Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1948: Dead Man's SecretReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: January 13, 1948-February 02, 1948
"Dead Man's Secret"
Jimmy Olsen has just received a large heavy box with small holes in it. Jimmy and copy boy Beany Martin are shocked to find that there is a three foot tall man sleeping inside it. His name is Frederick The Great, and he works for Jimmy's Aunt Louisa's circus. Freddy is about to tell Jimmy why he needs help when Clark Kent enters the office. The dwarf must find Robert Archer, former assistant to math expert and physicist Sir Hubert Clay. Clay was Freddy's employer until his death over a year ago, and as a result, the midget must find Archer before February 1. Otherwise, something terrible could happen.
Sir Hubert knew a secret that could affect the world. Someone called the Boot killed Clay in an attempt to learn what he knows. Freddy was given a message in the form of a riddle to memorize. He must now find Robert Archer before February 1 and give him the enigma. Nobody knows anything about Archer except for Beany, who has just read a newsflash. Parkersville University math professor Robert Archer has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Superman may be too late to learn more of Freddy's strange mystery.
Clark, thanks to the abilities of Superman, has brought Freddy, who is inside the box in which he was delivered, to Parkersville. The dwarf and mild mannered reporter learn that Robert Archer had disappeared right after leaving Parkersville College. Archer had no family, but a big foreign man with a limp had been searching for Sir Hubert Clay's assistant. According to Freddy, the man the sheriff had described is none other than the Boot, the man who killed dwarf's former master. Now more than ever, Clark and Freddy must do everything possible to find Robert Archer.
Freddy is telling Clark and Jimmy of the Boot. He is called the Boot because of his thick boots and thumping limp. The Boot runs a vast criminal organization. Sir Hubert Clay had a scientific secret that will end war. However, before it could be revealed to Freddy, the Boot had pursued Sir Hubert while the physicist and dwarf were traveling. The midget was then ordered to find Robert Archer mere moments before the Boot had killed Sir Hubert Clay. Now, Archer must be found. Clark, at that moment, suggests placing an advertisement in the Daily Planet looking for the math professor. What Clark later does not realize is that the Boot himself has seen the newspaper asking for Archer. Has our hero unknowingly put his friends in danger?
"X is to Freddy as Y is to Sari. The equation equals the first day of February."
This is the mysterious riddle given to Freddy by Sir Hubert Clay. With twelve days until the February 1 deadline, Jimmy and Freddy are in Clark Kent's apartment while Kent himself receives a call from Robert Archer. The mild mannered reporter convinces Archer to meet him in the office of Mayor Perry White, but Clark becomes worried when the college professor does not show up. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Freddy hear an approaching thumping sound. The Boot has possibly found Freddy, and Superman is in another part of the city.
Robert Archer has finally arrived in Mayor White's office because he was trying to avoid some of the Boot's men. Clark gives Archer Sir Hubert Clay's enigmatic equation. Knowing that Freddy knows the formula without even realizing it, Archer rushes to Clark's apartment with Perry and our hero following him. The trio finds Jimmy Olsen unconscious and the dwarf Freddy missing. The key to this strange mystery may now be in the hands of the villainous Boot.
Superman has begun an intense search for the Boot and his small captive Freddy. A little after midnight, the Man of Steel finds nothing and returns to his apartment as Clark Kent, where Robert Archer is waiting. Archer gives him some shocking news. The professor had a diary that was stolen by the Boot. The journal reveals that Sari is a healer in the far east who had taught Sir Hubert Clay about hypnosis. Archer then theorizes that Sir Hubert had given Freddy the solution to the enigmatic equation while the dwarf was in a trance. Should the Boot learn this, he might become ruler of the entire world.
Archer continues by saying that Sir Hubert was working on a device powered by the radiation of the sun. Archer himself was possibly contacted to prevent a disaster occurring with the machine before February 1. Meanwhile, Freddy has been forced to give the Boot the mysterious formula. However, the villain doesn't know who Sari is. Archer himself doesn't recall if Sari is mentioned in the diary that Boot had stolen. The healer is written about in some passages, but the hawk-like Boot is still trying to decipher the information while Superman flies through Metropolis looking for Freddy. Can the Man of Tomorrow stop the Boot before he learns Sir Hubert's secret?
The Boot is having no luck learning anything from Freddy. A man named Menter tells the limping villain that dwarf must be willing to be hypnotized. This gives the Boot the seeds for a plan. The large, evil doer has drugged Freddy. Soon, he will tell the Boot everything he knows. Superman must use every power at his disposal if he's to find the midget
Menter, pretending to be Robert Archer, has succeeded in putting Freddy in a trance. He now knows Sir Hubert Clay's secret, and Menter blackmails the Boot in order to have half the spoils in all that the former Nazi takes from the entire world. The Boot then kills Menter, and has the body is disposed of. Meanwhile, Freddy is attempting to escape through the fireplace. The Boot orders his minions to light some flames to lure the dwarf to the roof, where men will shoot him. Superman is unaware of Freddy's peril. It will take a miracle to save the little fellow now.
