Monday, October 04, 2010

Movie Monday - Superman, 1948, Chapters 13-15

Continuing our recap of the first Superman serial from 1948:

Well, here we are, the exciting conclusion of Superman's first live-action serial. If you'll remember, at the end of Chapter 12, Clark and Lois were handcuffed together and caught in a mine explosion.

As Chapter 13, "Hurled to Destruction," opens, the explosion in the next room causes rocks to fall on Lois and Clark. Lois is knocked out. Clark pulls off the handcuffs, changes to Superman, bursts through the wall and carries Lois out, then changes back to Clark and handcuffs himself to Lois again. Seems like he could have avoided all the clothes changing, considering she was unconscious, but that's Superman. He always plays it safe, just in case.

When Lois comes to, she immediately notices that Clark is handcuffed to the wrong arm, and Clark smiles. Because he probably did it on purpose. Because even in 1948, Superman was a dick.

The Fabulously Gay Duo take the Mono-Chromite ore back to the Spider Lady's hideout. Spider Lady is not looking so good. The stress is taking its toll.

You can almost hear Hackett whispering to Driller, "Don't you think she looks tired?"

Spider Lady orders Graham to build her a Reducer Ray with the Mono-Chromite. Graham refuses, saying he invented the Reducer Ray to benefit mankind. Seriously, how? I mean, I totally get how the Spider Lady intends to use it as a weapon, but how does someone like Graham invent the Ultimate Disintegrator and then claim, "Oh noes, I only invented it for peaceful purposes!" Luckily Hackett knows a "scientific way" to make him cooperate. And like Hackett's jailbreak, no time or thought is wasted on exactly how it works. Graham just suddenly decides to cooperate in the next scene.

But there's a problem: he needs a special Relativity Tube that will take months to fabricate. No problem, says the Spider Lady. They'll just steal one from the Ray machine located at the University. She has a brilliant plan that involves sending three of her men posing as journalists to take pictures of the university grounds for a story on the Relativity Ray.

Meanwhile, Perry White has just gotten a brainstorm. He wants Clark and Jimmy to go to the University to take pictures of the grounds for a story on the Relativity Ray. Could Perry White and the Spider Lady be twins with a psychic connection? Clark sends Jimmy on ahead while he "researches something in the files." If that's what you want to call it, Clark, feel free.

The Spider Lady's men overpower some University guards and take their uniforms. FGD-Alpha, though, stays in the same suit because it's so Fabulous. He goes to steal the tube. And it's sort of hilarious, because the machine itself is a bouquet of tubes.

So Alpha fetches the tube and brings it back to the thugs outside, where Jimmy Olsen tries to stop them. Alpha hands the tube to the others and tells them to wait in the car. Then Alpha pulls a gun on Jimmy. But Jimmy Jackie-Chans the gun out of his hand using the car door, and there's a big fight. The other thugs decide to abandon Alpha to his fate and drive away.

Alpha manages to get the gun again and forces Jimmy to drive him out of there. They pass Clark's car going the other way. Clark changes to Superman and captures Alpha. Jimmy asks Superman to take Alpha to the Daily Planet, where he can be questioned for an exclusive story before being handed over to the police. Superman immediately agrees, with this weird, unchanging, moronic grin on his face that makes you wonder if Kirk Alyn was dosed up on cough syrup that day or something.

Superman leaves Alpha alone and unguarded with Perry White. So of course, as soon as Superman's gone, Alpha decides that, instead of answering questions,he'd rather throw Perry out the window. Did Superman not see that coming? Is he an idiot or just a dick (I mean, I know he's a dick in general, but in this specific instance?)

In Chapter 14, "Superman at Bay!," Alpha tries to escape, but Clark comes back from the storage room where he changes clothes in time to tackle Alpha and beat him up. Then he rushes into the office and saves Perry, who's hanging from the window ledge. Clark Kent, Man of Action! Alpha is sent to prison.

Spider Lady is conflicted. On the one hand, she has the tube which will allow her to complete the Reducer Ray. On the other hand, she's got an underling in jail who knows the location of her secret cave (the others Superman captured were all low-level thugs hired just for the single job, not inner-circle members like Alpha). So she comes up with a brilliant plan.

Rather than simply break Alpha out of jail, she has Hackett get himself captured so he can reassure Alpha that help is coming soon. She somehow talks Hackett into going along. Though it wasn't obvious in the scene, I get the feeling that boobs were somehow involved. Men will do all kinds of moronic things due to boobs.

Hackett gets arrested just outside the Daily Planet building and is put in a cell with Alpha (at Lois's urging--they're being recorded to see if they'll give anything away). He gives Alpha a cryptic message to meet at the Dog's Eye if they get separated. Later, he throws a cigarette butt out the window.

Lois and Jimmy, watching outside, see a shifty-looking man pick up the cigarette butt and start to leave. Jimmy grabs him, and they discover the butt contains a coded message. Rather than turn it over to the police, Jimmy decides to complete the courier's mission to see if it can lead him to the Spider Lady's hideout. Jimmy's always making up these plans that seem to leave out a vital part, like how will he communicate where the hideout is once he's found it? It's like he went to the same school as the Underpants Gnomes or something.

He goes to address the shifty Italian guy gave him, which is an appliance store run by--hey, look who it is! It's the Wizard himself!

