Monday, September 27, 2010

Movie Monday - Superman, 1948, Chapters 9-12

Continuing our recap of the first Superman serial from 1948:

In the last chapter, Superman was racing to save a train from being derailed. As Chapter 9, "Irresistible Force!", opens, Superman stops the train seconds before it passes over the bomb that would have made it derail (of course, Hancock more accurately showed what would happen to a train forced to stop that suddenly).

Then Superman returns to the armored car, where the Fabulously Gay Duo have been deterred from freeing their fellow thugs by the arrival of the police. Clark Kent climbs back up to the road just as the driver notices that he's missing.

Back at the Daily Planet, Lois is jealous of Clark's scoop, so Perry assigns her to meet the Reducer Ray's inventor, Dr. Graham, at the train station for an interview. Meanwhile, the Spider Lady, furious at the failure to steal the Ray, comes up with a new plan. She will kidnap Dr. Graham and force him to build her a ray.

How will she do that? Well, turns out the Spider Lady has a deadly secret.

She's not a blonde! She'll pose as Lois (dressed basically the same but in a sillier hat) and get Dr. Graham to come with her, while Hackett disguises himself as Graham to fool Lois and get into the lab where the ray machine is being kept.

The plan goes off perfectly. A well-timed fender bender delays Lois while the Spider Lady meets Graham, then Lois continues to the station (where we learn from the license plates in the parking lot that Metropolis is in California), where she waits in front of a rear-projection screen to meet Hackett-disguised-as-Graham.

The shadows on the rear-projection screen are really obvious in this sequence. Then Jimmy Olsen hides behind a car to shoot a photo of Dr. Graham, apparently because he's camera-shy or something.

When they arrive at the lab, Hackett gets in using Graham's credentials. He tries saying goodbye to Lois, but she invites herself in, claiming she hasn't finished getting her story yet. So Hackett allows her to accompany him to the lab, where he pulls out a camera to take photos of the Reducer Ray machine.

Lois gets suspicious at all the photos and notes Hackett is taking, so she excuses herself and leaves. She pauses on the stairwell and hears the other thug ask Hackett if Lois "suspects anything?" Lois then grabs a phone on the wall and starts to dial the police, apparently not realizing that if you can hear them, they can hear you.

Meanwhile, Perry hands Clark the photo that Jimmy took of Hackett-Graham. Clark uses his X-Ray Vision to see through Hackett's disguise (?) and rushes off to save Lois as cartoon Superman. After having tied Lois to a chair, Hackett sets the Reducer Ray to overload, then leaves Lois to die. Bwa-ha-ha! Hackett bids goodbye to "Mrs. Lane" then leaves as the needle approaches the Extreme Danger Point!

In Chapter 10, "Between Two Fires," Superman arrives and flies behind a glass car window that renders him invisible.

Superman shuts off the machine (with a brief cut where Kirk Alyn was apparently burned by the arcing electricity of the prop). Then he switches to Clark and drives an unconscious Lois back to the Daily Planet.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen is following up the story when he runs into Hackett (now out of disguise) at a filling station. He poses as an attendant and fills their tank (and also flattens their tire for no apparent reason), then follows them to the laboratory where Graham is being held. However, Hackett and friend knew they were being followed and take Jimmy prisoner.

Graham tells Jimmy that, under the guise of building a new Reducer Ray machine, he has built an ultra-short-wave transmitter. He uses it to send out a distress signal in Morse Code. Clark and Lois are assigned to the story of what is causing a disruption in the local phone lines, and Clark recognizes the coded message. He and Lois use the phone company's spare equipment (which looks like it might be an electrocardiogram machine, from the name Medi-Sine) to trace the signal.

Meanwhile, the bad guys figure out what Graham's up to and leave the lab, but leave the radio equipment turned on. One of the thugs, played by Rusty Wescoatt, who would later show up as one of the Wizard's thugs in Batman and Robin, sets a trap for whoever might follow the radio signal to its origin. The bad guys leave with Graham and Jimmy, but Jimmy makes a daring leap out of the car. Lois arrives soon after and is trapped by flames!

