Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1940: Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: August 26, 1940-September 20, 1940

"Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere"

Professor A.B. Thorpe, a friend of Perry White's, has invented a new Bathesphere that can allow for complete freedom of movement on the ocean floor while he studies the marine life. The bathesphere can go down about a quarter of a mile. Thorpe wants to use the bathesphere to study unusual marine life

While Professor Thorpe explains this to Clark Kent, Perry receives a phonecall. A few hours ago, the professor's boat, the Juanita, sailed away from Key West, where it was docked. Thorpe's bathesphere was on the boat at the time it left. Believing the boat was stolen, Clark and Perry want to call the Coast Guard. However, Thorpe doesn't want the authorities involved because he doesn't want bad publicity. Clark suddenly suggests taking the Daily Planet's seaplane to follow the Juanita.

When the plane lands near the Juanita, it's fired upon by Captain Maddox and the rest of the ship's crew despite Thorpe's calling to out to identify himself. Thorpe is then knocked into the water in the confusion. Clark quickly changes into Superman and dives into the murky waters to save Professor Thorpe. Upon saving the professor and bringing him aboard the Juanita, Superman resumes his guise of Clark Kent.

Suddenly, Captain Maddox orders the crew to stop shooting once he sees Professor Thorpe. Thorpe asks why Maddox shot at Clark and him. Maddox says he was just following the professor's orders. Seeing that the professor is confused, Maddox shows him a telegram. The telegram says that Maddox should leave Key West and go on to San Monican Island without Professor Thorpe. Maddox was ordered to shoot any ship or plane that follows the Juanita. Thorpe says that he never sent a telegram despite seeing the name A.B. Thorpe written on the message. Thorpe then notices that Maddox's head and face are bandaged, but he plans discuss the captain's injuries and the telegram later after Maddox says his injuries aren't serious.

On the way to Thorpe's cabin, Clark tells Thorpe that he's suspicious of Maddox. The scientist and Clark then hear a tapping coming from the ship's hold, where the engines are located. It's a Morse code message of S.O.S. Someone needs help. Kent and Thorpe search frantically the source of the tapping, but the noise stops suddenly. Clark then acts like he hears something. He asks Professor Thorpe to check the forward end of the hold while he checks the other side. Clark heard some heavy, labored breathing, and as Superman, he wants to check who's doing it.

Superman twists open a steel bulkhead door. He then finds a man bound and gagged on the floor, resumes his guise of Clark Kent and frees the man. When Professor Thorpe arrives, he reveals that the man Clark/Superman freed is Captain Maddox out of uniform.

Maddox explains how he got into the ship's hold. Sparks, the radio operator was talking to the captain when someone knocked him on the back of the head. Captain Maddox lost consciousness and woke up in the hold. When Clark tells him that he believes that the bandaged Maddox is an impostor out to steal Professor Thorpe's bathesphere, the real Maddox agrees to help Clark and Professor Thorpe stop the thief's plans.

Meanwhile, Sparks is in the radio cabin with the bandaged Maddox impersonator, whose real name is Wolf Cleeland. Both men are discussing what to do with the real Captain Maddox, Professor Thorpe and Clark Kent when they receive a radio message from a man named Pete Escabar. Escabar orders Sparks and Cleeland to kill Thorpe, Kent and Maddox.

Suddenly, the aforementioned trio enters the radio cabin. Sparks pulls a gun on them, and a fight starts. Sparks is injured by a bullet he shot at Clark, and Thorpe pulls a gun on Wolf Cleeland. After the fight is over, Clark, Thorpe and Maddox see that both Sparks and Wolf Cleeland have tattoos of a map shaped like an octopus on their chests.

Professor Thorpe is about to reveal the truth about the tattoos and the entire mission with the bathesphere when Pete Escabar sends another message with new orders for Wolf and Sparks. Escabar says that Sparks and Cleeland are to take the Juanita to a port in Maneo at Midnight and meet Escabar at the Paradise Cafe on the waterfront.

With things more calm and Cleeland in irons, Clark and Captain Maddox wait for Professor Thorpe to make the confession of which he'd spoken earlier. However, the professor has a change of heart and refuses to speak.

Just then, Clark gets an idea. The Juanita will dock in Maneo as Escabar wants. Since Wolf Cleeland and Captain Maddox look similar, Maddox can impersonate Cleeland to help Professor Thorpe and Clark learn what Escabar wants with the Juanita and the bathesphere. While it's against his better judgement, Maddox agrees to Clark's plan.

Later, the disguised Captain Maddox and Clark arrive at the Paradise Cafe at midnight to meet with Pete Escabar, a big man with a scar on his cheek. Escabar believes Maddox is Wolf Cleeland and asks why Clark is with him. Clark says that he's a deep sea diver that wants to join Escabar's gang because he knows how to operate the bathesphere.

