Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1947: The Man Without a FaceReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: March 18, 1947-April 08, 1947
"The Man Without a Face"
As you recall, Clark Kent and Lois Lane were to meet Bucky Taylor, son of a Daily Planet reporter that was killed during the war to prevent him from giving the newspaper an important scoop. Unfortunately, the young charge of editor Perry White has gone missing. Captain Barker, commander of the passenger ship on which Bucky was aboard, says that he doesn't know what happened to the boy. He never showed up for lunch and dinner at the captain's table. Once Captain Barker realized that Bucky was no longer in his cabin, he had ordered the door to be locked. All of Bucky's luggage, which included an old typewriter that belonged to his father Hobie Taylor, are still inside. However, when Clark, Lois and the skipper enter, they find that the room looked as if someone had broken into it. Further examination reveals that there was a folded paper hidden inside the writing machine. The words "Philippe 25 Rue Frontenac" were written on it. Now, Superman must fly to France for clues to Hobie Taylor's discovery and his son Bucky's whereabouts.
With the aid of French police and directories, Superman has found Philippe Du Lac in a rooming house in Lahave, France. As Clark Kent, he finds that someone has knocked out, bound and gagged the man for whom he has been searching. He also learns that this person is not Philippe Du Lac. He is, in fact, Herbert Kawkins, the English detective who had almost discovered Superman's secret identity. His presence leaves more questions in this mystery for the Man of Steel. Where are Bucky Taylor and Philippe Du Lac, and how is Herbert Kawkins involved in this adventure?
Kawkins has revealed that he was to meet with Philippe Du Lac, who is a member of British Intelligence about something that is connected to what Hobie and Bucky Taylor knew. Someone called the Man Without a Face is plotting against the World Peace Organization. Philippe was to help Kawkins with his investigation. Kawkins and Kent search Du Lac's room for clues that could assist them in this mystery. Finding nothing, Clark and Kawkins ask Dorio, the rooming house proprietor, for aid. The elderly man shows them a trunk belonging to Philippe. It seems empty, but before there can be further examination, the sound of a window opening is heard. Then, suddenly, an explosion rips through the cellar, and the mysterious box belonging to Philippe is now in pieces. Someone is clearly trying to prevent Superman and Herbert Kawkins from learning the truth.
Clark has moved Kawkins and Dorio out of danger as the hand grenade that was thrown through the basement window has blown up. He later tells of what he saw inside the lining of the trunk before it was destroyed. Two photographs were placed under the box's lining. One was of Hobie Taylor with his son Bucky, and the other was of a man Kent had never seen before. The mild mannered reporter asks a sketch artist to draw the person's face. French authorities have no record of the man. However, Clark and Kawkins place a picture of him in newspapers all over France Kent later receives a phone call from someone named Jean Benoit claiming to know the identity of the fellow in the snapshot. Clark and Kawkins are to meet him at 12 Rue Marguerite for further information. Will our hero learn what he needs to know, or have he and Kawkins been led into a trap?
Kawkins and Clark have arrived at 12 Rue Marguerite only to find that Jean Benoit and his partner Francois have ambushed them. After smashing a lamp, Kent uses Superman's strength to knock out the men. Kawkins is still suspicious that Clark is the Man of Steel, but he will have to wait to confirm that. He must question Benoit once he awakens. Benoit later tells Kawkins and Clark that Philippe Du Lac was taken to a warehouse in the docks. Superman must now scour the harbor in search of his only lead to the whereabouts of Bucky Taylor.
Clark has let Kawkins know that Philippe has been found. He was shot, but the doctors at the hospital are giving him a blood transfusion. Later, Philippe reveals to Kawkins that the man in the sketch that Clark had placed in French newspapers is really the Man Without a Face, and he possibly has captured Bucky Taylor. Superman must fly to Bavaria, Germany to find the boy. Meanwhile, in a castle on the southern French coast, the Man Without a Face is interrogating about Hobie's story about the plot against the World Peace Organization. The lad refuses to answer because he claims to know nothing. The villain doesn't believe him and has given him thirty seconds to tell the truth. Otherwise, the room in which Bucky is being held will fill with water. The boy will most certainly drown if Superman cannot save him.
