September 06, 2014

Superman Saturday: Treasure, that is what you are, honey, you're my golden star

Here we go again! We're on the home stretch of "Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer."

Clark Kent is on assignment in the Arctic, in search of the missing explorer, the aforementioned Captain Craig. He and his navigator, Captain Walters (whose first name, we now learn, is Ike) have rescued fellow searchers Ray Martin, also of the Daily Planet, and Professor Peters, from the museum, from the Kunalaka Indians. Martin died shortly after revealing the location of the Indians' treasure hoard, hidden in a sunken temple carved into the Arctic ice. Clark, Peters, and Walters explore the temple, where Clark (as Superman) confronts the Kunalakas' never-dying medicine man—none other than Alonzo Craig himself, apparently gone mad. . . .

Episode 50: Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer, Part 5 (1940/06/05)


It is one hour later. Walters has returned to the outside to look for food and light, while Clark and Peters remain in the central chamber of the ice temple and build a fire for warmth on the temple altar. They discuss how Craig might have gone insane, wondering whether it might be the key to finding the Indian treasure. Suddenly, a hidden door swings open, apparently designed to be triggered by the warmth of the fire. Behind the door is a chamber, and inside the chamber is a wooden chest. Clark breaks the chest open (making an excuse to Peters about the wood being weak). It's filled with gold and hundreds of gemstones: they've discovered the Luck of the North!

Peters gets a bad case of gold fever, and starts raving, "It's ours, Kent, it's all ours!" before collapsing. However, Clark notices a strange smell in the air and decides that his fainting spell probably isn't due to hysteria after all. Just then, he hears the maniacal cackling of the medicine man outside the chamber, and the ice door closes on them.

Even a heavy ice door is no match for Superman, though. He bashes his way out of the treasure chamber, but with a thud! sproingggg!, Alonzo Craig throws a knife at him. If this were TV, George Reeves would probably duck the knife, but on the radio, Superman is as knife-proof as he is bulletproof and thrown-gun-proof. He gives chase, knocks Craig unconscious, changes back to Clark Kent and returns to the revived Peters in the treasure chamber, where they tie Craig up. Peters is surprised to see that the ice door has been completely shattered. "Must have fallen," remarks Clark, nonchalantly.

Discovering that the treasure chest is conveniently sitting on a sled, they drape the unconscious Arctic explorer across it and drag it out of the chamber. However, they hear the Indians coming from one direction, and Captain Walters from another. They warn the Captain away . . .

Can Clark, Peters, and Walters escape to the outside?

Can they get away from the Indians?

Did anything happen in this episode, really?

Episode 50: Alonzo Craig, Arctic Explorer, Part 6 (1940/06/07)


So everybody escapes from the ice temple and makes it back to their camp safely, and the writers in their infinite wisdom have handwaved away yet another perfectly good cliffhanger. It must have been frustrating listening to this program on the radio, to keep on discovering that all the really exciting stuff already happened in the two days since the last episode. Nonetheless, we press on.

Sheltered in their igloo, as Alonzo Craig begins to stir, Clark, Peters and Walters again discuss what made him insane, speculating that it might be some kind of drug. They want to harness up the sled dogs and get away from there as quickly as possible, but hearing a chorus of ha-ya-ya-ya's outside, they realize they're under attack by the Indians again. They get ready to shoot back with their rifle . . .

. . . and suddenly it's just past midnight, because the writers have fast-forwarded through an exciting bit right in the middle of the episode. Good grief!

A small war party of Indians are still besieging their igloo, and they are still discussing what will become of Craig, concluding that the Kunalakas are the only ones who know how to bring him back to his senses, so he's probably doomed.

Superman somehow sneaks out in the darkness and flies to the ice temple, where most of the Indians are still camped out, and demands to speak to the chief. "We kill white man," they answer. Ignoring their spears (thud! sproingggg!), Superman roughs up some of them and repeats his request. The chief offers again to kill Superman, and insists that they will never reveal the cure for Craig's madness. "You tell me what you've done to Craig," retorts Superman, "or you'll die right here and now." Yes. The Big Blue Boy Scout made an actual death threat, against a visible minority, no less. The chief, who obviously hasn't yet gotten the memo that this white man just punched out his polar bear, calls his bluff . . .

Back at the camp, they're wondering what happened to Clark, just as he returns with a powder of some kind, which they give to Craig with some water. As the medicine begins to restore Alonzo Craig back to his senses, the Indians surround the igloo and demand the return of their treasure—the bargain Clark made with the chief in exchange for the antidote to Craig's condition.

As they prepare to leave Ellesmere Land on the icebreaker, Clark tries to give Craig's signet ring back to him, but Craig insists that he keep it, as a token of his thanks and "a symbol of the saving of a man's soul."

And that's that for Alonzo Craig. Overall, while the story kept my interest, it was weak, in particular because of some very bad writing in the first and last episodes, though the middle two were pretty solid. Also, it was derivative: it's basically the same plotline as "The Emerald of the Incas" in a different setting. Unfortunately, it's not the last time we'll see this particular plotline, either. It makes me wonder whether there were popular legends of hidden Indian treasures making the rounds in the late 1930s or 1940s for the scriptwriters to adapt for their own use (similar to the way the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun popularized the notion of the "mummy's curse"). Perhaps by the time this plotline gets recycled again, I'll have found out.

Next week: Nepotism!