Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1940: The Mayan TreasureReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: August 12, 1940-August 23, 1940
"The Mayan Treasure"
Explorer Major Evan Dover has invited Clark Kent on an expedition of some Mayan Ruins in Central America. Dover and his pilot Jack Corboy have been in the Mayan jungles before. They had had problems with the Mayan High Priest Kimado. Upon arriving, Clark is surpised to see that many of the buildings, including the Temple of Warriors, are not ruins at all. They are in a perfect state of preservation.
While Dover reads some ancient inscriptions, some natives push some large stones from the top of the Temple of Warriors. Clark pushes Dover out of the way, but the explorer hits his head on the temple's outer wall and is knocked unconscious. Clark then goes after the natives as Superman. He questions them after fighting them. One of the native tells Superman that Dover wants to take the Mayan Goddess Ashta away from the the tribe. High Priest Kimado had ordered the natives to kill Dover. Suddenly, as the native continues to talk to Superman, a poison dart hits him. The native is killed instantly.
Later, Superman resumes is guise of Clark Kent. After Major Dover has awakened, Clark asks him who Ashta is. At first, Dover is very nervous, but he eventually decides to answer Clark when Jack, who had stayed with the plane, approaches them. The pilot was worried about Major Dover and Clark and decided to search for them. Jack also says that the Mayan Chief Tasso wants to see Dover. A native boy gave Jack the message telling him so.
Before going to see the chief, Dover tells Clark of the Goddess Ashta. Ashta was one of the last of the Mayan princesses. When she died, her body was placed in one of the Mayan temples. The location of Ashta is unknown, and Dover wants to learn this secret. When Ashta died, her body was not mummified in the normal sense. It was somehow kept in a perfectly preserved state.
While Major Dover is speaking, Jack sees something moving in the tall jungle grass. Believing it's a person spying on them, the pilot fires his gun. Everyone hears what seems to be someone screaming in pain, but they see only an owl when they get closer. Dover scolds Jack for not investigating before firing his gun, but Jack swears he saw someone moving around in the brush. Clark jokes about Jack shooting the owl until Dover tells him that the owl is a sacred guardian of the dead for the Mayans. Dover then hides the owl behind a bush so the Mayans cannot find it.
After things calm down, Major Dover tells Clark how he had learned of the lifelike mummy of the Goddess Ashta. A British explorer named Mitchell had told him of Ashta. A native had told Mitchell about Ashta, and the explorer planned to search for the Mayan princess. However, Mitchell suddenly became ill and was dying when he had told Major Dover of the mummy. Mitchell had died before he could reveal if he had known of Ashta's location, but he did repeat the word "crocodile" several times before his death. There is no Temple of Crocodiles for the Mayans, but Dover believes that, with Clark's help, he can find Ashta and become rich and famous in the process despite Jack's warnings of trouble.
Dover orders Clark to stay in the camp while he talks to the Mayan chief, and Jack goes to check the airplane. Dover should be back in about an hour or so. Some hours pass, however, and Jack says that Chief Tasso hasn't seen Major Dover. He assumed the major was on the plane. Not finding the major in his tent, Clark assumes that Dover has gone to search for Ashta's temple.
Suddenly, a native comes out of nowhere. He tells Clark and Jack that Major Dover was taken by the Mayan High Priest Kimado. The native disappears before Jack or Clark can ask more of him. Clark then believes that the high priest took Dover to one of the old, destroyed buildings in the Mayan ruins. Clark has a theory and wants to check it out. Jack wants to go with him, but Clark convinces him that he needs to be near the airplane in case they need to escape.
With Jack gone, Clark changes into Superman. Superman flies over the ruins. He lands on the Temple of Warriors. He forces open the temple doors and finds Dover in the dungeon. The explorer is unconscious. The natives guarding the dungeon run in fear when they see Superman flying. Superman bends the dungeon bars and tries to wake up Dover as Clark Kent. Dover tells Clark that they're in trouble, for the natives will return and surround them at any moment. The sounds of angry natives confirm Major Dover's fears.
Suddenly, a secret door opens, and a shadowy figure motions for Clark and Major Dover to come with him through the passage. Despite the major's misgivings, the two men go through the door. Clark and Dover follow an Englishman named Albert Andrew Wellington Fitz, a deserter from His Majesty's Navy. Bert, as he calls himself, has been hiding in the Mayan jungles and ruins for nearly eleven years. He helped Clark and Major Dover because he wants to see Kimado get what he deserves, but that's all Bert's willing to say until they are out of the secret tunnels. Clark and Dover then agree to join forces with Bert to help him.
