Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1941: The Dragon's TeethReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: February 10, 1941-March 03, 1941
"The Dragon's Teeth"
Perry White and Clark Kent are going to the Chinese neighborhood of Metropolis to speak with Doctor Chi Wan, a scholar and collector of Oriental art. When they go up the stairs to the apartment in Wan's jewelry store, a knife flies past Clark and Perry. The blade stabs the steps near them. Wrapping a handkerchief around the knife, Clark grabs it to show Doctor Wan.
After Clark and Perry tell Wan of the knife attack, the scholar tells them that he believes that his life is in danger. In 1930, Doctor Wan discovered a three thousand year-old manuscript in western China. The manuscript, according to Wan, contains the secret of everlasting life. Anyone who finds the ten teeth of the Sacred Green Dragon will find this. On each jade tooth, there is an ancient Chinese symbol, and each glyph tells of rare herbs. When the ten herbs are combined, they make a powder that can make a person immune to disease. Doctor Wan has nine of the ten teeth, but a man named Walter Huffman, a dealer in precious stones, has the tenth one. Doctor Wan's employee Hu Ling helped Wan with the manuscript and later told the gem dealer about the dragon's teeth when Wan asked to buy the tenth tooth from Huffman. Since then, Huffman has been trying to get the other nine teeth from Doctor Wan. This has led the scholar to have some brushes with death recently.
Chi Wan now asks Clark and Perry to do something should anything happen to him. They are to deliver the nine jade teeth to Professor Henry Wells, the head of the Oriental Department of the National Museum. They are also to give the secrets of the dragon's teeth away without cost should they and/or Professor Wells learn them. Clark and Perry agree to do so despite any danger to their lives.
While Doctor Wan is getting the box containing the jade teeth, Perry is drinking some tea given to him and Clark by Chi Wan's servant. Clark, however, does not wish to drink the tea right now. Suddenly, while he and Clark are talking over Chi Wan's story, Perry clutches at his own throat and loses consciousness. The tea had been poisoned. Finding the doors locked, Clarks calls to Doctor Wan, but he gets no response. He changes into Superman and uses the window to fly Perry to a hospital.
Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are heading for Doctor Wan's. Jimmy tortures poor Lois with endless recountings of his adventures on Camanche Joe's ranch during the cab ride to Chinatown. When they get to their destination, Jimmy and Lois ask where Doctor Wan lives. However, neither of them understands Chinese. They eventually find Chi Wan's store, but they feel like someone is skulking about once they climb the same stairs that Perry and Clark had used.
Fearing for their lives, Lois and Jimmy knock frantically on the apartment door. Doctor Wan answers the door. Lois and Jimmy sit where Clark and Perry had been before. Chi Wan then admits that he's baffled by Clark and Perry's disappearance. He had heard someone call to him, but by the time he had returned, Clark and Perry were gone. The doors in the room were locked, and there is no fire escape to the streets below.
In the meantime, Doctor Wan offers Lois and Jimmy some of the tea that he had given Perry, who is now in a hospital near death from the poison. However, before they can drink, Superman bursts in through the window and prevents them from suffering Perry's fate. After making sure Lois and Jimmy leave safely, Superman asks Doctor Wan about the tea. Chi Wan did not know that the tea was poisoned. Superman believes him and discusses the jade dragon's teeth with the scholar. Before leaving Doctor Wan, Superman says that Clark Kent will come by tomorrow to pick up the nine teeth the art expert has.
After Superman leaves, Walter Huffman steps out of the shadows demanding the velvet box with the nine jade dragon's teeth. When Doctor Wan refuses his request, Huffman beats him to death. The news of Chi Wan's death then gets to the Daily Planet's teletype. Knowing Superman was in Doctor Wan's apartment before his death, Lois suspects that the Man of Steel knows who killed the doctor. She then goes to the hospital to tell Clark Kent what she believes.
After Perry has recovered from the poisoning, he's discussing the events involving Chi Wan and the dragon's teeth with Lois, Clark and Jimmy. Lois thinks that Superman should go public and tell what he knows about the murder of Doctor Wan. Lois wants to run an open letter to Superman. Clark objects to this by pretending that the Man of Steel doesn't exist, and Jimmy defends Superman. Despite the debate, Perry runs the open letter while Clark investigates Walter Huffman.
Pretending to want to buy a gift for a female employee that's getting married, Clark asks Huffman if he has any jade. Huffman claims to not have any, but he also says that Chi Wan was a friend of his. He also questions Clark about Superman. Clark then pretends to not know anything. After Clark leaves, Huffman calls Hu Ling. Huffman needs him to do something very important.
