Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1950: Voices of the Dead

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: January 14, 1950

"Voices of the Dead"

Daily Planet reporters Lois Lane and Clark Kent are in the dining car of the express locomotive The Golden Comet looking for the famous inventor Doctor Walter Roebling of the Electronic Institute. The scientist has perfected a voice machine which he claims can make one hear the Voices of the Dead. However, when Clark and Lois approach Roebling, he and a woman who is possibly his daughter say that he is not the man whom they seek. It's possible that Kent was mistaken about Doctor Roebling being on board The Golden Comet.

Convinced that he and Lois have found Doctor Roebling, Clark believes the scientist didn't wish to speak in front of so many people. He and Lois decide to go to the doctor's cabin. The door is locked, and nobody is responding to the buzzer or knocks. The conductor uses his key to unlock the sleeping compartment. What he, Lois and Clark have discovered shocks them. Nobody is in the room, and the window is open. It seems that Doctor Roebling and his female companion have left the train. Superman must find out how or why. The life of the elderly professor may depend on it.

Leaving Lois behind, Clark has gone to Morrison City, The Golden Comet's last stop, as Superman. Resuming his guise of the mild mannered reporter, the Man of Steel questions the ticket man about Doctor Roebling and his female companion. An ambulance from Regan's Ambulance Service took an elderly gentleman from the train in a stretcher case. However, according to Barney, a man at Regan's, Roebling was never taken to a hospital, and the woman with him went across the street to the Marlboro Hotel. The search for Doctor Roebling has just become an even stranger mystery for Superman.

Clark Kent has arrived at the Marlboro Hotel. After a conversation with the night clerk, he goes to Room 911 registered under the name Smith. When he knocks on the door he finds Lois Lane. She found a telegram in Doctor Roebling's cabin on board the The Golden Comet, and she talked the conductor in to stopping the train before she took a taxi to Morrison City. The message is for Mrs. Cora Smith. It says that an ambulance will be waiting with full instructions. Cora Smith is to wait for a call from someone named Jack, the same person who signed the paper. This unusual case has currently left more questions than answers in the mind of Superman.

Having found that Cora Smith has possibly already received her call from Jack, Lois finds a piece of paper with 218 Vanderveer Street written on it. She and Clark run there as Doctor Roebling is in the dilapidated boarding house to which the address belongs. He is bound to a chair as his nephew Jack Roebling asks him to sign over the his voice machine to him. Doctor Roebling does not believe his invention should be used for profit as Jack does. Jack's wife, the woman who was on the train with Roebling, agrees with the elderly man. Jack is unmoved by her protests and Doctor Roebling's pleas. Jack Roebling will get the voice machine even if it means killing his uncle to do it. Can Superman rescue Doctor Roebling before his blood is on Jack's hands, or will the aged professor pay the ultimate price for his creation?

Doctor Roebling has signed over his voice machine to Jack. He and his wife are driving to Metropolis in a blue Dodge Sedan to Roebling's home as Lois and Clark question the aged inventor. Doctor Roebling and Lois will fly back to the city in an airplane. Clark Kent must find Jack Roebling... as Superman. The Man of Tomorrow finds the automobile driven by Roebling's crooked nephew. He blocks the road with his invulnerable body, making Jack and Cora believe that they have run over a man. Yet, neither the vehicle nor Jack's bullets harm Superman. The Last Son of Krypton has taken the assignment papers from Jack, but allows the villain to go free because a criminal case could ruin Doctor Roebling. All that remains is to give the documents back to the creator of the mysterious voice machine.

Clark Kent has returned to Doctor Roebling's home. Lois is explaining how the voice machine mystery began. Jack and Cora Roebling had convinced the scientist that someone was after his creation, and he must leave Metropolis incognito. This is why the elderly inventor said he wasn't Roebling. Cora had given him what he thought was stomach medicine after dinner. Afterwards, Doctor Roebling woke up in the boarding house in Morrison City. Thanks to Superman, the voice machine is back in Doctor Roebling's hands. However, victory for the Metropolis Marvel and his friends is short lived. Cora, in a panic, has entered Doctor Roebling's home. Jack is in the basement with a crowbar and the intention to destroy his uncle's life's work. Even Superman's great speed may not be enough to stop Jack Roebling from smashing the voice machine.