Bert hears a native signaling other Mayans with the hoot of an owl as he, Dover and Clark are about to exit the tunnels. Bert knocks the native out, but others are on the way. They eventually surround and attack the trio. With Bert and Dover out of commission, Superman takes the place of mild mannered Clark Kent. The Man of Steel makes short work of the attacking natives. Seeing Bert and Major Dover are unconscious, Superman carries them to a nearby village.
Later, after Superman has resumed his guise of Clark Kent, Bert tells him and Major Dover that Tasso wants Kimado brought down. The Mayan priest has become too powerful, and this has made Tasso extremely uncomfortable. Bert goes on to say that he's seen with his own eyes that Kimado can resurrect the mummy of Ashta. The resurrection has made Kimado more powerful and respected than even Chief Tasso.
While Burt goes to get Tasso to confirm his story, Clark and Major Dover discuss what Bert just said. Bert knows the whereabouts of Ashta's temple, and Dover will do anything to get the location from him. Clark, however, believes that knowing the temple's location is merely half the battle. If they are to learn the secrets of Ashta, they'll need to do more. They'll have to also learn more about Bert and his relationship with the Mayans.
When Bert returns, he says that he couldn't find Tasso. Dover then asks where Ashta's temple is. Bert says the location of the temple is sacred to the natives. Bert is the only white man to have seen the temple because he's Chief Tasso's right hand man. The Mayan tribe has sort of adopted Bert. Bert needs Clark and Dover's help to figure out how Kimado pulled off the resurrection of Ashta. For them to solve this mystery, they must get into Ashta's temple, and Bert has every intention of leading them to it. If Clark and the major can learn how Ashta was brought to life, Chief Tasso can possibly learn the truth about Kimado.
Ashta's temple is separated from the rest of the Mayan ruins, and it's impossible to get there without a guide. The temple is surrounded by a lake that is filled with man-eating crocodiles. It's possible to get to the temple via a road that leads from the lakeshore to the temple. This road can only be accessed when the water is half drained. The only ones that know how to drain the water are Kimado and his assistant. Bert, Dover and Clark are going to have to find out how the lake is drained. Their mission will not be easy, and there will be a lot of danger ahead. Despite all of this, Clark and Dover still agree to help Bert.
While Bert describes some of the treasure and riches in Ashta's temple, gunshots are fired. The sky has become red from what seems to be a fire near the riverbed, where the airplane that brought Major Dover, Jack Corboy and Clark Kent to the area of the Mayan civilization is located. With the excuse of going to get some natives to help, Clark becomes Superman. Our hero flies at tremendous speeds to get to Jack's plane before Bert and Major Dover. He finds that the plane itself isn't on fire, but it is surrounded by a circle of flames.
Believing Jack set the fire to protect the plane from the natives, Superman sees him unconscious on the wing of the plane. He picks up Jack and puts him inside the airplane. The Man of Tomorrow is about to carry the airplane out of the fire when Jack awakens. Superman then quickly resumes his guise of Clark Kent. Clark asks if Jack can fly the plane, but the pilot's arm is twisted. Clark says that he can fly the plane with the help of Jack's one good arm. Both men succeed in getting the plane up into the air.
While they wait for the flames to die down, Jack says he was exploring the jungles near the river because he needed the exercise. When he had reached a clearing, he had discovered the wreckage of another airplane. Before he could examine the plane further, some natives had chased him. He'd made a circle with some gasoline around his plane to start the fire. Jack had fired some gunshots to signal Major Dover and Clark, but a native's spear had knocked him out afterwards.
Just then, Clark sees Major Dover with Chief Tasso near the river bank. They are signaling to a group of natives in a war canoe before starting for the shore. Jack then sees Bert with the major, and Clark briefly tells him about what had happened in the Mayan Temple of Warriors. When Jack sees that the fire is out, Clark helps him land the plane. Clark then promises to have Tasso put some guards near the wreckage and tell the natives to not bother Jack anymore.
When Clark is ashore, Major Dover and Bert tell him that Kimado had sent the natives that attacked Jack. Clark then asks about the wrecked plane Jack had found. Bert and Tasso say that the plane crashed a couple of years ago, but the pilot never came out of it. It's assumed the pilot had parachuted out of the plane before the crash.
