Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1946: The Mystery of the Dragon's TeethReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: March 15, 1946-March 28, 1946
"The Mystery of the Dragon's Teeth"
Perry White has received a phone call from his Asian scholar and Oriental art collector friend Doctor Chi Wan. There's trouble for the man in Chinatown, and it's a matter of life and death. Perry takes Clark Kent with him to Wan's jewelry store late at night. It isn't long before an assassination attempt is made as a knife nearly misses the editor and mild mannered reporter. Shocked by this, Chi Wan tells Perry and Clark why he's called them to Chinatown. He is convinced that he will be dead before sunrise.
In 1930, Doctor Wan discovered a three thousand year-old goat skin manuscript in western China. According to Wan, it 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 six of the ten teeth. However, Japanese and German forces wish to get them in order to start another war. With the Dragon's Teeth, the new Axis can possibly create an army of supermen. Carl Schroeder, a Nazi sympathizer who is posing as an art dealer, is trying to get Doctor Wan's jade teeth. Schroeder has the other four dragon's teeth. Should Wan refuse to give the Sacred Dragon's Teeth to Schroeder, the scholar will die. Clark and Perry are to give the teeth to Harry Wells, curator of the Oriental Department of the Metropolis Museum, if anything should happen.
Clark and Perry have just agreed to help Chi Wan. He is going to his safe in another room to get the six jade teeth while Perry has some tea from a special blend that had just arrived earlier today. Clark doesn't have any, but he serves the tea to his chief. Suddenly, Perry is clutching his throat. Clark catches him as he loses consciousness. He also discovers that the tea Perry drank was poisoned. Not wasting time, Clark becomes Superman and races Perry to a hospital.
Copy boy Beany Martin has just told Lois Lane of Perry and Clark going to Chinatown. She and Jimmy Olsen go to Chi Wan's to find out why. A knife whizzes past them as they walk up the stairs to the Asian scholar's apartment. The frightened duo speak with Doctor Wan. He, Lois and Jimmy wonder how Clark and Perry had disappeared. The doors in the room were locked, and there is no fire escape to the streets below. Lois and Jimmy want to search for Perry and Clark, but Chi Wan convinces them that it is too dangerous to do so. Jimmy and Lois agree to stay and have some the tea that had been given to Perry.
Superman has burst into Chi Wan's apartment. His timely arrival prevents Lois and Jimmy from suffering the same fate as Perry, who is in critical condition in the hospital. Wan was unaware of the tea's being poisoned. Superman orders Jimmy and Lois to go back to the Daily Planet. Clark Kent will let them know of what's happened when he returns to the offices.
Superman is now questioning Chi Wan of the poisoned tea. He is convinced that the Asian art collector had nothing to do with sending Perry White to the hospital. Wan wants to give Superman the six jade dragon's teeth for safe keeping, but the Man of Tomorrow believes that they will be safe until Clark Kent picks them up in the morning.
It is now after midnight. Superman has left Chi Wan thinking that the Asian scholar is safe. However, shortly after our hero has left, Carl Schroeder enters the apartment. He wants Chi Wan's jade teeth. With them, he will have the complete set in order to have the secret of everlasting life.
Beany has just given Lois a news fresh taken from the teletype. Chi Wan has been murdered, and Lois just saw him an hour ago - with Superman!
Perry White has recovered from the poisoning. He and Clark Kent are telling Lois Lane of the events leading to Chi Wan's death. Lois then says that she believes that Superman knows who killed Doctor Wan since he was the last to see the art collector alive. The Man of Steel left Wan's apartment shortly before Schroeder had arrived. Clark believes the Nazi sympathizer is the key to solving the murder, but Lois feels Superman should be questioned.. Perry decides to run an appeal to the Man of Steel in the Daily Planet while Kent goes to talk to Carl Schroeder.
The appeal to Superman has sold a lot of newspapers. A telegram for Perry has just arrived. It reads as follows:
- "Editor, Daily Planet:
If you are interested in what I know about the murder of Chi Wan, meet me tonight at 7:00 at the Carson Mansion in Midville.
Clark Kent has returned to the Daily Planet. Jimmy Olsen has shown him the telegram for Perry signed by Superman. Feeling that there's trouble, Clark removes his reporter's garb to become the Man of Steel. He overhears the person talking to Lois and Perry. Superman reveals the truth that man trying to stall the Chi Wan murder investigation is not the Man of Tomorrow. After knocking his impersonator out, Superman suggests that Lois and Perry take the unconscious man to the newspaper offices for questioning.
The Superman Impersonator is now being interrogated by the staff of the Daily Planet. The man in an actor who was hired by Carl Schroeder to imitate our hero. Schroeder wanted the police investigation of Chi Wan's murder to be stalled for two days in order to give the Nazi sympathizing art dealer time to leave Metropolis and take The Sacred Jade Dragon's Teeth out of the country and into the hands of the people for whom he works.
Clark Kent and Lois Lane are on an airplane to California. They feel that they can head Carl Schroeder off before he can voyage from San Francisco to China. The aircraft suddenly hits some turbulence, and Clark's keen ears hear the engines missing. Failing to convince the pilots that the plane is in danger as Superman, the Man of Steel is forced to knock them to in order to grab the machine to land it in a nearby field.
Clark Kent has brought Lois to the Capitol Hotel in Bryerville just five miles from where Superman had landed the airplane. He convinces Lois to take a train back to Metropolis while he flies on to San Francisco. Now, Superman can stop Schroeder without worrying about Lois.
