Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1946: Al Vincent's Corrupt Political MachineReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: May 21, 1946-June 07, 1946
"Al Vincent's Corrupt Political Machine"
Lois Lane has just received a threatening phone call. She is not to go to the rally for District Attorney Henry Marshall's campaign for mayor of Metropolis, where she is to give a speech. If she's there, something bad will happen. Lois says that she'll not be scared off so easily. Despite being slightly nervous about speaking at the rally, Lois shows Jimmy Olsen, who's covering the event for the Daily Planet, that she isn't afraid of threats. However, rowdy youth supporters of the corrupt Martin Higgins don't give Lois much of a chance to speak as they overturn the sound truck from where she is talking. Lois gets a sprained ankle, and Jimmy has a black eye. They aren't seriously hurt, but this proves that Higgins will stop at nothing to get elected.
An hour has passed since the sound truck at the Marshall rally was tipped over. Martin Higgins' assistants Joe Keenan and Al Vincent are discussing the events in the latter's office in the slums of Metropolis when their boss calls. Some letters written by the shady politician have gone missing. These papers prove that Higgins is tied with gangsters. It is believed that his secretary took them and gave them to Tony Sloan, reporter for the Daily Planet. Vincent then must come up with a plan. He must make sure the notes are returned to his boss no matter what it takes to get them.
Al Vincent is now speaking to a young girl named Mary Hinick, also known as Chickie. She is to get a job at the Daily Planet in order to spy for the pawn shop owner/racketeer and get Martin Higgins' letters. This shouldn't be difficult because Chickie had taken a journalism class that Lois had taught at the local settlement house last year. She is to say that her father died, and she must work to support her mother and younger sisters. Vincent's plan goes into motion shortly after Lois, Jimmy, Clark Kent and Perry White are discussing Tony Sloan's getting Higgins' papers. Lois talks with Chickie and offers her a job as an office girl after hearing her story. Vincent's scheme has worked, and the Daily Planet staff will now be unwitting pawns of Martin Higgins.
Perry has reluctantly hired Mary/Chickie. Shortly afterwards, Tony Sloan calls. He has new evidence showing that Martin Higgins' partner Al Vincent is running a school for juvenile delinquent thieves in the back of his pawn shop. The racketeer is to meet with his gang of youths tonight. Clark and Metropolis Police Inspector William Henderson are to meet Tony at the shady store at 9:00 PM in order to get Vincent. Sloan will give Clark the Higgins' letters after Vincent is arrested. Mary suddenly becomes white. She tells Lois and the others that she got scared because Vincent was cruel to her when she wanted to sell something to him. However, the truth of the matter is that she later reports to Vincent's men of the raid that will happen later. Tony Sloan, Clark Kent and Inspector Henderson could very well be walking into a trap.
Tony Sloan has just been grabbed by some of Al Vincent's men before he can meet with Clark and Inspector Henderson. Despite not finding Sloan, Henderson and Kent search Vincent's pawn shop, but they find absolutely nothing that can incriminate him. Clark feels that Vincent was tipped off on the raid. Henderson, however, believes that Sloan gave them false information. Clark later convinces Henderson that someone told Vincent to expect the police after telling the inspector that he found Sloan's wallet and signs of a struggle. Further examination tells Clark that Sloan was taken somewhere by car. Before Henderson can return to the area of Vincent's store, Clark, as Superman, follows some tire tracks to the Metropolis Bridge. Whoever grabbed Tony Sloan threw him in the river. The mighty Man of Steel might be too late to save Sloan and bring down the corrupt Martin Higgins and Al Vincent.
Superman has found Tony Sloan under a dock after much time. The reporter later meets with Perry White, Lois Lane and Clark Kent after being saved by the Man of Steel and checked by a doctor. He tells his co-workers that three of Al Vincent's men grabbed him. Someone named Chickie had tipped Higgins off about Henderson's raid. An envelope that the thugs took from Tony was full of empty paper. The Martin Higgins letters were mailed to Perry because Sloan figured something like the attack on him might happen. Now, Higgins and his gangster ties can be exposed in the Daily Planet.
Al Vincent has discovered the empty paper. He calls Mary Hinick/Chickie to order her to find out what Sloan had done with the Higgins papers. She wants no part of Vincent's plan anymore, but he forces her to go along by making her believe that she will be arrested for juvenile delinquency. Figuring that Sloan told Lois and the others where he put the letters, Vincent wants Chickie to learn this information. Otherwise, the crooked pawn broker will find other ways of making Lois talk.