Superman has just prevented the Boot's men March and Gebhart from killing Freddy. However, the midget is in need of medical attention. The accomplices of the Boot tell Inspector Henderson what they know of the events that occurred with Freddy and the Boot. Not knowing where the villain is or what Sir Hubert Cay's secret was, Superman, Henderson and Robert Archer go to the hospital in hope of learning something from the dwarf. Unfortunately, his injuries and the smoke inhaled by the little man in the fireplace have made his condition serious. Freddy may not survive to assist Superman in stopping the Boot.
There are now four days until February 1. Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen are waiting for news of Freddy's recovery while Robert Archer sleeps fitfully on a nearby couch. Meanwhile, the Boot is in an inn in an Alpine village looking for a guide named Enret that will take him to the top of the mountain. They nearly reach the peak when Enret reveals that he assisted Sir Hubert Clay. Enret knows that the Boot killed Sir Hubert and intends to turn him over to the police. Then, there is shooting in the darkness. Enret is the target of the bullet. Can nothing stand in the way of the Boot's sinister plans of world domination?
As Clark, Jimmy and Archer wait to question Freddy, the Boot has entered a cave where Sir Hubert's device is hidden. There is a large globe of the Earth in the room rotating on its axis. A silvery rod is very near the sphere, and it is gradually closing in on the model of the world. There is a ticking from the machinery. The Boot is in awe of what he is observing. He has become drunk with power when he is shocked to see Enret limping with a pick ax in his hand. He has attacked the Boot just before both men have fallen to the ground. With nobody to stop the invention of Sir Hubert, all hope for the planet lies in what Freddy tells Superman and his friends.
Despite the Freddy's being weak, Robert Archer can hypnotize and question him. Sir Hubert was able to harness the power of the sun and use it for a nuclear fission device located on the Swiss border. Clay had planned to demonstrate it to world leaders before he was killed by the Boot. Unfortunately, there is only a half hour for Archer to deactivate it. Both Superman and Archer are too late. The dials will not turn because the machine has made contact with the sun. The Boot is dead and Enret is barely alive. Despite all odds against survival, Superman has plan that he intends to put into motion once he gets Archer and Enret to safety.
The Man off Steel begins by using his titanic strength to move the frozen control dial. This causes it to be pulled out of the sun fission machine, which in turn creates a cave-in within the rock walls of the device's sanctuary. Only a crater full of debris is seen. The body of the Man of Steel is buried inside the rubble. However, the destruction may have been too much even for the mighty Superman.
Robert Archer and Enret believe that Superman has been destroyed until his hand comes out of the tons of rock in which he was buried. The machine Sir Hubert Clay had created to threaten the world to work at making peace is no more. The Man of Steel then takes Professor Archer back to Parkersville before returning to Metropolis. Another catastrophe has been averted by the power of Superman.
It is now the next morning. Clark Kent is writing the story of the Boot for the Daily Planet. Freddy has been released from the hospital and is returning to his career in the circus. As Freddy is about to leave Kent's office, the mild mannered receives an urgent call from Robin The Boy Wonder, the partner of Batman. Dick Grayson then tells Clark when he arrives at the home of Bruce Wayne that the Dark Knight is gone and may never be seen again. What has happened? Is this really the end of the Dynamic Duo? Tune in next week, boys and girls, for "Batman's Great Mystery" in another serial in The Adventures of Superman.
After three substandard story arcs, it's good to see The Adventures of Superman start to get back on track with "Dead Man's Secret." Granted, it will take some time to wash the stench of the previous serials off myself, but I'm beginning to feel like the show has gotten back some of the quality that's been missing in the past three weeks. There are things I did dislike. However, I did enjoy listening to this saga.
While Freddy the circus midget can be irritating at times, the overall serial of "Dead Man's Secret" is a pretty decent tale worthy of The Adventures of Superman. There's quite a bit of action and suspense in each chapter. I do admit I really wasn't able to enjoy it to its fullest thanks to the poor quality of the writing on the previous three story arcs, but I was starting to finally have fun with the radio series once again.
The story of "Dead Man's Secret" brought up a pretty valid question in my mind as I listened to each chapter. Was the late Sir Hubert Clay as madly insane as the Boot? When one hears of Clay's reasons for creating the sun weapon - to coerce the planet into world peace, one cannot help but think that the physicist is as much of a terrorist (Yes, I used that word.) as his large, limping adversary. Superman himself even said that humanity cannot be forced into this. They have to be willing to cooperate in order to work for worldwide harmony. Sir Hubert had good intentions, but the method of execution could be considered wrong by some.
There are, in a sense, two villains in "Dead Man's Secret" - The Boot and Sir Hubert Clay. They clashed for use of Clay's sun weapon. Yet, both died before they could use it for their own means. This could result in the ages-old plot device of ones obsessions leading to one's doom. It's happened to Captain Ahab and many characters from the Bard's plays. Was it done well in this serial? I'd like to think so.
The Boot, while exaggerated at certain points in the serial's conclusion, was a very good nemesis that fit well into "Dead Man's Secret." I pictured him as a man of great intelligence and insanity with a body like that of Cain Marko. (The Juggernaut in the Marvel comic books) I hope there are more villains like him in future stories.
At the end of "Dead Man's Secret," Clark Kent receives a call from Robin. The Boy Wonder's mentor is missing, but we will have to wait seven days or so for "Batman's Great Mystery" to find out what happened. Until next week, Superfans, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now, go read some of the other great articles and reviews on this site. You'll be glad you did.
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