Thinking that he's being followed Clark, Carl Schroeder asks the desk clerk if any reporters from the Daily Planet are registered in the hotel. While Kent doesn't have a room, Schroeder and his henchman Manfred learn that Lois is staying there. Manfred guards for Clark's return as Schroeder goes to her room and introduces himself as Mister Edward Jones. However, Lois notices the initials "C.S." on a handkerchief after she tells Schroeder that Clark was heading for the west coast. The cunning Nazi agent prevents her from calling the police and takes her at gunpoint. Lois is now in grave danger, and Superman is in San Francisco.
Manfred is sending a telegram to Clark Kent in care of the Eastern Star Shipping Line, the only company with a boat that goes from California to China. The message will be in Lois' name telling Kent to go back to Metropolis. Meanwhile, Schroeder is preparing to take Lois with him and Manfred on a train to San Francisco. It looks like the Nazi agent will have extra insurance that he'll get to China without any problems.
Jimmy Olsen is trying to calm down Perry White. No news about Lois Lane and Clark Kent has come since their airplane was forced to land. A storm in Bryerville has prevented any telephone communication. Suddenly, Clark enters the office. However, when he doesn't see Lois, whose name was on a telegram sent to the mild mannered reporter, he rushes back to San Francisco to stop Carl Schroeder as Superman.
Carl Schroeder and Manfred have brought Lois with them on the train to San Francisco. The star reporter gives the porter a message to send to Perry at the locomotive's next stop Greenville. However, Schroeder, posing as Lois' doctor, tells the porter that she is mentally ill. He takes her message and crumples it up into his pocket. Now, Schroeder is staying with Lois in her drawing room while convincing the train's crew that she's crazy. It seems that Lois will be unable to escape the evil Nazi agent.
Thinking he should contact Bryerville before going to San Francisco, Superman returns to the Daily Planet as Clark Kent. He learns that Lois left the Capitol Hotel with two men. Knowing that Carl Schroeder now has Miss Lane, Clark convinces Perry that he can take a two-seated private plane to San Francisco before The Pacific Flier, the train on which Schroeder has taken Lois, gets there. The airline Kent will be taking is... The Superman Express!
Carl Schroeder is now speaking with Manfred. Thinking that someone is bound to have police waiting for them at the San Francisco train depot even without Lois' telegram to Perry White. He decides that he, Manfred and the captive Lois should get off the train at its next stop of Carson City and go to their destination by car. It's possible that Superman may not find the Nazi agent or save Lois.
Clark Kent is on The Pacific Flier asking about Lois. The porter tells him that she, Carl Schroeder and Manfred got off the train at Carson City, where they have purchased an automobile. Unfortunately, a blinding dust storm has occurred on the prairie road. The howling wind is blowing, and the car has stalled from carrying too much weight. carrying the ten jade dragon's teeth, the diabolical Schroeder forces Manfred and Lois out of the automobile before leaving them in blinding storm. A head injury given to the unconscious Manfred by Schroeder is serious. Superman is now flying at tremendous speeds to Carson City, but he may not get there in time to rescue Lois.
While Lois and Manfred brave the dust storm, Clark Kent has asked people around Carson City about her and Schroeder. He resumes his true identity of Superman once he has learned of the foul weather in the prairie. His powerful eyes spots Carl Schroeder's car. It's been burned to a crisp, and the jade dragon's teeth have been fused into one piece from the heat. Schroeder was thrown from the vehicle and has suffered a serious skull fracture. In his unconscious, comatose state, he cannot tell Superman where Manfred and Lois are. He may not even survive in this storm. Can Superman find Lois and Manfred in the violent, sand-filled winds? Find out next week, gang, before "The Story Of The Century" comes to Metropolis.
This serial is a retooled version of "The Dragon's Teeth." The original aired on the dates February 10, 1941-March 03, 1941. It was a ten chapter story arc like this one.
Rebroadcasts of earlier stories in old time radio are rather common. The best examples of this that come to mind are Lucille Fletcher's tales "Sorry, Wrong Number" and "The Hitch Hiker." The former starred Agnes Moorehead, who played Lara in "The Baby From Krypton" episode of The Adventures of Superman. On a side note, the latter of the two Fletcher audio dramas mentioned was made into a famous episode of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone.
Rebroadcasts in OTR differ from summer reruns on television because often there are changes from the original version. In the case of "The Mystery of the Dragon's Teeth," the names of the villains aren't the only things that are different. The character of Superman has made a rather notable change. In 1941's "The Dragon's Teeth," the Man of Steel's methods of dealing with criminals is more harsh simply because that's how he was portrayed in the Siegel and Shuster comics. As the years progressed, our hero mellowed quite a bit in the 1945-1946 story arcs.
Which of the two serials is better? Well, one can compare and contrast them until the cows come home, but I will say that both versions of "The Mystery of the Dragon's Teeth" are well done. However, the first feels more like a film noir tale than one based on a comic book character. The story in this arc just seems more colorful in the mind's eye. This can be heard in Lois dialogue after she mentions to Perry that Superman was the last person to see Chi Wan alive. She had a bit of distrust in our hero in the 1941 saga, but she merely wants to question him in this one.
One thing I really love about about "The Mystery of the Dragon's Teeth" and the rest of the post-war years of The Adventures of Superman radio serials is that the writers seem to have improved their usage of cliffhangers. Some of the 1940-1942 episodes seem to have oddly placed endings. However, this story arc is really great, and its chapters' conclusions make you want to listen to more. We'll listen to more in about seven days or so, Superfans, when Superman searches for Lois and learns about "The Story of the Century." Until we meet again, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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