Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1947: Pennies for Plunder

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: November 27, 1947-December 26, 1947

"Pennies for Plunder"

As you recall, Perry White had won the election for the mayor of Metropolis, and Clark Kent had received a telephone call from candy store owner Pop Kline. The conversation was cut off by Pop's cry of pain. Because Jimmy Olsen knew the location of the shop, Kent takes the cub reporter with him to investigate. The elderly Pop Kline was beaten nearly to death by Muscles McGraw, a leg breaker working for Slippery Joe Solitaire. Pop had refused to put Solitaire's dishonest nickel punch boards in his establishment because he didn't want children coming in to gamble. This has led to a crusade against Solitaire's rackets in the Daily Planet. As a result, Solitaire wants to meet with Mayor White on his casino boat called The Lady Luck to make a deal. Perry takes Lois Lane with him because Clark is helping the police get rid of punch boards. However, Perry refuses to let Solitaire get away with anything. He vows to see Slippery Joe put behind bars. Now, Solitaire needs Muscles to eliminate White and Lois by any means necessary.

Solitaire's man Eddie is taking Perry and Lois back to Metropolis in a launch. Meanwhile, Muscles has been ordered to use a speedboat with a sharp metal bow to cut the ship carrying the new mayor and star reporter in half. Solitaire's plan succeeds. Later, at the Daily Planet, Clark receives a call from Lois. She swam her way back to Metropolis and telephoned from a restaurant on Water Street. Perry had told her to jump when Muscles had rammed their vessel, but the mayor himself had not been seen when Lois had awakened in the water. Now, as Superman, our hero must perform a miracle and find Perry White.

Superman is flying in search of Mayor White as Joe Solitaire plays the card game from which his name was taken. Suddenly, just one mile away from the racketeer's casino boat, the Man of Steel loses his powers and plummets into Metropolis Harbor. Solitaire is now pleased with the hand he has been dealt. "Well, I won again," he says.

Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson and Lois Lane are combing the harbor for any sign of Mayor White. The body of the driver of the launch that was rammed has been found. Not only that, Henderson has been given Superman's cape. The Man of Steel was forced to remove it when he had landed in the water. Batman and Robin have just heard the news about the familiar red fabric. They then take the Batboat to look for their friend. They discover him unconscious and possibly worse. The Dark Knight has not found a pulse within the body of the Man of Steel. Is Superman dead?

Batman has given Superman artificial respiration. However, our hero is still weak. The Dark Knight wants to take the Man of Steel to a hospital, but Superman is more concerned with finding Perry White. He need not look further than The Lady Luck. Rich playboy Billy Mayville has brought the mayor to Joe Solitaire's ship that is just outside of the Metropolis police force's jurisdiction. Now, the racketeer Solitaire intends to finish the job of eliminating Mayor White.

Solitaire is planning to kill Perry, but first, he must use Ding Dong Taylor, someone who resembles White, to tell Mayville that he was the one the playboy had saved. In the meantime, Superman and Batman are in Clark Kent's apartment. They learn from Robin that an experimental atomic ray used by the United States military had robbed the Man of Tomorrow of his abilities. Superman feels okay when he receives a call from Perry telling Clark to get to The Lady Luck before Joe Solitaire kills him. The Last Son of Krypton then grabs Batman to assist him in saving Mayor White. Unfortunately, Superman is still unable to fly. There seems to be no way to prevent Perry's demise.

Superman reluctantly stays behind as Batman and Robin take the Batboat to The Lady Luck. At the same time, Ding Dong Taylor is telling Billy Mayville that he was the man whom the drunk playboy had saved. Joe Solitaire and his henchman Muscles McGraw can now kill Perry White without any problems. The Dynamic Duo must make haste if they are to save the new mayor of Metropolis.

Batman and Robin have found Perry just before Muscles is about to "feed the mayor to the fishes." However, escape seems futile as the three enter a cabin without a means of getting out. Solitaire has trapped them thanks to some tear gas that has entered the room. The Dynamic Duo and Perry White are doomed as Superman is still too weak to rescue his friends. Only a miracle can save them now.