Clark Kent is at the Russian Government Military Headquarters in Bavaria speaking to Colonel Ivan Stroganoff. He shows the sketch that was drawn in France. Stroganoff says that the man Kent saw in the photo in Philippe's trunk is Count Von Ludor, a right hand man of Adolf Hitler who was called "Hitler's Brain,". It is believed that Von Ludor committed suicide, but no body was ever found. Kent and Stroganoff are looking over paperwork about Von Ludor. They learn that Von Ludor had a castle in Cop Grenier on the southern coast of France, where Bucky Taylor stalls for time by talking to the Man Without a Face. Will Superman save him before it's too late?
Water is surrounding Bucky Taylor as Superman arrives. He saves Bucky, but the boy may have told the Man Without a Face where he had hidden the story of the plot against the World Peace Organization, in a German concentration camp on the French border called Orginburg. Superman and Bucky fly there in hopes of getting there before the Man Without a Face. Unfortunately, Hobie's article is gone. Bucky's father only told him two names of people involved, but he cannot remember them. Superman might not be able to stop the Man Without a Face.
Bucky is recalling that two operatives will be placed in the right area at the correct moment for the Man Without a Face. It isn't much to go on, but it may help Clark Kent to assist the lad by showing a list of names of everyone working for the World Peace Organization in hopes that Bucky will recognize the two that work for the the Man Without a Face. Kent and young Taylor go to the WPO after arriving at the Daily Planet to greet Perry White and Lois Lane. Elsewhere, two middle-aged, distinguished men are receiving a message. The Man Without a Face his about to arrive with Hobie Taylor's article. It won't be long before they must proceed with the villain's sinister plan.
As Bucky and Clark look at list after list of the people affiliated with the WPO, Count Von Ludor, the Man Without a Face, is going over his plan with his two agents. He wants them to impersonate Delegates Rinassi and Shalin Shah with the aid of masks. The real peacekeepers will be dealt with at a dinner tonight. Once the doppelgangers are in place, they will make speeches written by Von Ludor that will destroy the WPO. Meanwhile, Clark and Buck have found the names of Rinassi and Shalin Shah, knowing that these world leaders are pacifists, Kent has the idea that maybe the two men are impostors. He and Bucky must now see Stewart Morgan, Chief Federal Investigator for the World Peace Organization. Will they be too late to stop the Man Without a Face?
Stewart Morgan and Clark Kent are questioning both Rinassi and Shalin Shah at a WPO dinner. Satisfied that they are who they seem to be, they return to Morgan's office. Meanwhile, Bucky Taylor and Lois Lane are waiting for Clark when Herbert Kawkins calls the Daily Planet. He has a lead to where Count Von Ludor's men are hiding out - at 233 Mulberry Drive in the West Acres suburb south of Metropolis. Knowing that she mustn't let Bucky out of her sight, Lois takes the boy with her. However, as they get closer to the dark house, they are unaware that they are trapped. Lois and Bucky are about to walk into the evil clutches of the Man Without a Face.
Lois and Bucky have been captured by the Man Without a Face. Lois is forced to tell the villain all she knows when Von Ludor points a gun at Bucky. Meanwhile Herbert Kawkins has called Clark Kent from England. He has given the mild mannered reporter the same information in which he had relayed to Lois. Superman then rockets to Von Ludor's hideout only to find that there is nobody within its walls. Our hero may now be too late to save Lois and Bucky wherever they are.
Perry White is outside of Von Ludor's empty house in West Acres as Superman searches for clues to Lois and Bucky's location. The Man of Steel must resume his guise of Clark Kent before the chief frantically enters. Both Kent and White look at an envelope full of photographs that the former had saved from burning in the fireplace. They are images of Rinassi and Shalin Shah, who will be at a State Department dinner tonight. Clark is convinced that the two delegates are connected to the sinister plot of the Man Without a Face. The villain in question intends to capture the two men and replace them with his masked agents. The henchmen will make statements of being attacked by a member nation of the WPO. This will help escalate into another world war. This diabolical plan is Von Ludor's key to destroying the World Peace Organization.