At the Daily Planet, Perry and Lois read a telegram that says the following:
"Editor, Daily Planet:
I am willing to tell my story about Chi Wan's murder, but for reasons which you should understand, I can't come to you. You must come to me. I'll meet you in the Carson Mansion tonight at 8:00. The door will be open. Walk in.
With only a half hour before the meeting is to take place, Perry and Lois go to Carson Mansion. Once there, they find the old mansion dark and seemingly empty. However, they hear a voice of someone claiming to be that of Superman. Despite Lois' doubts of the voice's identity, this Superman claims to know who killed Chi Wan.
Meanwhile, Clark Kent has returned to the Daily Planet. Jimmy tells him about the telegram, but the copy boy never heard who it was from or its subject matter. Both Clark and Jimmy search for the message in Perry's office without success. Clark then calls the telegraph office for a copy of the wire. After reading the telegram, Clark and Jimmy rush to Carson Mansion. Clark is thoroughly convinced that Superman didn't send the telegram. Jimmy wants to learn how Clark knows this, but the mild mannered reporter avoids the question on the way to Carson Manor.
Once their car approaches the old house, Clark and Jimmy decide to travel up the driveway on foot. They sneak over to a broken window. They crouch down and overhear the so-called Superman speak. The voice claims that he will tell Lois and Perry who killed Chi Wan in two days. However, they are not to discover the murderer's identity themselves. Just then, Perry asks why Superman can't tell them what they need to know now. Lois answers White that she thinks the voice is lying and is not really Superman.
While they are hiding, Clark tells Jimmy not to move while he checks the back of the house. This gives him a chance to let the real Superman take over. The Man of Steel sneaks in through the back window, confronts his impersonator and moves at tremendous speeds to knock him out before resuming his guise of Clark Kent.
After Lois, Perry and Jimmy go upstairs to see what happened, Clark joins them and helps to take the man to the Daily Planet offices for interrogation. The man is an actor whom Huffman paid to impersonate Superman. Just then during the questioning, a man named Reynolds enters the office to tell Perry that Huffman and Hu Ling had left Metropolis with some bags. He then takes the actor to police headquarters.
Suddenly Clark understands why the actor said that they'd know the name of Chi Wan's killer in forty-eight hours. Huffman, who has the dragon's teeth, needs that long to get to California to take a boat to western China. Perry then orders Clark to get to California, and Lois insists on coming along for the story.
On the plane ride, Lois is frightened by the turbulance and bad weather because the flight seems treacherous. Suddenly, the plane shakes and lurches. A stewardess in the back of the plane hits her head. Clark puts her in a nearby seat and becomes Superman when he hears the engines begin to stall. After fighting the frightened pilots, Superman lands the airplane safely in a field.
Later at a the Capitol Hotel in Bryerville, Clark convinces Lois to go back to Metropolis while he heads for San Francisco to catch up with Walter Huffman. What Clark doesn't know is Huffman is there in the hotel with Hu Ling. Huffman is asking the desk clerk if Clark is registered there. The clerk says no, but he also tells him Lois is there. Claiming to be a friend of Clark's, Huffman holds Lois hostage in her own room. He and Hu Ling then force Lois to take a train trip with them to San Fancisco after they send a telegram to Clark in care of the Eastern Star Line, the only line of ships operating a service from California to China. The telegram, which will be signed by Lois, will urge Clark to return to the east coast.
Later, in the offices of the Daily Planet, Perry White is searching frantically for information on the whereabouts of Lois and Clark. Just then, Clark walks into Perry's office and tells the chief about the telegram from Lois. Perry then says to Clark that Lois never returned from the Capitol Hotel. Now, neither Perry nor Clark know where Lois is, and they must make finding her their top priority.
Speaking of Lois, she's just given the porter of the Pacific Flyer a telegram for Perry White to send at the train's next stop. The telegram will let Perry know that Lois is in trouble. However, Walter Huffman takes the telegram and tells the porter that Lois is mentally ill. Huffman, knowing he can't trust Lois, decides to stay with her until they get to San Francisco. He even convinces the train's conductor that Lois is insane.
At the Daily Planet, Clark and Perry learn from a call to the Capitol Hotel that Lois was taken by Huffman and Hu Ling. In order to get to San Francisco before Walter Huffman, Clark convinces Perry that he can hire a plane. That plane is actually The Superman Express.