Superman has recovered from the exposure to the atomic ray and has just rocketed to The Lady Luck in time to save Perry, Batman and Robin. However, Joe Solitaire is claiming that he rescued Mayor White. Despite this, Solitaire is taken to the district attorney. Unfortunately, hard evidence in the form of the punch boards and testimony from the unconscious Pop Kline will be needed to keep Solitaire in prison. Can Superman bring down the racketeer, or will Solitaire gain the upper hand?

Try as they might, Perry White and the district attorney have been unable to put Joe Solitaire behind bars. He was able to switch crooked punch boards with honest ones. He intends to keep the good games going for a bit and eventually replace them with the types that are illegal in order to get more money from children to encourage them to gamble. Joe Solitaire's plans have been set in motion, and even Superman may not be able to stop him.

As Mayor White and Clark Kent discuss how to make the punch boards, even honest ones, illegal in Metropolis, a boy named Ronny Thomas has spent a dollar on chances to win a bicycle instead of buying a pipe for his father. He hasn't won the bike. Desperate, the lad borrows funds from a fellow named Butch Morgan. The catch is that Ronny must pay Butch a buck and half. The boy, unfortunately, cannot pay, and he is forced to steal a store's telephone box full of money for Butch. Now more than ever, Superman must stop Joe Solitaire's racket.

Jimmy Olsen has just called Clark. Ronny is a member of the scout troop led by the cub reporter, and he's now in the juvenile detention center. Ronny was caught in the phone booth while Butch got away. The lad explains that he was scared to tell his father that he had spent money on Solitaire's punch boards. Judge Summers wants Ronny to appear in court. Despite Clark and Jimmy's defending the boy, Summers cannot reveal Ronny's fate. Meanwhile, Perry is having trouble getting the state capitol to make a law against punch boards. Later, another call comes from Jimmy. Ronny Thomas has run away.

Ronny's dog King has helped Clark and Jimmy search for Ronny. He leads them to a railroad freight yard, where six trains have left in the past hour. Superman flies at great velocities to find the locomotive in which Ronny has stowed away. Meanwhile, two men hear knocking coming from a refrigerator car. Ronny is inside. The Man of Steel must make use of his tremendous speed if he is to save the boy in time.

Superman has saved Ronny in the nick of time, and the boy has decided to accept whatever sentence Judge Summers gives him. Ronny only gets probation. However, other youngsters may not be so lucky. To keep other children from gambling, Mayor White is still pushing the state capitol to pass a law against all punch boards. In addition to this, the Daily Planet has declared war on Joe Solitaire. Now, the racketeer must device a plan to eliminate his enemies. Will he succeed?

Lois Lane has written an article asking mothers in Metropolis to write the state politicians to pass Perry's anti-punch board bill. A woman named Sally Miller, who lives at 217 Park Place in Apartment 14-A. She wants to help Lois, but her husband says that Joe Solitaire is making it too dangerous to stop the children from spending their money. Despite this, Lois goes to her home at 8:30 PM only to find that it's actually a gambling den. Pictures have also been taken. Lois has been framed by Joe Solitaire himself, and even the mighty Superman may not be able to help her.

Lois has just run to Clark Kent's apartment after someone impersonating a policeman made her get out of his car without taking her to headquarters. Inspector Henderson's men then find Sally Miller's gambling den has been cleaned out. Changing into Superman, our hero learns that The Daily Blade will publish the pictures that frame Lois in its morning edition. He is now crouched on the window sill of the scandal sheet's offices as a photographer named Nippy Nelson develops the photo. The Man of Steel smiles grimly as the images of Lois begin to fade. The prints were exposed to Superman's X-ray vision. With no evidence against Lois, Joe Solitaire must take more drastic measures to continue his rackets.

Solitaire and Muscles are in the office their Metropolis lawyer Gabby Crawford. Crawford advises the racketeer to take The Lady Luck out of the country. The state majority leader Tom McVain is sure to pass Perry's anti-punch board bill. Some days later, Solitaire unsuccessfully attempts to bribe McVain. Despite this, McVain tells a surprised Mayor White that the law will be tabled. Joe Solitaire seems to have won this hand in his card game against Superman and his friends.

