Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1940: Horace Morton's Weather MachineReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: June 09, 1940-June 21, 1940
"Horace Morton's Weather Machine"
Lois Lane's Uncle Horace Morton is a professor in meteorology. His observatory is located on top of Music Mountain outside of New Birmingham. Morton lives alone in the observatory with his assistant Elmer Rogers. Morton's weather predictions in the past year have been 100% accurate, and Perry White wants Lois and Clark Kent to find out how.
On the rainy trip to Music Mountain, a car stops Lois and Clark. Some men pull guns on the Daily Planet reporters. They steal Lois and Clark's car to get away from the police that are pursuing them. Clark and Lois try to follow them in the thieves' car, but the bandits took the keys with them. Clark tells Lois to stay in the car to keep warm while he finds a telephone to call the police. He actually is following the stolen car as Superman. The car hits the Man of Steel and goes into a ditch. Our hero then knocks out the thieves before the police arrive.
Later, Lois and Clark have rented another car. When they arrive at Music Mountain, Lois tells Clark of a note she found in the thieves' car. It says that the professor promised a storm at 3:30. The thieves took off with some payroll money in New Birmingham at that exact same hour. Lois believes the note is talking about her Uncle Horace. When she and Clark get to her uncle's observatory to speak with the meteorologist, a frightened Elmer Rogers wants to speak with them. However, footsteps coming downstairs interrupt him. Doctor Horace Morton greets Lois and Clark and talks with them in his laboratory.
Meanwhile, Rogers receives a telephone call from a man named Mr. Collins at 10:30. He reminds Rogers of Morton's prediction for hail and fog at 10:45. Rogers has misgivings about Mr. Collins' Syndicate improperly using Professor Morton, but Collins threatens him into silence.
At the same time, Professor Morton is demonstrating his machines' abilities to change the weather with electricity and a camera-like viewer. Professor Morton calls it the Morton System. He asks Clark to call the weather service for the forecast. The service says that it will be clear and cool. Uncle Horace then predicts for fog and a bad hail storm. He then flips some switches on his machines before leaving Lois and Clark.
Lois and Clark are now outside talking on the balcony. Clark doesn't believe that Morton's machinery can change the weather. Before he and Lois can discuss this further, Morton's fog and a hail storm arrive. The pair of reporters then hear what sounds like a gunshot from inside the house. Clark then finds that Elmer Rogers has been shot dead at close range, and the gun that killed him is on a bench near the body. Uncle Horace then comes downstairs. He picks up the murder weapon despite Clark's ordering him not to do so. His fingerprints are now on the gun. Doctor Morton then becomes nervous when Clark suggests he call the police. The professor goes to call the police despite his nervousness.
After Morton leaves the room, Clark tells Lois that he suspects that her Uncle killed Rogers. When Uncle Horace says that the storm must have caused damage to the phone lines, Clark leaves the observatory to find the police. He uses Superman's superhuman speed and finds them at a bank in New Birmingham. There is a frenzied mob of people around the bank. After Clark Kent tells about Rogers' murder, a police officer tells Clark Kent that a gang held up the bank during the hail storm. They also trapped three special officers inside the vault.
The vault has a time locked door that won't open until tomorrow morning. The officers risk suffication, but Superman breaks open the vault door and saves the trapped people. The police see Superman leave the bank, but he flies back to Music Mountain before they can catch up to him. When he returns as Clark Kent, he finds the door to Doctor Morton's observatory unlocked, and Lois and her uncle are nowhere to be seen.
When the police arrive, Clark explains what had happened in the observatory. The police find radium ore in Elmer Rogers' hand before they help Clark search for Horace Morton and Lois Lane. Lois is still nowhere to be seen, but Morton was found inside his lab in the cellar. He's been working on refining the same radium ore that was in Rogers' hand. However, he does not know where Lois is. The police believe that Rogers stole the radium ore, and they think Morton killed Rogers for stealing the ore. Morton is then arrested for the murder of Rogers.
During the search for Lois, Clark sees two pairs of tire tracks. He follows the tracks as Superman and sees a black car following Lois' coupe. Lois' car gets knocked into the lake by its pursuer. Superman then saves the uncionscious Lois after the car lands in the water. Lois then wakes up near Clark Kent in a man's truck. The truck came along just as Lois and Clark came out of the lake. Lois then explains what happened to her.
She overheard some men talking when they arrived at Morton's observatory. They killed Rogers and were committing crimes during the storms that Horace Morton had predicted. However, Morton isn't just predicting the weather, he's somehow creating it. The criminals are using Morton to make bad weather as a diversion for their crimes. Rogers knew about it and threatened to tell the police. This is why Morton's assistant was killed. Lois had heard eveything the men had said, and they followed her in their car.
Clark asks the truck driver to go to the jail so they can tell the police that Horace Morton is innocent. However, when he and Lois arrive, the police say that the meteorologist has disappeared without a trace.
Lois and Clark later try to find answers at the radium plant, which is located on the steepest part of Music Mountain. This part of the mountain is starting to erode because of the recent rains, and people are starting to evacuate the area before a disaster occurs.
Lois and Clark are going to see Hilo Fales, the acting head of the factory that sends the radium to Horace Morton for refinement. Fales says he knows nothing beyond the fact that Morton was working on a simpler way to refine the ore. He also nearly tells them that Morton is alive. Fales then gets a call saying that it's raining on the top of Music Mountain, and the mountain will come down if more rain comes.