An angry Lois has just left Clark Kent's car to enter her apartment. Clark had expressed suspicions about Mary because she was the only person besides Perry, Lois and Kent himself that knew of Inspector Henderson's raid on Al Vincent's pawn shop. Meanwhile, Vincent's car has brought Mary to an area not far from where Lois lives. She will soon have the perfect opportunity to ask the star reporter about Higgins' papers.
Mary has gotten the information about Higgins' letters from Lois. Al Vincent has ordered her to go to the newspaper before the 6:30 AM postman arrives and get the envelope with the proof against Martin Higgins. She doesn't want to go through with it because Lois has been so nice to her, but Vincent holds Mary's criminal past over her head. She arrives at the Daily Planet just in time to go through the morning mail. However, Jimmy Olsen arrives before she can take what Al Vincent needs. She introduces herself and helps the cub reporter bring packages and mail to Perry White's office. She is about to attack Jimmy when Perry and Clark Kent enter. They look through the various postal arrivals. They find the Higgins papers that link the politician to various gangsters and racketeers throughout Metropolis. The letters will be published in the Daily Planet everyday until Martin Higgins is brought to justice.
Jimmy has been ordered to lock the Higgins letters in the newspaper morgue and put the key in Perry's desk. He goes to the morgue after running into Mary Hinick, who claimed to need something to do because school was closed. Shortly afterwords, a process server has warned the Daily Planet staff that Martin Higgins has filed a slander suit against them for one million dollars in damages. Clark reassures the chief that the Higgins papers in the morgue will serve as proof in the newspaper's favor. However, when Perry and the others go down there, they find the notes missing. There seems to be no way to stop Martin Higgins and prevent his criminal activities.
While the Daily Planet is frantically being searched for Martin Higgins' letters and Clark Kent's suspicions of Mary Hinick deepen, the girl and Al Vincent meet with Higgins himself to give to papers to the corrupted politician. Higgins discovers that one of the notes is missing. There is much arguing between Vincent, Higgins and Chickie, but after some time, the young thief retraces her steps. She may have dropped one of the papers in the closet of Lois Lane's office when she went to get her coat and an envelope in which to place the letters. She'll have to go back to the newspaper to search for it. Chickie finds the note in the closet, but Lois catches her after she calls Vincent. Desperate, Mary takes a paper weight and strikes the star reporter on the head. Chickie may have gone too far. Lois might be seriously injured or worse - dead.
Chickie has just called Al Vincent for aid. Shortly afterwards, he has sent two men to help her with Lois. Meanwhile, Clark Kent has learned from Mary's mother that her father is not dead. He is, in fact, in a sanitarium for tuberculosis. Mary herself has been skipping school. She even did this today despite saying to the Daily Planet staff that there was no school today.
Clark has just called Jimmy Olsen. He is to go back to the newspaper offices to pick up Lois for a meeting with Inspector Henderson at 9:00 PM. Clark, in the meantime, promises to find the person who took the Higgins letters, and he plans to do so as Superman.
Two of Al Vincent's men have just reassured Mary Hinick that Lois isn't dead. However, they will have to take her to Vincent so he can deal with her. They are about to leave Lois' office when Jimmy arrives. Now, they must hide behind the opened door and wait for the right moment to strike the cub reporter as he sees the unconscious form of Lois Lane on the floor. The two thugs knock Jimmy out and take him and Lois with Chickie to see Al Vincent. Unfortunately, Superman is nowhere nearby to help his friends.
Clark Kent, who has had no luck in finding Chickie, has entered Inspector Henderson's office to meet with him and Perry White. Seeing that Jimmy and Lois are not there, Clark becomes worried as he tells Perry and Henderson that he believes that Mary Hinick had stolen the Higgins papers from the Daily Planet. His calls to the newspaper offices and Lois' home are not answered. Clark then decides to leave Henderson and White to go on the fastest search possible for Lois and Jimmy as Superman.
Chickie is now with Al Vincent. He wants to make things look like Lois and Jimmy died in an accident. Mary wants nothing to do with murder, but Vincent threatens her. If Chickie doesn't go along with the racketeer, she's sure to get the electric chair for kidnapping Lois and Jimmy. Mary Hinick may not have a choice but to follow along with Vincent's vicious plans.
