Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1940: The Emerald of the IncasReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: April 01, 1940-April 12, 1940
"The Emerald of the Incas"
Clark Kent is finishing a follow-up story about the events that occurred in Dyerville when Assistant Editor Jay Hamlin calls him into his office. Elsie Beecham asks for Jay's help to find out how her father Doctor George Haven Beecham is, and Jay asks Clark to help Elsie. Doctor Beecham and Elsie are very good friends of Jay. Doctor Beecham is an archaelogist, scientist and explorer that had gone into the jungles of South America nine months ago to supervise the excavation of some ancient tombs there. Doctor Beecham has always been close to his daughter, and he had written Elsie regularly at least once a week. His last letter to her was two days before he sailed back to America. In the letter, he asks Elsie to not meet him when the boat arrives. He had phoned Elsie two hours after his boat had docked.
Doctor Beecham seemed to be afraid for his life when he spoke to Elsie. He had said that he could not see Elsie for quite some time, which was strange to her. Doctor Beecham said he'd be at Stonehouse in Brentwood with his half-breed native servant Zingree. Elsie tried to call Doctor Beecham yesterday, but nobody answered the telephone. Clark agrees to help Elsie find out if her father is okay.
Clark and Elsie drive to Brentwood and find some shrubs were placed in front of Stonehouse's locked gates to block the path to the house. Out of Elsie's view, Clark moves the shrubs and discovers that the gates have been electrified. As Superman, he kicks the locked gates open. He returns to Elsie as Clark Kent. They drive through the opened fence. Elsie is shocked to see the doors smashed and destroyed. Clark claims that the gates were very old and rusted. He then advises Elsie that there might be danger ahead. Whoever is in the house wants privacy badly. Going on ahead to investigate, Clark tells Elsie to stay in the car, but she's to honk the car's horn if she needs help.
Superman arrives on the second floor of Stonehouse. He hears a door slam, but before he can investigate, Elsie blows the car horn and screams for help. A pack of wild mastiff hounds surrounds the car and is about to attack Elsie Beecham. Clark Kent rushes to the car and keeps the hounds at bay. After making sure Elsie is uninjured, Clark tells her that there is someone inside the house. Suddenly, before Elsie and Clark can continue on the path to Stonehouse, the sound of tomtom drums fills the air. The drums are accompanied by the sight of an extremely huge, gigantic black man approaching Clark Kent and the frightened Elsie Beecham.
The giant man is gone, and Clark believes that Elsie saw a trick of shadows. Elsie then insists on going with Clark to investigate further. They hear the drums and see the giant man again. He approaches the area where Clark Kent and Elsie Beecham are hiding. Clark insists that Elsie continue to hide while he confronts the big man. Clark resumes his true identity of Superman. The Man of Steel fights with the giant and hangs him up onto a tree. Resuming his guise of Clark Kent, our hero tells Elsie Beecham that it's safe to come out of hiding. He also told her that the giant tripped and fell.
Approaching Stonehouse, Elsie and Clark find the front door locked. Clark throws a stone at the door's lock. The lock breaks, and they enter the house. Elsie seems frightened of the house, but she continues to help Clark search for signs of her father. Suddenly, she hears the sound of creaking from a room directly above them. Clark doesn't hear the sound at first. After he does hear it, Clark asks Elsie to stay on the first floor while he checks out the source of the creaking upstairs.
The source of the creaking is Elsie's father, Doctor George Haven Beecham. He tells Clark to go away before shooting at him. The doctor is clearly scared and thinks the reporter wants something. Kent wrestles the gun away from the doctor and convinces him that Jay Hamlin sent him to help Elsie find the archaelogist. After Clark says that Elsie is with him, Doctor Beecham says that Clark has put Elsie in danger. Suddenly, the two men hear Elsie screaming downstairs. However, when they arrive onto the first floor, Elsie is nowhere to be found.