In the back room of the Paradise Cafe, Escabar reveals that he's after two million dollars in gold that is located at the bottom of Octopus Bay. Escabar also plans to commandeer the Juanita, throw its crew overboard and replace the crew with his men.

Suddenly, there's a knock on the back room's door. It's Wolf Cleeland, who has escaped from the brig of the Juanita. He tells Escabar the truth about Maddox and Clark. Escabar calls some of his men. Clark and Maddox are severely outnumbered, but Clark smashes the electric light. In the darkness Clark becomes Superman, who must unfortunately knock out Captain Maddox to take him out of the Paradise Cafe. He'll have to time the punch right in order to make seem like one of Escabar's men hit him. The Man of Steel succeeds, and while Escabar's thugs flounder around in the confusion, he escapes with Maddox through a hole in the wall.

Later, after Captain Maddox awakens on the Juanita, Superman resumed his guise of Clark Kent. He and Maddox tell Professor Thorpe that Escabar wants to use the bathesphere to find sunken gold. Thorpe is after the same gold, and he to use the bathesphere to find it. Studying marine life was only a cover to avoid publicity. Thorpe needs the gold to help build a laboratory. He wants to create this lab so scientists can work together to create things for the betterment of mankind.

The gold is apparently located at the bottom of Octopus Bay in a sunken Spanish ship. Octopus Bay got its name from the natives because the waters are full of the tentacled creatures. Thorpe had discovered the ship when he went in a diving suit to study some tropical fish. Unfortunately, the ship was in an area too deep for swimming, but the professor read everything he could about the ship. All the texts tell of the gold treasure inside the sunken boat. None of the gold has ever been recovered.

Suddenly, a speedboat approaches the Juanita. Pete Escabar and his gang are about to approach the ship. Clark gets the idea to use the cannon that was fired at him and Professor Thorpe earlier. He uses this idea to leave Thorpe and Maddox and become Superman. The Man of Steel dives underwater and overturns Escabar's boat. With Escabar's men out of the way, the Juanita heads for Octopus Bay.

Later, Professor Thorpe runs to Maddox and Clark. He is excited because he's found the location of the gold. The professor then prepares the bathesphere to go down to the sunken Spanish ship containing the treasure. After much convincing on his part, Clark goes with Thorpe and a diver named Gleason in the bathesphere. Once the bathesphere reaches the bottom of Octopus Bay, Professor Thorpe lets Maddox know through a speaking tube that everything is okay. Thorpe then goes on to explain the bathesphere to Clark. The mild mannered reporter is amazed by the professor's invention.

Suddenly, Thorpe asks for a bottle of water because his throat feels dry. The bathesphere is becoming hot and stuffy. The oxygen in the bathesphere is decreasing. Professor Thorpe is losing consciousness. Clark tries to contact Captain Maddox, but he doesn't get a response. Clark then quickly becomes Superman.

Superman goes through the safety chamber of the bathesphere in order to go outside to search for breaks in the air line. He then finds that a giant octopus has wrapped its tentacles around the line. Superman battles the octopus and manages to free the air line. By the time he returns to the bathesphere and resumes his guise of Clark Kent, the oxygen has returned, and Professor Thorpe has awakened.

A short time later, Clark and Thorpe put on diving helmets and begin to explore the sunken Spanish ship. The diver Gleason then shows them a box he had found. The box contains the gold treasure. Professor Thorpe can begin to realize his dream.

Just then, Professor Thorpe receives a call from Captain Maddox. He advises that the sky has become overcast. A storm could come at any moment. Despite the captain's warnings, Thorpe wants to continue exploring. Gleason agrees with the professor until Clark convinces him and Thorpe that Maddox is right. It's too risky to stay underwater with a storm coming. The storm could cause them to get separated from the Juanita.

Upon returning to the Juanita, Professor Thorpe sees that the barometer has only dropped two points. He leaves Clark on the ship and goes with Gleason back into the bathesphere to explore underwater. After the bathesphere descends, there is the sound of thunder. A tropical storm is brewing and becoming a full force hurricane. The Juanita is being rocked violently and dragged toward Shark Tooth Ridge, a group of very sharp rocks. The bathesphere cannot be brought up without risking the oxygen line being cut.

While both the bathesphere and the Juanita are being tossed about in the choppy waters, Pete Escabar is planning to steal the gold. Once the hurricane subsides, he plans to take the gold after the rocks smash the Juanita. If Thorpe has gold with him in the bathesphere, Escabar will take it from the scientist.

Meanwhile, Clark has changed into Superman. He braces himself against the rocks and holds the Juanita until the crew can anchor the ship. The storm then subsides. With the Juanita safely anchored, Superman resumes his guise of Clark Kent.