As Chapter 11, "Superman's Dilemma," opens, Clark loses contact with Lois on the radio and decides she needs help. He changes to Superman and rescues Lois. Meanwhile, the Spider Lady threatens Graham that he'd better build her a Ray Machine or else! And after a little torture, Graham agrees to do just that. But he'll need a very special ingredient--a chemical called Mono-Chromite. The Spider Lady sends a couple of her thugs to get it from a chemical engineer named Frederic Larkin.

Larkin checks his index card file for Mono-Chromite, and learns that it is a special substance invented by Dr. Graham. "Restricted Substance. If Asked For Without Credentials, Notify Proper Authorities," says the card. So Larkin says it will take him two hours to make the stuff. The thugs leave, and Larkin immediately grabs the phone to notify the Proper Authorities. Who does he call? The FBI? The OSS? The Department of National Security?

No, silly. He calls Perry White, of course, who sends Clark over to get the story. Unfortunately, Lois overhears and decides to play hardball on getting the story this time. First, she delays Clark by hiding his hat. Then she has her car reported stolen. Then she takes the Planet coupe and tosses Clark the keys to her car. End result? Clark is arrested for grand theft auto while Lois and Jimmy advise Larkin on which Proper Authorities he's supposed to call.

Their answer? Put Jimmy in a crate marked Mono-Chromite so he can figure out where the Spider Lady's hideout is. And it would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for those twisty mountain roads causing the crate to fall over. Meanwhile, Clark changes to Superman and busts out of jail.

The truck pulls to a stop (clearly revealing the painted-over Columbia logo on the door of the truck)...

and a thug gets out to check the crate. He sees Jimmy's fingers pulling the door closed and reports to his buddy that there's someone in the crate. So the two thugs go back and open fire on the box, blowing holes in it. Buh-Bye, Jimmy.

At least until Chapter 12, "Blast in the Depths," where we see Superman arriving just after the truck stops. When the thug comes back to check on the crate, he sees Superman's fingers pulling it shut (this despite the fact we were clearly shown Jimmy inside the crate when the thug went back to talk to the driver last week). But in this parallel universe, the thug doesn't go talk to the driver. Instead he pulls out his pistol and shoots the crate by himself, alerting the driver to come join him.

Superman pops out of the crate and captures the crooks, then heads back to jail in time for Clark Kent to be released.

Spider Lady is pissed and demands that her underlings come up with another plan. Hackett suggests locating a mine where they can get Mono-Chromite ore and refine it themselves (this despite last week's mention of Mono-Chromite as a chemical that any competent chemical engineer could fabricate in a couple of hours--now it's a special mineral requiring special ore). Spider Lady sends the Fabulously Gay Duo to visit a mining engineer named Collier (and yes, the Duo are still dressed alike).

FGD-Alpha (fitting, since his name is Anton) goes in to question Collier while FGD-Beta (fitting, since his name is Brock) stands guard outside. Collier refuses to play ball, there is a struggle and Collier is shot. The FGD beat it, planning to return later.

Perry sends Lois over to Collier's office to get the story on the shooting. She prowls around the empty office and discovers a map to the Mono-Chromite mine at Question Crossing. TheFGD arrive and discover her hiding on the window ledge. They take her prisoner and haul her with them out to the mine, but not before she scratches "?+ " on the window as a clue (and then breaks the window during a struggle-Lois is not real bright). Clark and Jimmy arrive later and discover the clue. Clark figures it out quickly by consulting a mining engineer's handbook containing a list of mine locations.

So Clark and Jimmy head to the mine, where Clark is captured by thugs and handcuffed to a bound and gagged Lois (talk about overkill). When Clark removes Lois's gag, she immediately asks, "How did you find me?" Um, by following the clue you left and accidentally managed not to destroy when you broke the window? It was only a couple of scenes ago, don't you remember?

Outside the chamber, the thugs light some explosives and leave the mine, knocking out Jimmy for good measure. Equal shares of doom for everyone!

Conclusion next week!

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