Despite any danger to himself, Doctor Beecham exits with Clark Kent from Stonehouse to search the grounds for his daughter Elsie. Clark convinces Doctor Beecham to search for Elsie inside the house. He then changes into Superman. He first examines the tree where he had left the giant. The Man of Steel doesn't find the giant or Elsie Beecham, but he does find a speeding taxi. He takes the driver for a flight. The driver becomes scared enough to tell Superman that he was hired by two small brown men to take them to Brentwood. The cab driver became frightened when he heard the drums and saw the giant. This is why he drove the taxi to escape Stonehouse. Superman believes the man, but he threatens the driver into keeping his secret while the Last Son of Krypton resumes his guise of Clark Kent.
After Clark returns to Stonehouse with the taxi driver, he tells Doctor Beecham what the driver said. Suddenly, something flies over the their heads. It's a poison dart from a blowgun. The cab driver says that the two brown men had one with them. The three men run quickly into the house and barricade the doors. Clark then says that the two brown men don't have Elsie Beecham. If they had the girl, they would have used her as a bargaining chip to get what they want from Doctor Beecham.
Suddenly, a poison dart breaks the window and hits Doctor Beecham. Beecham struggles to tell Clark how to cure the poisoning. In the doctor's right pocket, he has a serum in a tube with a needle on it. The serum can cure small amounts of poisoning from the little brown men's darts. Clark plunges the needle into Beecham's shoulder while the doctor struggles to speak. Before losing consciousness, Doctor Beecham says that the brown men are after the Sacred Emerald of the Incas, and this emerald could save the entire human race.
An hour after Doctor Beecham has awakened, the taxi driver has fled into the cellar, and Elsie Beecham has returned with the giant man, who is really Doctor Beecham's manservant Zingree. Zingree was shot by the little brown men when he saved Elsie from them. His gigantic body has many poison darts inside it. Clark and the doctor carry Zingree into another room. Unfortunately, it's too late to save Doctor's Beecham's gigantic assistant. He was shot too many times, and the poison acts fast.
Later, Clark Kent and Elsie ask Doctor Beecham for information about the Emerald of the Incas. Centuries ago, the ancestors of the Asitlan Indians were called the Immortal People. The emerald was carved into an idol of a god that the Immortal People and the Asitlan Indians worship. Doctor Beecham stole the Emerald of the Incas from the Asitlans in hopes of translating the inscriptions written on the idol. Beecham believes the writings on the Emerald of the Incas holds the key to saving the human race. They could possibly lead to the discovery of the fabled Fountain of Youth that Ponce De Leòn had once sought. The two little brown men are part of the Asitlan Tribe, and they want the Emerald of the Incas back no matter what it takes to get it.
Before Doctor Beecham goes upstairs to show Clark and Elsie the Emerald of the Incas, an explosion occurs. Debris from the explosion blocks off the main staircase. Elsie and her father take the back stairs to the second floor while Clark removes the rubble as Superman. Superman hears the Beechams call for help. A wall has fallen and blocked their path. Once the debris has been cleared, Clark Kent meets up with the Beechams. The trio notices that Doctor Beecham's safe has been blown. The Emerald of the Incas is gone. They suddenly hear what sounds like an airplane. Clark then watches the upstairs window. The two Asitlan Indians are escaping in an auto-gyro.
Before Clark Kent can leap from the second floor window to follow the Asitlan Priests' auto-gyro, Elsie Beecham twists her ankle. After making sure the girl is okay, Kent leaves to follow the auto-gyro. He resumes his identity of Superman and flies in pursuit of the aircraft, which is now over water. Superman confronts the Asitlans about the Emerald of the Incas, which they have hidden, but before the conflict can be resolved, the Man of Steel must return to Stonehouse to save the Beechams before a fire the Asitlans had started can get to them and destroy the house. Superman smashes the auto-gyro's front propeller, and the aircraft crashes into the sea after our hero promises to deal with the Asitlans later.
When Superman returns to the house as Clark Kent, Doctor Beecham and Elsie have escaped from the fire just in time. The Beechams remind him that Eddie Healy, the taxi driver, is still in the cellar. Superman then finds Healy unconscious in the burning cellar and carries the cab driver out as Clark Kent. Elsie Beecham then looks after Healy while Clark tells her father that he'll continue his search for the Asitlan Indians and their auto-gyro.