Clark has run down the stairs to Doctor Roebling's basement. The insane Jack Roebling has destroyed his uncle's voice machine. Now, he's going to use his crowbar on Clark. A knockout punch from the mild mannered reporter's fist puts Jack out cold. Another criminal has been stopped by Superman, but Doctor Roebling's invention cannot be rebuilt in his lifetime. Perhaps that is for the best, for something like Roebling's voice machine could fall into the wrong hands.

Clark is now driving Lois home as she discusses his act of bravely confronting Jack Roebling. She thinks he took a great risk. Clark says that not much would have happened to him. This makes Lois think of something. She didn't see Clark's face, but from the back as he approached Jack, he looked a lot like Superman. She later dismisses the idea because it could inflate his ego. Clark replies that he's used to being mistaken for Superman.

"In fact," Clark continues, "If you promise to keep it quiet, I'll tell you a little secret."

"What?," Asks Lois.

"Some of my best friends can't tell us apart."


This episode is an abridged version of the serial "Doctor Roebling and The Voice Machine" which originally aired on the dates July 25-August 29, 1941. Other versions were broadcast on October 27-November 8, 1944 and February 18, 1949. The latter was another half hour adaptation. Its title was "The Mystery of the Voice Machine".


Thanks to Steve Younis for sending Sean's (no last name was given) e-mail out to me. It was his message that brought this episode to my attention. I didn't have it in my collection before he pointed out it existed. If you find other radio shows in The Adventures of Superman that have not been reviewed, please write me via the Superman Homepage Feedback Form.

Upon beginning this review, I realized something. It's been about seven years since my first review for the Superman Homepage, which was the first story arc in the 1941-1951 radio programs. I've since worked on the television series starring George Reeves, various comics, including the New 52 Supergirl title and interviewed Fred Shay for the site. I have recently pursued other writing endeavors, including some dream projects and collaborating with people I never thought I'd have the opportunity to work with. Yet, a lost, forgotten or overlooked episode or serial of The Adventures of Superman seems to always bring me back to the show that is, has been and always will be near and dear to my heart. Outside of the comic books, the audio dramas featuring Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander are my favorite version of the Man of Steel. That said, let's discuss "Voices of the Dead".

It's really difficult to be objective about a half hour version of episodes that were in a serialized story. On one hand, one must try to look at the thirty minute drama as its own entity. On the other hand, it's practically impossible not to compare it to its multi-chaptered predecessor. "Voices of the Dead" is good in its own right, but if you've heard the original "Doctor Roebling and the Voice Machine", it might disappoint you.

To be fair, "Voices of the Dead" is well done. The acting and execution were superb. One can even see that the radio program at this point in time has an atmosphere like the upcoming (at the time this episode originally aired) television series starring George Reeves, which is great. However, adapting the serialized tales into a thirty minute format can be dodgy. The quarter hour entries broadcast from 1941-1949 had a way of keeping listeners on the edge of their seats. The ones after the format change tend to do that to a lesser degree. This is the case for "Voices of the Dead".

I said before that it's nearly impossible to not compare the fifteen minute serials of The Adventures of Superman to their half hour counterparts. This is the case with "Voices of the Dead" and its predecessor "Doctor Roebling and the Voice Machine". While the multiple chapter version did have its flaws, it pretty much was a fun and entertaining tale. The same could be said for "Voices". Yet, it feels rushed in order to fill the time allotted to the new format. This left me feeling like something was missing in this version.

All in all, "Voices of the Dead" is a good episode if you haven't heard "Doctor Roebling and the Voice Machine". It's still decent even if you did listen to the original story. However, some folks like myself will find it seems incomplete or rushed. Still, it's a fun tale that will give you a taste of what you could be in store for if you want to watch The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. That's always wonderful to hear in the radio program.

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