Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1946: The Phony Restaurant RacketReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: December 27, 1946-January 08, 1947
"The Phony Restaurant Racket"
As you recall, Brock Neilson had been swindling war veterans of money for land and homes that didn't even belong to the confidence man. Neilson had captured editor Perry White because of the crusade against racketeers in the Daily Planet. Neilson's men are now about to shoot White as Superman crashes through the warehouse where the chief had been taken. He makes short work of the criminals, and the Man of Steel and Perry deliver Neilson and his gang to Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson. Later, because his adventure with Superman has given him and his staff quite an appetite, Perry invites Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent for a late, but well-deserved, Christmas dinner cooked by his chef Poco.
Phony song publisher Professor L.C. Blessing and his burly henchman Froggy have returned to Metropolis thinking that the Daily Planet is too busy with Neilson's housing racket to come after them. They are in a seedy dive called The Honey Bee Diner with another plan that will give them a fortune in money. With the owner Max's cooperation, Blessing places an ad in the Planet selling the restaurant for two thousand dollars. A man named Dave Powers falls for the scheme and angrily calls Clark Kent. The mild mannered reporter promises to meet with Powers in order to begin investigating Blessing's racket. However, when Kent and Jimmy Olsen arrive at The Honey Bee, Powers is clearly frightened. This makes Clark want to look into things further.
Clark and Jimmy are in a drug store across the street from The Honey Bee Diner waiting for two men with guns to leave Dave Powers. Once the gangsters are gone, the two reporters eventually convince Powers to talk about how he was cheated, but the two thugs suddenly return before he can begin to speak. Bullets are then fired. Kent moves at the speed of light while Powers and Jimmy hide from the gunfire. All seems well afterwards until Powers and Kent notice something. Jimmy is unconscious. Was he hit by a stray projectile? Can the speed of Superman save the cub reporter?
Jimmy Olsen is in the hospital for a skull fracture caused from hitting his head on a marble counter while avoiding bullets. Superman got the cub reporter to a doctor in time. He is now in his guise of Clark Kent speaking with Dave Powers and Inspector Henderson. Powers tells them of his meeting the three owners of the Honey Bee Diner. The restaurant was so crowded that Powers had trouble finding a seat. He later speaks with the one we know as Professor Blessing and gives him two thousand dollars for The Honey Bee. In the next days, Powers and his wife saw no customers arrive. A homeless man looking for a handout then reveals to Powers that Blessing, Froggy and Max got all the bums in the neighborhood to pretend to be customers. Angry, Powers learned from the hobo where Max lived. Max then told Powers not to worry. He'll talk with his partners. The next thing Powers knew, two thugs had entered The Honey Bee Diner shortly after Clark had been called.
Clark and Inspector Henderson have gone to the rooming house where Max lives. Unfortunately, the fat man has left town. In the meantime, Professor Blessing is angry with Froggy for sending the gunmen to threaten Dave Powers. Only Max risked anything should the police investigate. There was nothing connecting Blessing to the scam until Froggy sent those thugs after Powers. Now, the only way to save his operations is for Professor Blessing to commit a murder. All he must do is choose his victim carefully.
Having found no clues to Max's whereabouts, Inspector Henderson, Dave Powers and Clark Kent have gone to police headquarters. Powers remembers that Max called his partner in The Honey Bee Diner "Professor." Powers' description of the two men who were with Max matches Professor Blessing and Froggy. Henderson orders a city-wide search of the two swindlers and police protection for Powers and his family. Meanwhile, the two racketeers in question are in the Red Gate Hotel plotting the assassination of Powers. Blessing calls the Powers home to ask about the apartment number. Blessing and Froggy then leave their room to go into the shadowy night to rid themselves of Dave Powers for good. Later, Henderson and Clark, learning of Blessing and Froggy's staying at the Red Gate Hotel, go to await their return. Unfortunately, they do not know that the two confidence men are lurking in the darkness searching for the perfect moment to hunt down their prey.
As Blessing and Froggy make their way in the murky, foggy night to a tenement across from Dave Powers' apartment building, Clark is worried about Powers' safety. Henderson tries to convince him that everything will be okay while they search Blessing's hotel room. However, Clark is still uneasy, and he does well to be like this. Blessing is planning to scream like he's being attacked to get the policemen guarding the Powers home away from Froggy's objective. Once the officers are helping Blessing, Froggy will go to Apartment 3-C to shoot Powers. Blessing's plan is set into motion as Powers and his wife Ann are having dinner. Ann is frightened that something will happen. Then, as if to make her prediction come true, doorbell rings after Blessing's cries. Dave Powers is about to answer it not knowing that death awaits him.
Following his instincts, Clark Kent changes into Superman and streaks through the sky at superhuman speed to get to the Powers home. He arrives in time to stop Froggy from shooting Dave. The Man of Steel and Powers take the unconscious Froggy to Inspector Henderson while some policemen guard Ann Powers, who had fainted after Froggy arrived. Henderson learns from Froggy that Professor Blessing is to meet the burly henchman at a restaurant called Monty's. Clark, Powers and Henderson go there to bring the confidence man to justice. Desperate, Blessing shoots Henderson. Clark moves fast to save Dave and Henderson. With lightning speed, our hero grabs the bullets before Blessing is arrested. The infamous racketeer may have gotten what he deserves, but all is far from over. Inspector Henderson saw Kent catch the projectiles that Blessing's revolver had fired. He then asks the nervous reporter to open his hands. Henderson has often suspected that Clark Kent is Superman, and the objects that Kent is clutching may prove this to him. How will the Man of Tomorrow protect his secret identity from Henderson, Powers and everyone in Monty's?
Clark has crushed the bullets that he had caught into nothingness. Seeing that the mild mannered reporter's hands are empty, Inspector Henderson dismisses his claims that Kent is Superman. Now, with Professor Blessing and Froggy in prison, Clark returns to the Daily Planet to give the story of the arrest to Perry White. He finds the newspaper is shorthanded. Jimmy is still in the hospital recovering from his head injury, Tony Sloan has the flu, and Lois Lane is still visiting her sister Diana in California for the holidays. The chief is extremely worried. As if to answer her editor, Lois enters the office. Copyboy Beany Martin gives her the mail she had received while she was gone. Among the envelopes is a letter from the law firm of Harris, Grady and Harris. Her uncle John Morris Lane in Africa has passed away, and his estate, which includes shares in the Crescent Diamond Mine, will go to her. Its total worth is one and a half million dollars. Is Lois really a rich woman, or is "The Phony Inheritance Racket" trying to swindle her? Tune in next week for another serial in The Adventures of Superman to find out, gang.
With the Professor Blessing and Froggy plot thread now resolved, we are given a very good tale similar to last week's serial. I only wish more time had been spent on Inspector Henderson's suspicions that Clark Kent is Superman. In fact, Henderson's assumptions should have been made into a story arc for The Adventures of Superman. Beyond that, "The Phony Restaurant Racket" is yet another adventure that gets to the point of Superman bringing criminals to justice.
Speaking of criminals, let's talk about Professor Blessing and Froggy. I don't think I talked much about them when they last appeared. The reason for my not doing so was the fact that "The Phony Housing Racket" focused on Brock Neilson. I had wished for a connection between Blessing and Neilson, but, unfortunately, there wasn't one. Anyway, I wanted to wait until I listened further into this series of "Racket" stories to give an opinion on Blessing and Froggy. That having been said, read on, folks.
How many of you folks out there play video games? How many of you remember Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle? (There's a point here, folks. I haven't lost my mind... Or have I???) Well, for those that haven't played those games, there's a character in them called Doctor Fred. Jackson Beck's description of Blessing is similar to how Fred looks. Froggy kind of made me think of Jack Palance in Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight. My mind's eye's creating the villains in that way made them work better in "The Phony Restaurant Racket." If your imagination makes the people in these radio serials more believable, you are more likely to enjoy them, and I had a lot of fun with this one thanks to its villains.
I mentioned earlier that I wished more had been done about Inspector Henderson thinking Clark Kent is Superman. His saying that he had suspected this on many occasions and the cliffhanger in chapter seven lead us to believe that more than one episode would be dedicated to this. As it was, we only get the first half of episode eight showing Clark's attempts to prove that he is not the Man of Steel. It would have worked better for this serial if Henderson was not thoroughly convinced that Kent and Superman were two different people. Hopefully, something else will give Henderson some doubts in some future story arc. We just have to wait and see.
Lois Lane returns to the Daily Planet after a long absence, and it looks like she'll have another big scoop for the great metropolitan newspaper when she and Superman encounter "The Phony Inheritance Racket." It's sure to be an exciting serial, Superfans. Be here in seven days or so to see what happens. In the meantime, go out to your local comic shop and pick up Action Comics and Justice Society of America. You'll be glad you did. Once you've finished reading those books, come back here next week. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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