Clark then realizes that Fales seemed to be scared for their safety before getting that call. While Lois goes to help the evacuation efforts, Clark overhears Fales on the phone again. He is speaking with Collins. Fales is working with Collins to steal the radium, and they're using Horace Morton to find a simpler way to refine it. They plan to use Morton's weather machines to create a rain that will bring down Music Mountain at 10:00 tonight. In the confusion of the mountain's demise, Collins and Fales intend to steal the radium. Clark tells Lois of Fales' conversation, but she doesn't believe him. He then convinces her when he says that he thinks Collins is forcing Horace Morton to work with them.
The two Daily Planet reporters later search Morton's observatory. While Lois searches another part of the observatory, Superman brings a wall down on Collins. He then finds Horace Morton in a state of shock. He resumes his guise of Clark Kent and calls to Lois. Morton then says that the rain will create a rockslide that will destroy Forest Hill Pass, which is on the same path that buses full of childen and the radium trucks will be using to evacuate Music Mountain. Unfortunately, it's too late for Morton to stop the storm.
Clark leaves Lois and her uncle to see what he can do as Superman. He sees the radium truck drivers run away and leave the trucks behind. He dumps the radium and uses the empty trucks to block the rockslide. The buses make it to Forest Hill Pass, and the children are safe.
Later, Clark Kent is with Lois talking to her Uncle Horace. He refuses to give them a newspaper story. After his experience with Collins he prefers to leave the weather to nature. Lois and Clark don't have a story to give to Perry White, but another one awaits them in the next serial in The Adventures of Superman.
Before I begin this story's review, I'd like to thank some people. First, I'd like to thank Fred Shay for taking the time to let me interview him recently. Speaking with him was an honor and a pleasure. He's one of the greatest people in the world. His love, dedication and hard work to preserve Hollywood's history show in everything he does, and his friendship with Kirk Alyn speaks volumes in his kind words about the silver screen's first Superman. Thank you Mr. Shay for a fun, informative and entertaining conversation.
I'd like to also thank Steve Younis, who suggested that I interview Mr. Shay. Thank you for trusting me with such a wonderful and fun task.
Last but not least, I'd like to thank all of you that have commented and emailed me regarding my radio show reviews and my interview with Mr. Shay. Your comments on the Superman Homepage and e-mails mean a lot to me. If I haven't replied to anyone's emails as of this writing, I'll respond as soon as possible. I thank all of you again for writing. Now, on with the review.
I don't know exactly what I was expecting before listening to "Horace Morton's Weather Machine." I guess the best way I can describe my expectations this way. The title leads one to believe that it will have the campy pseudo-science of something along the lines of the Adam West Batman series. I have nothing against that at all, but these radio serials have a different feeling in respect to that of the 1960s Batman. There is the pseudo-science, but it's far from campy. Plus, it's not touched on as much as the radium ore and the murder of Elmer Rogers.
I noticed a pattern in the past three serial stories, including this one. There were always rockslides in some way, shape or form. I'm guessing the writers wanted to show that Superman could stop a rockslide. Granted, last week's review had ice instead of rocks, but it was technically a slide. I really don't mind the slides as long as they work well for the story, and they work splendidly in "Horace Morton's Weather Machine."
It was good to finally have Lois in a story after not having heard her since "Donelli's Protection Racket". I kind of felt like something was missing from previous stories that didn't have Lois. I liked seeing her more involved in the story because of her uncle's situation with Collins, but I've always liked when the supporting cast in the Superman lore have more of a part in the story. Sure the stories should be Superman stories, but, in my opinion it's people like Lois and Perry that make Superman what he is.
I really liked how Lois is starting to become a friend to Clark. One sees this when she and Clark joke around on the way to Music Mountain. Lois started out as a rival and really had a strong dislike for Clark, but, as the two characters get to know each other, they become friends and a lot more through the decades. There's a chemistry between them even in their radio incarnations. This is important to the Superman legend, and it's something that seemed to be lacking between Kate Basworth and Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. Without that chemistry, the character interaction doesn't work. From the comic books to Tom Welling and Erica Durance in Smallville, the Lois and Clark relationship and chemistry have worked well and have become an important part of Superman.
One small drawback to "Horace Morton's Weather Machine" is the Collins character. He seems to be the mastermind of these weather crimes, but he's only in a few scenes throughout the story. It is unclear if he's the head of the Syndicate he mentions to Elmer Rogers or if someone is commanding him. I was really hoping Collins was either working for the Yellow Mask or was actually the Yellow Mask himself. Maybe that's because the same actor that played Collins voiced the Yellow Mask in previous story arcs. In any case, the whole Collins/Syndicate thing left more questions than answers. Hopefully, we haven't seen the last of this Syndicate. If they return, maybe my questions will be answered.
Aside from the problem with Collins, I found the story rather entertaining. It had action, suspense and even a murder mystery. I honestly saw Kirk Alyn stopping the rockslide and saving the police officers from dying in the bank vault, but maybe talking with Fred Shay had more of an influence on me than I thought. I'll have to thank him for that as well.
Next time, we have "Hans Hobin's Doll Factory." Will we see a radio version of the Toyman, or will it be more like Full Moon Entertainment's Puppet Master films? We'll find out next week. Until then, keep smiling, and remember to look up in the sky.
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