This being a year before Batman and Robin, it's obvious he's doing his master-villain internship with the Spider Lady. (And when he glances out the window, do we see where his secret identity of Carter, the valet, got his alias from?)

When the Wizard goes out to the street to give Driller the message, Jimmy hides in a closet. Driller comes into the shop and radios the location of Hackett's cell to the Spider Lady. She decides to have both Hackett and Alpha killed. As Driller and the Wizard are leaving, they hear a sneeze in the closet. Jimmy is caught! They tie him up and leave the gas on, with the door rigged to cause a spark as soon as it's opened.

Lois is worried about Jimmy, so she calls Clark from the jail to check on him while she tries to pry some information out of Hackett and Alpha. Superman flies to the address Lois gave him and lands behind another car with invisibility-inducing glass.

But if you thought that the trap on the door was going to be the big cliffhanger moment, are you in for a surprise. Superman somehow spots the trap on the door and comes in through a window without setting off the explosion. Jimmy tells him that the Spider Lady is going to turn the Reducer Ray on the jail, and Superman takes off to try to stop it. Too Late! Zap-Boom!

Which leads us at long last to the final chapter, Chapter 15, "The Payoff."

Superman swoops into the jail through a hole blown in the wall and grabs Lois. Hackett and Anton beg to be let out of their cell, but Superman ignores their pleas and flies away with Lois in his arms. Dick. The cell is destroyed moments later.

Superman drops Lois off at the Daily Planet building. She seems inappropriately cheerful for someone who was just almost blown up, but whatever.

The Spider Lady next sends an ultimatum to the police and the Daily Planet. To demonstrate her power, she is going to destroy the Planet building at 3 p.m. If she has any demands (say, the fabulous riches she keeps claiming her schemes will yield), Perry turns the radio off before hearing them. The only possible clue to catching the Spider Lady is the recording of Hackett and Anton in the jail cell, but Perry says the recording was destroyed in the blast.

Lois starts writing an article titled WHAT DO WE THINK OF WHILE WAITING FOR OUR DESTRUCTION? I think my first thought would be something along the lines of, "I need to get the hell out of this building," but whatever.

Clark, meanwhile, changes to Superman and retrieves the broken record pieces from the wreckage of the jail. He reassembles the record and makes a new pressing in Perry's office. Perry tells Lois to take dictation as the record plays; you see, women are good for something.

Clark picks up on the Dog's Eye clue immediately and tries to figure out what it means. Meanwhile, Jimmy notices a wire story about car ignition systems burning out in a mountainous area nearby. Lois suggests taking the Planet's plane to explore the area, thinking the Reducer Ray might be the source of the problem. While on the plane, Lois throws Jimmy such a look of affection that I wonder if, rather than the typical romantic triangle of Clark-Lois-Superman, the real triangle here isn't Superman-Lois-Jimmy?

I mean, Lois and Jimmy have been pretty inseparable since their first appearance on screen, and though Lois smiled at Superman, she never giggled with him like she did with Jimmy on the phone. Then again, maybe it's just me trying to make this story interesting.

As they circle the area in the plane, guess what? Their ignition system burns out. Duh. See, this is why you take the car to the place where engines go to die. Because cars don't plummet out of the sky when the engine stops working.

So the plane crashes, and the Spider Lady's thugs (their car is working just fine, BTW) catch Jimmy and Lois. They are taken to the Spider Lady's secret headquarters to await death after the destruction of the Daily Planet.

Meanwhile, Clark, who solved the much more obscure "?+" clue a few episodes ago, has spent a few hours now doodling the words "Dog's Eye" all over a sheet of paper. He finally looks at a map of Metropolis and instantly realizes what Dog's Eye means.

He flies to the Silver Queen mine, where FGD-Beta is pining for his lost Alpha. Superman strong-arms Beta into telling him where the Spider Lady's hideout is, but instead of a map, Beta pulls out a chunk of Kryptonite!

Helpless, Superman is brought into the Spider Lady's hideout as she gives the order to destroy the Daily Planet. But without Hackett to maintain his mental conditioning, Graham refuses to carry out the order. He fights with Driller in front of the machine.

Meanwhile, as the doddering old scientist struggles with the younger, vicious thug, Superman leaps to his feet. Spider Lady is shocked that the Kryptonite is not stopping him. Superman says that he expected Kryptonite, so he has lined his uniform with lead. "Spider Lady, you're finished," he gloats.

This conversation has given Driller enough time to beat Dr. Graham into submission. Spider Lady orders Driller to turn the ray on Superman. Superman lets him, clearly enjoying the gentle massaging action of atomic destruction...

While Graham regains his wits and beats Driller down. Then with a maniacal grin, Graham turns the beam on Spider Lady, destroying her!

So Driller jumps back in to beat up on Graham some more, at which point Jimmy tags in to punch Driller a couple of times. Superman is still just standing around, watching everybody else fight. He tells Lois to have the men hold Driller for the police while he goes to "round up everybody else." Then he flies straight to the Daily Planet building, where he changes to Clark Kent and takes a nap in Perry's office, because crimefighting (or watching other people fight crime) is tiring work. Perry, Lois and Jimmy find him there later. We share one last, "Ha ha, Clark isn't Superman" joke from Lois and then we fade out. Finally.

Closing thoughts on the serial tomorrow, and then the Superman films go on a brief Horror Hiatus!

No comments: