September 27, 2014

Superman Saturday: Robbery, assault and battery

Clark and Lois are assigned to interview Lois' uncle, meteorologist Horace Morton, at his observatory outside the town of New Birmingham. Morton has an uncanny ability to predict the weather with near-perfect accuracy, and Perry White wants to know how.

However, there is apparently also a connection between Dr. Morton's predictions and a crime spree in New Birmingham. Morton's assistant Elmer Rogers knows something but is afraid to let Clark and Lois know what he knows in Morton's presence. Then, during a freak hailstorm, Lois and Clark hear a gunshot, and discover Rogers dead . . .

Episode 54: Horace Morton's Weather Machine, Part 3 (1940/06/14)

Listen!

Clark and Lois examine the body of Elmer Rogers, and Clark finds the gun that was used to shoot him. Just then, Dr. Morton comes in. He behaves quite erratically: he suggests that the fatal wound was self-inflicted, and despite Clark's warning he picks up the gun and examines it as if tampering with a crime scene is the most normal thing in the world. When Clark tells him to call the police, he questions whether they need to be involved.

When he leaves the room, Lois remarks that her uncle is unusually calm for someone whose assistant has just been murdered. Clark thinks he's actually putting on an act and trying to look concerned. Only the four of them were in the observatory, and Lois and Clark were together, leaving Uncle Horace as the only plausible suspect. Clark notes Rogers' visible fear when Morton enters the room when they first arrived. He thinks Morton may have picked up the gun deliberately to plant a fres set of fingerprints on it, obscuring a set that was already there.

Morton comes back in the room and announces that he could not reach the police, as the phone is not working due to the storm. Lois tells Clark that he must drive back into town and get the police. Clark reluctantly agrees, telling Lois to be careful while he is gone. Of course it's faster to fly into New Birmingham as Superman, where he discovers that the bank is now a crime scene. Realizing that's where he'll find a cop, he lands in an alley, changes back to Clark, then reports the murder to the first officer he finds.

Unfortunately, the police have bigger concerns at the moment: during the hailstorm, a gang robbed the bank and locked three bank officers into the underground vault, where they will suffocate before the time lock opens the door in the morning. Returning to the alley, Clark changes back to Superman and quickly digs through the ground and the reinforced concrete and steel of the vault, which sounds like someone shaking a large box of wrenches. He then breaks open the vault door from the inside, but flies out through the hole he made in the ceiling to avoid the crowd inside the bank. "They'll talk about that forever," he quips, "but they won't connect it with Clark Kent, and that's all that matters."

Racing the police back to Music Mountain, Superman arrives back at the observatory and changes back to Clark. But h e finds the observatory door unlocked and no one there . . .

What has happened to Lois and Dr. Morton?

Who killed Elmer Rogers?

Didn't we ask that question last episode?

Episode 55: Horace Morton's Weather Machine, Part 4 (1940/06/17)

Listen!

Before we resume this story, I note that George Lowther, the announcer, has been mispronouncing "Superman" as though it was two words—"Super Man"—for about two months. As of this episode, he is pronouncing it correctly again. Huzzah! They must have redone the recording that they've been using for the show's introduction.

At the observatory, the police have arrived to investigate Rogers' death. Clark's explanation of what he knew serves as a brief recap to the previous episode. They also discover that Rodgers was clutching a handful of black dirt or gravel in his hand, a clue that Clark and Lois had missed when they discovered him.

Once again, Dr. Morton appears, having just come from the cellar. He still seems to be a little out of sorts, as he has forgotten that Clark went for the police. Asked where Lois is, he suggests that she went to bed. "Sensible girl, too much excitement," he suggests. "People getting killed, calling police . . ." Clarke demands to know what Morton was doing in the cellar. He has a chemistry lab there, and he is assisting the local radium refinery in finding a new method of breaking down pitchblende ore. They realize that the gravel in Rogers' hand was pitchblende. The police have now established means (the gun), motive (stolen ore), and opportunity, and arrest Morton, amidst his protests.

Outside, still with the police, Clark spots tire tracks from Lois' car, but catches himself before giving away that he didn't need the car to get to New Birmingham. Examining the tracks further, he discovers a second set of tracks, and concludes that Lois was being chased. As Superman, he flies off in pursuit, catching up to Lois' car just as it is forced off a narrow bridge into the lake. He dives into the water to rescue her.

Lois regains consciousness in a local's truck. She and Clark are being driven to the hospital in town. Clark explains that he arrived just in time to pull her out of her car. She tells him that the men chasing her had come back to the observatory looking for Dr. Morton, who is able not merely to predict the weather, but to control it. He is being used by criminals to commit robberies. Rogers knew this, and they killed him to prevent him from revealing it. They were chasing Lois because she overheard them. Her uncle had no idea; he is innocent of Rogers' murder.

Clark tells the local to take them to the jail instead, but when they arrive they learn that Morton is already gone. A gang blew his cell open and took him away . . .

Where has the gang taken Horace Morton?

Why do they want him?

I enjoyed these two episodes so much, I honestly couldn't think of a snarky question to ask at the end of Part 4. So far, this series has been refreshingly free of bad writing, plot holes, and other assorted silliness. And I still do appreciate that Superman is trying to keep his existence, not only his identity, secret: it makes for a very different Superman than the one that emerged in the 1950s.

We wrap this serial up next week. Although I listened to the story awhile back, I haven't done it recently, and I still have no idea how it ends!