Clark is now trying to contact Professor Thorpe, but he gets no response. He and Captain Maddox then discover that the cables connecting the bathesphere to the Juanita and the oxygen line have been cut. The bathesphere is nowhere to be found, and Professor Thorpe and Gleason only have fifteen minutes of reserve power before their air runs out.

Giving Captain Maddox the excuse that he must go to his cabin, Clark becomes Superman. Superman dives into the water and goes on a frantic search for Gleason, Professor Thorpe and the bathesphere. While Professor Thorpe is in a panic inside, Superman moves the bathesphere upward toward the surface. Seeing the bathesphere, Captain Maddox and his crew rush to get Thorpe and Gleason out of it. Both men are safely aboard the Juanita.

Later, after things are more calm, Professor Thorpe is approaching the bathesphere with Captain Maddox. Thorpe wants to show Maddox the gold Gleason had found. However, unknown to the two men, Pete Escabar and his henchman Carlos have sneaked aboard the Juanita. They are hiding behind the bathesphere. The two pirates attack Thorpe and Maddox and put the gold in some sacks. They go back to their rowboat with the gold they have stolen.

Later, Clark Kent is checking a minor shoulder wound that Professor Thorpe had gotten from Escabar. The scientist will be alright, but Captain Maddox is in need of serious medical attention. Professor Thorpe scolds himself for not listening to Maddox. The captain thought he heard a rowboat bumping the hull of the Juanita slightly. He wanted to investigate, but Thorpe convinced him to come look at the gold instead.

Meanwhile, Perry White is worried because he hasn't heard from Clark Kent in quite some time. He sends reporter Bill Wentworth to search for Kent and the Juanita. Unknown to Bill, Jimmy Olsen has stowed away in the airplane taking him on his trip. Bill later finds Jimmy when he gets to his hotel room at Maneo Harbor. He is about to call the Daily Planet and send Jimmy home until young Olsen promises to not stay out of Wentworth's sight. Jimmy feels he has to help find Clark Kent. Because of this, Bill tells Jimmy the truth about Clark's mission with Professor Thorpe.

Bill and Jimmy are now leaving to go rent a boat to find the Juanita. A man at the docks tells them to rent the boat of Pete Escabar. However, Escabar tells them that he no longer rents his boat. Jimmy tells Escabar that they need the boat to find the Juanita, but Bill interrupts the boy. Before leaving Escabar, Jimmy must tie his shoe.

Outside of the Paradise Cafe, Jimmy tells the real reason why he had to tie his shoe. Professor Thorpe no longer has the gold. Jimmy had picked up a gold coin from the floor of Escabar's back room office. Suddenly, just as Jimmy shows Bill the coin, some of Pete Escabar's men chase them before they could question Escabar himself.

On board the Juanita, Professor Thorpe is blaming for what happened to Maddox. Clark is trying to convince him otherwise when they realize that they're two hours away from Maneo Harbor. Unfortunately, Maddox may not be alive by the time the ship docks. Clark changes into Superman and races against time to get Captain Maddox to a doctor.

Meanwhile, Bill and Jimmy are running through the streets of Maneo until they get to their hotel room. They lock and barricade the door. Escabar's men throw a rock through the hotel room window. The rock has a message attached to it. The message threatens Jimmy and Bill with certain death if they don't give up in one minute. Bill then says that Jimmy is supposed to call Perry White if anything should happen to him.

Suddenly, Bill smells smoke. Escabar's gang has set the hotel on fire. They can't jump or climb out the window, and the door won't open. Jimmy and Bill are trapped in a blazing inferno.

Meanwhile, Clark Kent is in Maneo talking to the doctor that is taking care Captain Maddox. He will do everything he can, but there is no need for Clark to stay.

While walking in Maneo, Clark notices a building on fire. He sees two people trapped in the fire. He changes into Superman and discovers the two people are Bill Wentworth and Jimmy Olsen. He carries their unconscious bodies and flies them out of the burning hotel.

Later, Clark Kent is making sure Jimmy is okay. Bill Wentworth suffered some burns on his hands and legs, but he should be fine in a day or two. While drinking water to help against the dehydration caused by the fire, Jimmy tells Clark why he and Bill were trapped in the burning hotel. Then, after much convincing, Jimmy persuades Clark to take him with him on the investigation of the theft of the gold treasure.

Meanwhile, Carlos is telling Escabar about the hotel fire. Carlos believes Jimmy and Bill were killed in the blaze. According to Escabar, that leaves only Professor Thorpe as the only person that knows that the thief stole the treasure. He then shows Carlos some underwater mines. Escabar and Carlos later take a fishing boat to plant the mines near the Juanita.

