March 23, 2013

Superman Saturday: Gonna make a jailbreak, oh how I wish that I could fly

Here we go again!

Clark Kent has accompanied naturalist and photographer Asa Hatch to a Western state to cover the unveiling of the Buffalo Hills national monument, a huge sculpture carved into the side of a mountain and commemmorating the American pioneers. However, the state's reformer governor, Alan Carson, has an enemy in Pete Flores, a gangster. A sniper in Flores' gang makes an attempt on Hatch's life in Metropolis, but fails, then dies when he shoots himself accidentally during a scuffle with Superman. Flores makes another attempt to kill Hatch and Clark Kent by having his goon Dutchy Ganz plant a bomb on their train car. Again, Superman foils the plot, finding the bomb just in time and throwing it safely away just before it explodes.

We pick up our story in Boulder City, the state capital, where Hatch and Clark have arrived . . .

Episode 42: Buffalo Hills, Part 3 (1940/05/17)


. . . and we walk right into another spoiler. To this point, we don't know exactly who Pete Flores is (apart from being a "Western badman" with a gang), nor why he is against Governor Carson. So the narrator just tells us right out: he has sworn revenge on Carson because of his political reforms, which I think we can assume are less than friendly towards organized crime. Obvious, really, but the scriptwriters couldn't have informed us of this through plot development instead of gratuitous exposition?

As the episode begins, it is half past nine in the evening. In the executive mansion, Governor Carson is consulting with his secretary, Keegan. Keegan has the same sort of effete accent as the Yellow Mask did in previous episodes. I'm pretty sure it's the same actor, whoever he is.

As Carson is about to retire for the night, Keegan mentions to him that the Pardons Board has recommended clemency for a Rico Freyn, who happens to be Flores' right-hand man. Instead, the governor swears that he will have tne entire gang behind bars, Flores included, notwithstanding the threats the gangster has made against him. Keegan is afraid that Flores may make good on those threats, but just to show how afraid he is, Carson rejects Freyn's recommendation on the spot, and goes to bed.

It turns out that Keegan is in league with Flores. He calls him to let him know that clemency for Freyn has been denied. Pete Flores responds that at midnight that very night, he would "fix Governor Carson for good." He knows that "old man Hatch" and Clark are going to try to see the governor, so he tells Keegan to make sure they aren't able to get in and talk to him. Flores will follow them himself and take care of them outside.

When Hatch and Clark arrive at the mansion, they find the main gate locked up, and no guards or watchdogs anywhere. Clark tells Hatch to walk on ahead and see if he can find another entrance to the grounds. Of course, it's really an excuse to get Hatch out of the way so he can change to Superman and wreak a little property damage on the gates. This raises an interesting question in my mind: Does Clark Kent doff his civilian disguise every time he performs feats of super-strength, even when there's no one around to see him? The fact that he is unexpectedly accosted by a Hispanic thug with a blackjack at this moment, thus requiring the blue-and-red PJs anyway, is simply a happy coincidence.

Superman pays back the thug for trying to cosh him: he uses him as a human battering ram to break the gate's lock, then stashes his unconscious form in the bushes. As Hatch returns, he quickly dons his civvies again and tells him the front gate was open all along.

When Hatch and Clark knock on the mansion's door, Keegan answers. Much to Hatch's surprise, he appears not to recognize him. Worse, once he realizes that Clark is a reporter, he abruptly announces (over their protestations) that the governor does not see reporters, orders them off the property, and shuts the door in their faces. However, this rudeness doesn't deter our heroes: Hatch realizes that Governor Carson is in danger that night, and Keegan is in on it.

Unfortunately, as they search the grounds for clues as to what, exactly, is supposed to go down, they are stopped by a police officer. He doesn't believe that they have just called at the mansion—and when the cop brings them back to the door, Keegan even denies ever seeing them before. He recommends that the cop run them in. But Clark, realizing he can do more from outside bars then behind them, runs for it, amidst a hail of bullets . . .

Can Superman save the governor in time?

What will happen to Hatch?

Is Keegan really a slumming Yellow Mask?

Well, no. But read on anyway!

Episode 43: Buffalo Hills, Part 4 (1940/05/20)


As midnight approaches, our dauntless scriptwriter again avoids the need for plot development, and simply announces that Clark has turned himself in to the police, hoping that he can break Asa Hatch out from the inside. However, he finds out that Hatch has been placed in solitary confinement. Clark himself is locked in a cell with one of Pete Flores' goons.

All the above takes place in the narration, since apparently it would be too hard to actually act. On the radio. This is the second time that a story held some promise only to fall victim to sloppy writing in the third act. I hope this isn't going to be a habit.

In any case, Clark decides to play coy and see what information he can get out of the goon, whose name is Monty. Monty has mistaken Clark for another of Flores' gang members who was sent to break him out of jail. Assuring Monty that he just wants to be kept up-to-date on "what's what," Clark talks him into revealing the whole plot against Carson.

The goon will set his cot mattress on fire, and in the ensuing confusion, when the guards come to rescue them from the fire, Clark is supposed to bonk him on the head and steal his keys. In the smoke and general confusion, they will escape the jail, then leave the scene in a getaway car that another goon has planted for them. They will drive to the executive mansion. Dutchy Ganz, the bomb-planting goon whom Superman took for a swim in Part 2, will break into the mansion and abduct the governor, then they will drive off in the getaway car. If the plan doesn't go quite as expected, the goon hints at a contingency plan, but he isn't forthcoming with the details. Apparently he doesn't trust Clark entirely.

Pete Flores certainly has chutzpah. He actually expects this scheme to succeed, despite the fact that two of its key players are currently in jail, and the whole thing stands or falls on a successful jailbreak. Doesn't this big-shot gang leader have gang members that aren't, you know, behind bars already?

Nonetheless, I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the escape goes pretty much exactly as planned, except that Clark doesn't specifically aid Monty's escape. Instead, he takes advantage of the confusion to change to Superman, smash out of jail, and fly back to the mansion, knowing he has to beat the getaway car.

As Clark Kent, he climbs in the governor's bedroom window just as Carson is going to bed. Clark explains the plot to the governor, who wants to rely on his guards to protect him, even though Clark warns him that they can't be counted on. He suggests that he take the governor's place in the bed. When Carson refuses, Clark locks him in his closet, and conks him on the head because he wont' stop yelling. "After all, it's for his own good," he rationalizes.

Superman takes Carson's place in his bed, and shortly Dutchy and Monty break in. Although Superman pretends to put up a fight, he allows himself to be kidnapped. They stuff him into a bag and drive off. Meanwhile, Flores has also broken into the mansion, and is now searching it for papers.

Dutchy and Monty pull up on a bridge, pull Superman out of the car, and heave him over the side into the lake, bag and all. Superman quickly escapes the bag and flies away, but rather than chase after the goons, he speeds back to the mansion, knowing Carson is still hidden in his closet. He discovers that the closet is empty, and runs through the house calling out the governor's name . . .

What has happened to the governor?

Has Pete Flores succeeded in abducting him, after all?

Is there still a chance for Clark Kent to reform, or is his daring jail escape merely the first step down the path to a life of crime?

We'll find out—next week, on Superman Saturday!