Forgetting about the airplane wreckage for now, Major Dover says that he, Bert and Clark will be going to the temple of Ashta tomorrow night with Tasso and some of his natives. There will be a ceremony in the temple then, and because of that, a boat can cross the lake. Clark and the others can enter the temple after Tasso and his men knock out the temple's guards.
The next night, everything seems to be going according to plan. However, Clark feels everything is going too smoothly. Tasso is attacking the temple guards. At the same time, Clark asks Major Dover to go on without him while he plays out a hunch that he has.
Meanwhile, Bert has already gone into the Temple of Ashta, while Dover and Tasso cross the lake. Suddenly, the water begins to rise, and crocodiles surround the Mayan chief and the explorer.
At the same time, Superman is examining the wrecked airplane Jack Corboy had found. He discovers that his hunch is correct. Superman flies to the Mayan village to check one more thing. When he arrives, Superman goes into a hut and finds it guarded by a native. The native hits Superman with spears, which just break on the Man of Steel's chest. Superman grabs the native and asks where the key to a chest in the corner of the hut is located. The native doesn't answer, and Superman breaks the chest open with his bare hands.
Superman finds a flier's helmet, goggles and gloves inside the chest, but before he can continue his search of the chest further, his super hearing picks up Major Dover and Chief Tasso calling for help. Superman's great speed gets him to the temple of Ashta in no time. He sees Dover and Tasso crossing the path to the temple just as the water rises and crocodiles surround them. Superman crashes through the temple walls, pushes some natives out of the way of a lever and pulls the lever. The water recedes, and the crocodiles back off. Dover and Tasso are safe. They go to the Temple of Ashta unharmed.
Superman now returns to the jungle and resumes his guise of Clark Kent. Clark catches up with Dover and Tasso. He tells them that he thought he heard some Mayans follow them. Major Dover then tells Clark about the narrow escape fom the crocodiles. Both he and Tasso are convinced Kimado was trying to keep them away from the temple.
Thinking Bert went on ahead into the temple, Tasso, Dover and Clark head for the secret tunnel that leads to an entrance into the temple. They suddenly hear somebody coming. It's Bert. He reassures everyone that Kimado does not even know that they are about to enter the Temple of Ashta. Leadng the group, Bert says that Ashta is beyond the inner temple.
Suddenly, there is the sound of rocks crashing. A cave-in has started, and Bert is nowhere to be found. The area behind Tasso, Major Dover and Clark is blocked by tons of rock. Not long afterwards, the path in front of the trio suffers the same fate. Major Dover tries to dig through the rock behind the group, while Clark moves ahead to see what he can do about the rock in front of them. He makes sure nobody can see him before he uses Superman's incredible strength to remove the rock. While clearing the rock, Superman says to himself that he believes the cave-ins were deliberate.
Upon resuming his guise of Clark Kent, the Man of Steel calls Major Dover and Chief Tasso to let them know that he's cleared away the rock. When the three men crawl out of the hole that Superman made, they are greeted by Bert. Bert then takes the group to a room full of jewels and various riches before saying that Kimado and his followers are in a room above them. He plans to take Tasso to that room as soon as they deal with Ashta. Clark then asks about a place where they can hide to observe Kimado and the others.
Bert shows them someplace he calls the perfect hiding place. It is a room where Ashta is located. The goddess suddenly opens her eyes, but before she can be examined by the intrepid group of explorers, the floor collapses out from under them. Our heroes are falling to their doom.
Meanwhile, Bert goes to meet with Kimado, who is loading chests full of gold, jewels and various riches. Believing Clark Kent, Major Evan Dover and Chief Tasso are dead, Kimado removes his native head dress. He and Bert plan to take the treasure of Ashta in Dover's plane after they deal with the pilot Jack Corboy. They then discuss if they should take Ashta with them. Bert wants to set her free so the natives believe that their goddess is still with them, but Kimado wants to make the goddess his wife. Their discussion takes a turn for the worse as the two men begin to punch each other. The fight seems to go in Bert's favor. He knocks out Kimado just before Superman arrives.