At the same time, Clark and Jimmy are going to meet the Juanita. Clark makes Jimmy promise not to tell Professor Thorpe about Escabar's men and the fire. Jimmy then sees a boat, inside which Clark Kent's superhuman eyes see Pete Escabar and Carlos. Leaving Jimmy on the dock, Clark goes to remove the mild mannered guise and becomes Superman. The Man of Steel overhears Carlos and Escabar talking about mines being planted to destroy the Juanita. Superman moves at great speeds to get the mines before Professor Thorpe's ship explodes.

When the last mine is destroyed, and the Juanita is safe, Superman meets up with Jimmy Olsen as Clark Kent. Jimmy asks Clark if he saw Superman. Apparently, the young copy boy saw him flying to save the Juanita. Clark dismisses what Jimmy saw even after the lad asks Professor Thorpe about the Man of Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Carlos and Escabar are in the Paradise Cafe. They are surprised by the fact Superman saved the Juanita. Knowing that Professor Thorpe, Jimmy and Clark were talking with a doctor about Bill Wentworth and Captain Maddox, Escabar wants his man Pedro to give a message to the trio. The message is intended to be a trap.

Later at the the doctor's house, Clark tells Professor Thorpe that he got Maddox on a speed boat to take the captain to a doctor. Jimmy then tells the professor that Escabar has the gold. He also nearly tells Thorpe about the hotel fire, but Clark interrupts him because the copy boy forgot his promise. Clark then orders Jimmy to stay where he is while he and Professor Thorpe go to the Juanita to make sure the ship is okay after the ordeal with the mines.

After Clark and Thorpe have left, Pedro delivers the message intended for Professor Thorpe. The message says that Thorpe should go to the cave behind the cemetery if he wants the gold returned to him. It was put there by an enemy of Pete Escabar. Thinking he's doing Clark Kent a favor, Jimmy goes off on his own to bring back the gold.

Later, Clark and Professor Thorpe return to the doctor's house, but Jimmy is nowhere to be found. The doctor's assistant tells Clark that Jimmy went out. Jimmy is actually trapped in the cave behind the cemetery by Escabar. Clark feels uneasy about Jimmy being out when it's close to being dark. Clark later goes on a search for Jimmy as Superman. He believes Escabar knows where Jimmy is.

While Superman interrogates Escabar, an earthquake happens. Escabar tells Superman where Jimmy and the gold are after being injured by debris caused by the quake. Superman flies at incredible speeds to save Jimmy. He succeeds and gets the gold just before another earthquake occurs. The astonished Jimmy Olsen feels like the luckiest boy in the world because Superman saved him and revealed himself to the copy boy. Superman tells Jimmy to stay where he is because Clark Kent is looking for him.

Shortly after being saved, Jimmy asks Superman who is really is. However, Superman does not tell him. "Someday," Our hero says, "You may find out"

Will young Jimmy Olsen discover the secret identity of Superman? Tune into The Adventures of Superman, and find out.

Trivia:

If you all haven't read Steve Younis' article about the word "swell" in the Superman universe, read it now before going to the next sentence. Go on, I'll wait. I have to read the new Busiek story anyway. (Minutes pass.) Okay, I'm back. There is a moment in "Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere" where Jimmy Olsen says that Clark Kent is swell in the middle of chapter ten.

Review:

I honestly enjoyed "Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere" even though there seem to be minor problems with the story. Firstly, Bill Wentworth feels like a "redshirt." For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek: The Original Series, redshirt is a slang for a guest character that gets killed sometime during the episode. Many times, the actor is wearing the red shirt of the Starfleet uniforms. The person in the story is normally expendable. Bill Wentworth not only feels like such a character, he feels completely unnecessary. He could have easily been replaced with Lois Lane. That could have provided with some interesting scenes between her and Clark and Superman.

Secondly, Jimmy feels forced into "Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere." There's a sensation that the writers needed to put some other characters into the serial at the last minute and chose Jimmy and a character nobody knows or is going to give a darn about. Yet again, Lois would have been more effective. Simply re-writing the story to put her in this serial in the place of Jimmy and Bill would have provided more drama.

Thirdly, while I do like Superman revealing his existence to Jimmy, it does feel like it was rushed into the story. Perhaps Jimmy could have seen Superman in a couple more serials before the Man of Steel introduced himself. Plus, I think it would have more of an impact if he'd been seen by Lois. Certainly, Superman's last line would be more prophetic if he'd said it to Lois, especially if someone is listening to these episodes now. Yes, the line is predicting the events of the comic book seriesCountdown, but that doesn't grab the listener like hearing Superman say, "Someday you may find out" to the woman that would later be his wife.

Despite all the things I mentioned, "Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere" is an entertaining adventure story. One can see influences of Robert Louis Stevenson or Jules Verne in the storytelling. Throw in Clark Kent and Superman, and you have a serial that can be taken from Siegel and Shuster or Fleischer Studios. It was really extremely fun to hear. Let's hope "The Curse of Dead Man's Island" is as much of a joy for the ears.

See you next time for that serial. Until then, remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.



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