Clark Kent and Perry White are in the home of Tom McVain. They learn that Joe Solitaire has threatened the majority leader's wife and daughter if the Metropolis mayor's law isn't killed. However, Superman himself then promises to protect McVain's family. What our hero does not realize is that Solitaire has placed a listening device in McVain's home and has a plan that will keep the Man of Steel from the politician's loved ones. Can the racketeer succeed, or will Superman win the day?

Superman, both in his red and blue costume and in his guise of Clark Kent, is watching over McVain's home and family. Meanwhile, Joe Solitaire and his men are following Tom McVain and Perry White. Muscles has dealt with the mayor of Metropolis while Solitaire tells Clark that something has happened to Perry at his hotel, where the racketeer has been captured according to the disguised voice of Solitaire himself. Solitaire is confident that he has fooled Superman, but he is wrong. The racketeer's plans have been foiled. Tom McVain, his family and Mayor Perry White are safe thanks to the Man of Steel. Joe Solitaire id behind bars, and the anti-punch board bill has been passed. Superman has once again saved the day. Little does he realize that the mystery of "Hunger, Inc." awaits him when he returns to Metropolis. Tune in next week, gang, for The Adventures of Superman to see what happens.

Trivia:

"Pennies for Plunder" actually concludes in the first episode of "Hunger, Inc." However, the first two chapters of the latter serial are among the shows in The Adventures of Superman radio series that are currently unavailable. As a result, I was forced to come up with what seemed to be a plausible ending to this week's story arc.

Review:

While better than last week's serial, "Pennies for Plunder" still does nothing that hasn't been done to death before. I also have doubts about the Daily Planet's objectivity at this point in the series now that Perry White is mayor of Metropolis. It would be nice if someone like Clark Kent or Lois Lane would disagree with Mayor White on a thing or two, but I honestly do not see that happening. Plus, who in the heck has replaced Perry as editor? That point has not been mentioned yet. Hopefully, this will be brought up in future stories.

One person who has mailed me from time to time since I began these reviews has mentioned that the series sometimes crosses the line and gets to be overly preachy, particularly since Perry was elected mayor. I saw his point of view while I was listening to "Pennies for Plunder." I understand the need to talk about juvenile delinquency and underage gambling, but the same story can be told without the writers beating us in the face endlessly with the morals of story. Aesop was more subtle in his fables. Why couldn't the crew of The Adventures of Superman have used that same type of method for telling their tales?

One thing that is really hard to swallow in "Pennies for Plunder" is the fact that Superman is weakened by an atomic beam. It would be more believable if he had been attacked by a laser powered by the piece of Kryptonite that the Man of Steel hurled into the ocean at the end of "Superman Versus Kryptonite." At that would have given this serial a sense of continuity that could have saved it somewhat.

Normally, I enjoy when Batman and Robin appear in a Superman serial, but the Dynamic Duo's role in "Pennies for Plunder" seems forced into the story in an effort to kill time. Much of the chapters featuring them, particularly the ones taking place on Solitaire's boat, could have been done just as easily without the Caped Crusaders. Their guest roles disappoint this time around, and I honestly expect more from tales featuring the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder.

Joe Solitaire is the type of villain we have seen before in The Adventures of Superman. This time, however, we're given a dime store version of Peter Lorre. Even Jackson Beck's description resembles the actor from Roger Corman's version of Poe's The Raven. Solitaire isn't a bad villain. He just needed to be fleshed out a bit before the final draft of "Pennies for Plunder" was finished. For example, there are moments when Solitaire seems mentally disturbed. The writers could have focused on that a bit in order to make him a more interesting character. He was just too stereotypical for my taste.

"Pennies for Plunder" is better than last week's serial in the end, but there is always room for improvement. Hopefully, "Hunger, Inc." is the story arc that tweaks things a bit. We'll find out in seven days or so. See you next week after you all go buy the new issue of Justice Society of America, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.



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