Bert punches Superman, but only gets injured in the process. Superman then reveals that he knows that Ashta is really the famous world traveller Betty Chase. The wreckage that pilot Jack Corboy had found was that of her airplane. Superman knew this because the white rose insignia she uses was on the plane's debris. For the past two years, Kimado and Bert have kept her in a state of suspended animation thanks to some herbs that are guarded by some of the Mayan women. The herbs were fed to Ms. Chase twice a day.
As for Kimado, he's really an escaped convict that Bert had found on the beach six years ago. He had killed the real high priest and replaced him. Kimado and Bert had seen Betty Chase's plane crash. They removed the real mummy of Ashta, gave Chase the herbs and put the world traveller in the place of the actual mummy. Bert and Kimado used Betty Chase as Ashta to gain the trust of the Mayans so they could steal the Mayan treasure from under the natives' noses.
While talking to Superman, Bert tries to get away. However, he falls on a knife and is killed. Superman suddenly hears the scream of Betty Chase. She's just come out of suspended animation. Superman replaces his colorful garb with that of Clark Kent and runs to her. He convinces her to come with him. Major Dover then alerts Kent that the natives are furiously surrounding the temple. Tasso tried to calm the tribe without success. Clark then tells Dover to take Ms. Chase to the top of the temple. He then uses their absence to become Superman.
The Man of Steel flies at the speed of light to the riverbed, resumes his guise of Clark Kent and gets into Major Dover's airplane with Jack Corboy. While Jack starts the plane's engines, Clark attaches two rope ladders to the wings. Jack flies over the Temple of Ashta. Both Major Dover and Betty Chase grab the rope ladders and climb aboard the airplane.
On the trip to Metropolis, Clark tells Betty about the events that led him and Major Dover to go on a search for the goddess Ashta. With Betty Chase now safe, Clark Kent can tell the true story of Ashta and Betty Chase to readers of the Daily Planet. However, what Kent doesn't realize is that another exciting assignment awaits him when he returns to Metropolis for the next serial in The Adventures of Superman.
At the end of chapter four, the announcer makes a mistake. He says that Kent and Chief Tasso are trapped in the crocodile-filled waters. Clark was changing into Superman and investigating the wrecked plane when Tasso and Major Dover were surrounded by crocodiles.
"He did the Mash. He did the Monster Mash. The Monster Mash. It was a graveyard smash."
Sorry folks, I can't resist singing that song now. My favorite holiday Halloween is near, and this story and the previous one are perfect to put one in a mood for Halloween. "The Mayan Treasure" feels like it's a tribute to the great actor Boris Karloff. There are mummies, and the actor portraying Bert seems to be trying to make his voice sound a bit like Karloff in addition to the English accent. Sure, Superman doesn't battle any mummies, but they are in the story in any case.
Another thing I noticed is that in one point or another, the past three stories had secret passages in them. I can't help but wonder if the writers often did plot devices in threes like they did with rockslides some time back. Natives have also been done in threes with "The Emerald of The Incas," "Alonzo Craig Arctic Explorer" and "The Mayan Treasure." I'm curious to find out if there will be a third missing explorer/traveler or a third relative of a Daily Planet employee in the stories to come.
I really enjoyed "The Mayan Treasure" despite the fact that I expected the rope ladders to break and Superman to save Betty Chase and Major Dover at the last second. There are some really great twists and turns in this serial. I honestly thought that Major Dover would turn out to be the villain of the story in the end. The way the character is written leads the listener to believe in the beginning that Dover has ulterior motives.
Bert and Kimado, on the other hand, were easy to figure out. I had a feeling that Bert would betray Clark and Tasso, but I thought he was partnered with both Kimado and Dover at first. Much like the film Re-Animator, the true villain isn't revealed until somewhere in the last third of the story.
Another thing I loved about "The Mayan Treasure" was the usage of some incredible cliffhangers at the end of the first five chapters. The endings put the listener on the edge of his or her seat, and they feel like they could be part of an old movie serial. There have been great cliffhangers in previous story arcs, but for some reason, the ones in "The Mayan Treasure" were stupendously done.
I also liked the revelation of Betty Chase being Ashta. I can't help but wonder if this part of "The Mayan Treasure" influenced the creation of the title character of Jungle Goddess, a film in which George Reeves starred. Sure, the Jungle Goddess wasn't in suspended animation, but the similarities to the film and this serial are numerous.
"The Mayan Treasure" was an enjoyable serial full of action and suspense and a good story. It's honestly making me impatient to hear "Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere." We'll have to wait till next time for that serial though. Until then, remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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