On the Pacific Flyer, Hu Ling and Huffman are planning to get off the train when it reaches Carson City in ten minutes. Once off the train with Lois, they will take a car to San Francisco in order to throw Clark Kent or anyone following them off their trail.
As the Pacific Flyer approaches Carson City, Superman begins his descent from his flight to save Lois. He then hides behind the observation car and boards the train just after it leaves the Carson City station. Superman does not even know that Lois Lane, Walter Huffman and Hu Ling are not on the train, but he learns this from the porter as Clark Kent. Now, the Man of Steel is flying at incredible speeds to find Lois and stop Walfter Huffman from getting to China.
As for Lois, she's being held against her will in Walter Huffman's car, which is moving across the roads of the plains near Carson City. However, a severe dust storm is coming, and the car has stalled because it has been carrying too much weight. Huffman throws both Hu Ling and Lois out of the car into the suffocating dust storm. Feeling angry and betrayed, Hu Ling comes at Huffman with a knife. The gem expert then knocks out Hu Ling with the butt of his gun. He then goes on to San Francisco. Lois and Hu Ling are now stranded in the raging dust storm.
Shortly after Huffman leaves, Hu Ling regains consciousness. However, he is delirious and believes that Lois is a devil woman. Lois eventually convinces Hu Ling that his ancestors sent her to help him. The two of them then begin their treacherous journey into the dust storm.
Meanwhile, Clark Kent is trying to find out about the route Huffman, Hu Ling and Lois took to get to San Francisco. When a policeman tells him of the route and the dust storm, he rushes to an alley to become Superman. Our hero is now flying into the biting sands of the dust storm. He finds Huffman's car burned from a fire caused by the engine overheating. In the burned hulk, Superman finds the ten jade dragon's teeth fused to together into one piece by the fire. Not far away, Walter Huffman lies dead from a broken neck.
Elsewhere in the dust storm, Hu Ling is still convinced that Lois is a devil woman. His head injury is making him crazed. He is about to attack Lois. His knife, however, doesn't make contact as Superman stops the blade before knocking out Hu Ling. He then flies Hu ling and Lois to safety back to Metropolis.
Now, the adventure of the dragon's teeth has come to a close, and Superman has saved Lois. Yet, another mystery awaits the Man of Steel in "The Last of the Clipper Ships." Tune in next week for The Adventures of Superman for this serial, boys and girls.
While I had hoped that more would be said about the fate of the Sacred Black Pearl of Osiris from last week's serial, "The Dragon's Teeth" is still entertaining. It's one of the best serials of 1941 so far. I honestly could find nothing wrong with the way the story was written or performed. Granted, a lot of this serial might be considered dated or even politically incorrect by today's standards. However, it's still in its heart a Superman story. One of the things that has helped the character of Superman in the past seven decades is the fact that he's been able to change with the times, and yet he's still essentually the same character. Sure, his methods were extreme in the beginning of the radio serials, but he's still the symbol of hope he's always been.
I really liked seeing the rest of the supporting characters involved more in this story. It was great to have Jimmy in the previous two serials, but it's even better to see that Lois and Perry were also part of this story arc. Perry often seems like a fixture behind a desk in many stories of the time period. One can even see this with John Hamilton in the later years of the Goerge Reeves series. Seeing Perry actually do something besides yell at Lois and Clark was a joy. I don't think he's left the office since "Hans Holbin's Doll Factory," but I could be wrong about that.
It's also great to have Lois in "The Dragon's Teeth." Sure, some might say she could have put up more of a fight against Huffman, but if one uses their imagination well, the mind's eye can see her being the spitfire star reporter that she's always been instead of the scared woman that was extremely out of character in "Pillar of Fire at Graves End." One thing that really sets her apart from future incarnations of the character is that she seems suspicious of Superman in this serial. Certain tones in her voice seem to make one think that she may even believe that Superman killed Doctor Chi Wan, much like J. Jonah Jameson believes that Spider-Man is a menace. Lois defends Superman, but you can hear elements of doubt from her until she's captured by Walter Huffman.
We also have what may be considered the first of Lois' many flights with Superman. Sure, she flew with him in "Threat to the Planet Building." However, she was unconscious then, and she really wasn't sure that Superman was real at the time. In every case, it's great to have Lois and Superman fly together.
All in all, "The Dragon's Teeth" was a very exciting serial full of action and adventure worthy of any great Superman tale. It feels like a fun mix of Kirk Alyn, Goierge Reeves and Seigel and Shuster all rolled into one exciting serial. Let's hope "The Last of the Clipper Ships" has as many thrills and chills. We'll find out next week, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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