After Clark has left, Doctor Beecham is on his hands and knees searching for something. He finds an amulet of the High Priest of the Asitlans. It's given to the priests when their skills in magic are perfected. The loss of the amulet for an Asitlan Priest is a terrible crime worse than death. Doctor Beecham thinks he may be able to use the amulet to convince the Asitlans to let him borrow the Emerald of the Incas, but he doesn't know where the two priests are. Elsie Beecham then says that she knows where they are. Eddie the taxi driver told her when he regained consciousness. The Asitlans have a large sea plane that is located in Central Airport. Father and daughter then prepare to take their car in hopes of talking to the Asitlans before their plane takes off.
As the Beechams race to get to Central Airport, Superman searches the choppy, storm-churned waters for the wreckage of the Asitlans' auto-gyro. He discovers that the auto-gyro was deliberately sunk. He heads for a Coast Guard station and resumes his guise of Clark Kent. The man on duty at the station tells Kent that the two Indians were picked up a mile or so back, and they're heading for Central Airport. Their plane will take off in five minutes, but the man believes that they won't get far because of the bad weather.
When the Beechams arrive, the Asitlans' sea plane has taken off. They believe that they are too late to stop the Indians from leaving, but they do not see Superman pursuing the plane. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning hits the airplane. The pilot is instantly killed, and all the baggage inside the plane, including the Emerald of the Incas, falls deeply into the raging waters. Superman saves the two Asitlan Priests before they can be killed by the storm or the unstable sea.
Resuming his guise of Clark Kent, the Man of Steel returns to land with the two priests. They are grateful to Kent/Superman for saving their lives. Doctor Beecham is saddened by the loss of the emerald, but he is happy that Clark saved the Asitlans. After Beecham gives the priests the amulet that was lost, he tells them that he only wanted to translate the writings on the Emerald of the Incas. Doctor Beecham never intended to keep the emerald. The priests say that they know from memory the writings on the idol, but they do not know the meaning of the writings. Doctor Beecham agrees to help the Asitlans discover the meaning of the engravings while they help him to translate the words written on the idol.
Clark Kent is now leaving to write the story for the Daily Planet. The Emerald of the Incas may be lost, but its secrets will hopefully be discovered one day thanks to the cooperation between the Asitlan Indians and Doctor George Haven Beecham. What will the writings reveal? Tune into future episodes of The Adventures of Superman, and we'll find out together boys and girls.
Before I begin this review, I'd like to point out something that's come to my attention. Both an e-mail I received last weekend and what Steve Younis wrote in 149th Big Blue Report showed two opposing views on the fact that these radio serials show more of Clark Kent than Superman. Both Steve and the other person, who shall remain nameless to respect his privacy, (If he wishes that his name be published, I'll send an updated version of this review on a future date) made valid points and I honestly agree with both of their views. That is not a "cop out." I understand both opinions, and both are correct for different reasons because Steve and the other person showed their viewpoints from a different angle. Steve's point of view was one about the fact that Clark Kent seems to be just a fixture, for lack of a better term, in the Superman mythos from time to time, and the other fellow's opinion was about the fact that children listening would want more Superman in their radio serials.
I understand both sides of this arguement. As a boy, I waited impatiently to see Christopher Reeve in the blue costume and red cape in hopes that he'd do something super when I first saw Superman: The Movie back in 1978. However, as I got older, I came to understand that Clark Kent is an important part of both the Superman character and the Superman legend. I happened to think of this as I read both mails before writing this review. Clark helps Superman get closer humanity. He also helps Superman maintain his sanity. Without Clark Kent, Superman might risk having a God complex. Clark keeps the Man of Steel grounded. Many comic book stories, like "The Death of Clark Kent" and "Superman Rex," have shown Superman try to abandon Clark Kent in some way, shape or form. In the end, it didn't work. Superman discovered that he needs Clark Kent, and also the reverse is true. Clark Kent needs Superman.
Because Clark has particular powers and abilities, he can't sit around and do nothing for those in need. It would go against his nature and the values taught to him by the Kents. Many stories have shown what Superman would be like if someone besides the Kents had found him. From Darkseid to Thomas and Martha Wayne, we've seen that Superman was different without the Kents to give him the values that made him Clark Kent. He was Clark Kent before putting on a primary colored suit and saving the world. Both Superman and Clark Kent need each other.
Do I prefer more Clark or more Superman? Well, honestly that depends on the writing. If the story is written well. I don't really notice more or less of either character. I tend to get thrown into the story. A badly written arc like "For Tomorrow" tends to make me wonder if the writer has any idea of what the characters of Clark Kent and Superman are really like. Is "The Emerald of the Incas" written well? Well, it's not written badly, but it is flawed.
I recently became re-introduced to the Superman radio serials shortly before starting these reviews for the Superman Homepage. So far, I've picked apart the first twenty-seven episodes - including the ones in this review - to find what I like and dislike about a story. Doing these reviews has helped me find things I never noticed before when I first heard the 1000+ episodes of The Adventures of Superman in my collection.
As I said, "The Emerald of the Incas" isn't bad, but it's not perfect. For one thing, the lack of Perry White and Lois Lane brings down the quality of the story. It would have been great to hear their reactions to the events that occur. I now understand one of the complaints of the aforementioned e-mailer, and I thank him immensely for pointing out the lack of Lois and Perry in some serials. As I said before these characters are essential to Superman and Clark Kent. They bring both characters closer to humanity and give them a greater sense of family.
Another thing that bothered me is the way Superman acts in some scenes. As I said in a previous review, this Superman is more intense than most incarnations. However, there are times when he's too intense in "The Emerald of the Incas." As Clark Kent, he wards off a pack of dogs by beating them. Other versions of the character would have used his powers to try and find a way to stop the dogs without injuring them. He also seems to bully Eddie the cab driver into keeping his Superman identity a secret. I'd like to believe Clark Kent and Superman would find another solution to keep his identity secret. His behavior causes Clark/Superman's characterization to feel as wrong as it felt in the scene after he and Elsie Beecham enter Stonehouse. As Clark Kent, he doesn't hear the creaking floor before Elsie Beecham. How is that possible if he has super hearing?
There are also some holes in this story's plot that deal with the Asitlan Priests. They take a cab, use an auto-gyro and rent a sea plane. How did they get money for a taxi and a sea plane? How'd they learn to use an auto-gyro? Did they really use money, or was magic involved? These are some of the things that really could have used some explanations. No Shakespearean speeches are necessary, but the writers could have written a line or two to explain how the natives did these things.
Another thing that makes "The Emerald of the Incas" flawed is the fact that the story seems more slow than the previous story arc. For some reason that I cannot fathom, hearing the individual chapters makes this story more sluggish than when one hears all six chapters together. I tend to listen to individual chapters a few times to get a rough idea on how to write the plot summary, but I listen to the entire story while I write the review section. Individual episodes are around fifteen minutes long, but the entire story lasts for an hour and a half. Yet, some fifteen minute episodes, particularly the first two, seem to drag on their own. I wish I understood why.
"The Emerald of the Incas" isn't all bad. There are some great action scenes with Superman. I also like the fact that Superman saved the Asitlans from death and that the Beechams approved of this in spite of what the priests tried to do to them. It also shows the spirit of cooperation in the fact that Doctor Beecham and the Asitlans are willing to work together despite their differences in the past. These are good lessons for children, and it does show what really is part of the essence of the Superman character. Superman saves lives - even the lives of the ones that have harmed others. Call it superiority if you want, but this is one of the things that makes up the core of the character. The fact that the guest characters work together after their conflict gives one hope for humanity, and this is something every Superman story should do.
Frankly, I honestly expected to enjoy "The Emerald of the Incas" more than I really did. It wasn't really all bad. I just expected something as entertaining as "The Mystery of Dyerville." However, the characterization of Superman, the plot holes and a slow story do bring down the quality of the good points in "The Emerald of the Incas". Maybe "Donelli's Protection Racket" will be better. We'll find out next time together, folks.
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