Clark and Perry have left Stewart Morgan's office and are heading for the State Department reception when they see a clock showing the hour of 12:10 AM. The party ended ten minutes ago, and Clark must save Rinassi and Shalin Shah as Superman. However, Perry will not let him leave despite Kent saying that he must find Superman. Now the mild mannered reporter tells his editor to prepare for a shock. Will Clark reveal his secret identity to Perry?
Clark was forced to knock out Perry in order to change into Superman. He places White in a taxi to the Daily Planet and removes his reporter's garb in order to begin his search for Rinassi and Shalin Shah. Not finding them at the State Department or their homes, Superman flies through the city to look for them with his superhuman eyes. Meanwhile, Lois Lane and Bucky Taylor are tied up with wire in a fourth floor room in the new hideout of the Man Without a Face. They see from the window that the two delegates are being led at gunpoint by Von Ludor's men into the house. Seeing a cigarette lighter on the coffee table, Lois grabs it with her bound hands in hopes of setting the curtains ablaze. Hopefully, Superman will see the fire before the Man Without a Face replaces Rinassi and Shalin Shah with impostors.
Superman has swooped into Von Ludor's home in time to save Rinassi, Shalin Shah, Bucky and Lois. The Man Without a Face and his devious scheme have been stopped. The World Peace Organization is safe once again. Later, in the offices of the Daily Planet, Perry wants to thank the Man of Steel for his efforts in fighting intolerance. He orders Clark Kent to write about Superman's greatest adventure. Going through the newspaper archives. Kent recounts how Anthah from the planet Utopia had spoken to Jimmy Olsen because he must contact our hero. Anthah must eat red beans to keep him floating because Earth has different gravity from the alien's home world. He proves this by allowing the cub reporter to lift him into the air. Jimmy is flabbergasted to see that he can actually do this. How is this possible? What does this being from another planet want with the Man of Tomorrow? "The Mystery of the Lost Planet" will help Clark remember Superman's strangest adventure, gang. Be here in one week to see what is in store in the next serial of The Adventures of Superman.
While the title character's dialogue can be a bit melodramatic at times, "The Man Without a Face" was an action packed serial full of the cloak and dagger of a Speed Gibson radio show. I really can't find anything in this story that bothered me. Perhaps this is because last week's arc disappointed me so much that I was expecting something almost as bad or worse. However, this one was really fun.
One thing I noticed in recent serials in The Adventures of Superman is that Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen have been alternated. When Jimmy shows up in a story, Lois is nowhere to be seen and vice versa. This is not a complaint. It is merely an observation, and I admit to having a curiosity as to the reasons for this. Perhaps both Joan Alexander and Jackie Kelk had other commitments. The latter, among his other roles, did portray Homer Brown in The Aldrich Family, and Alexander was probably working on other things. Maybe switching Jimmy and Lois helped their work and home lives become more balanced.
Herbert Kawkins returns in "The Man Without a Face," and he's still convinced that Clark Kent is Superman after meeting Kent in France. I didn't think that the tenacious detective had given up on his suspicions so easily when he last encountered the Man of Steel. I honestly hoped that this character would come back, and I got my wish with this serial. His appearance, while feeling more like a brief cameo than a guest spot in the story arc, doesn't disappoint. I hope we see more of the Super Sleuth.
Count Ludor, "The Man Without a Face," does, as I said, have some melodramatic dialogue in some spots, but he is otherwise the perfect villain for this serial. It's been quite some time since I've seen a villain of his caliber in these radio shows. "The Man Without a Face" is right up there with the Scarlet Widow and the Yellow Mask. Let's hope future foes of the Man of Steel are this good.
All in all, "The Man Without a Face" was an incredible adventure with a great villain and lots of action. We even get a taste of next week's serial when Superman remembers "The Mystery of the Lost Planet." We'll have to wait seven days or so to get to that one, Superfans. Until next week, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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