Clark and Perry have just returned to the Daily Planet. The elevator operator says Lois, Jimmy and Mary Hinick went up to the offices, but they never came down. After seeing the furniture in Lois' office out of place, Clark leaves to search for her and Jimmy as Superman. However, even the Man of Steel's great speed might not save them in time, for as Mary, who isn't believed by Lois or Jimmy, tries to save the two reporters, one of Al Vincent's men is about to enter the basement where they are being kept prisoner. Superman may be too late to save his friends.
After making noise like they want out, Lois and Jimmy hear the thug go back to Al Vincent. They reluctantly trust Mary Hinick, who is now helping them find a means of escaping the racketeers. At the same time, Clark Kent, in the guise of a gangster, learns of Vincent's location. However, he may not get there in time to help Mary, Lois and Jimmy in his true identity of Superman. Al Vincent and his men have caught the reporters and Chickie trying to leave the basement through the coal bin, and the gangsters' guns are ready to shoot to kill.
While Mary, Lois and Jimmy are taken on a Sedan ride, Clark is confronting Al Vincent. He finds a buckle from some shoes that he had given Lois for Christmas. The confident Vincent shoots Kent, but the bullets bounce off. The reporter punches the gangster and takes him for a flight on The Superman Express. It takes some time, but Vincent eventually talks after being dropped a few times. However the Man of Steel may be too late. Lois, Mary and Jimmy are knocked unconscious and placed into an old Coupe. The car is then pushed down a hill by Vincent's men. At the bottom of the hill is an abandoned quarry filled with water. All hope seems lost for the trio.
Superman has turned Al Vincent over to the police and speeds to save Lois, Jimmy and Mary. He arrives just before the old Coupe's front wheels hit the water. Mary, Jimmy and Lois are now safe thanks to Superman.
Martin Higgins and Al Vincent have just been sent to prison for their crimes, and Henry Marshall is the new mayor of Metropolis. He promises to remove the slums and provide housing and playgrounds for the former tenement residents. In the juvenile court, Mary Hinick is given her sentence. She is originally given three years in reform school. However, in light of her confessions of Vincent and Higgins' crimes to Inspector Henderson and helping Jimmy and Lois, Mary is placed in Lois' custody. They later discuss going to the Unity House baseball game with Jimmy and Clark. Jimmy manages the youth center's team and will get everyone passes. Everything seems right as rain for our hero and his friends, but the menace of "The Clan of the Fiery Cross" lurks in the dark corners of Metropolis. Tune in next week, boys and girls, to see how Superman will deal with this new threat.
"Al Vincent's Corrupt Political Machine" isn't a bad story. However, its message about stopping juvenile delinquency comes across about as subtly as a stampede of elephants in an antique shop. The meaning is a good one, but the writing seems similar to that of Ed Wood's "The Violent Years." It's, overall, a nice effort, but this serial needed some improvements.
The acting is so overdone that it would make every performance by William Shatner in T.J. Hooker seem like Olivier in Hamlet. This makes it difficult for the audience to take "Al Vincent's Corrupt Political Machine" seriously despite its important lesson. Even the main cast doesn't seem to have their heart in their portrayals like they normally do. How can the children of 1946 be expected to care about juvenile delinquency if Superman seems to have phoned in his dialogue from the telephone booth in which he's changing? Perhaps Bud Collyer was having a difficult period, but whatever the case may be, even his normally great line delivery seems lackluster.
Corrupt political figures are not new to Superman. In fact, Siegel and Shuster used one in their first story in Action Comics #1. However, the mayoral candidate Martin Higgins is only heard from in one chapter. It would have been nicer to have more appearances of the character. The story could have easily been written to show him and Al Vincent working together to kill Lois and Jimmy while, at the same time, appearing squeaky clean like Lex Luthor in the Post-Crisis comic books.
As I said, "Al Vincent's Corrupt Political Machine" isn't all bad. I did like the fact that Lois took Mary under her wing. This showed a side to the character that isn't seen very often. Still, much like "Spock's Brain" in Star Trek: The Original Series, the story had potential, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully, the same won't be said of "The Clan of the Fiery Cross" next week. We'll find out when we meet again, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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