides the Spider Lady's plan as "clumsy and stupid," despite the fact that was actually, um, his plan. He says he will devise a weapon using the remaining Kryptonite that will work better. The Spider Lady tells him he'd better succeed. She leaves the room, and one of the FGD offer Hackett the chance to escape. Hackett refuses. The Fabulously Gay Uno reports to Spider Lady. It was a trap!

Superman is told by the Secretary of National Security that the Reducer Ray is to be moved to Metropolis University for testing. Superman suggests they make the information public to lure the Spider Lady into trying to steal it. It's another trap! (And incidentally, the exact same trap Batman will use against the Wizard in next year's Batman and Robin, from the same producer, one of the same directors, and much the same writing team).

Spider Lady sends her forces out to steal the ray machine, with the FGD providing cover using Hackett's Kryptonite rocket launcher. At the last moment, Spider Lady learns the real ray machine is on a train, not on the truck her men are intercepting. But she can't reach them on the radio, because they're listening to music. That damn swing music is corrupting our youth!

The truck arrives, with Clark Kent riding shotgun. This plan is only marginally less stupid than the plans Batman and Robin came up with in the other serial. The only way Superman can appear is to somehow have Clark Kent disappear. Luckily, a thug obliges by knocking Clark into some bushes.

Clark switches to Superman and flies up atop a nearby rock formation, all the better to be shot at by the FGD, who are still in the same outfits. Seriously, do these guys never change clothes or what?

But Superman catches the rocket and throws it back at them. Then he stops the thugs robbing the truck, just in time to overhear the Spider Lady on the radio, calling her men to stop the truck operation, because they're going to derail the train at Jones Crossing in 30 seconds. Better hurry, Superman!

No comments: