Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1940: The Curse of Dead Man's Island

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: September 23, 1940-October 04, 1940

"The Curse of Dead Man's Island"

While Professor A.B. Thorpe's ship the Juanita is preparing for the return trip to the United States, young Jimmy Olsen is telling Clark Kent about Superman saving him. He also says that the Man of Steel had said that someday Jimmy would learn who Superman really is. While Jimmy is speaking, he finds a turtle. Clark notices that there is a message carved into the turtle's shell. The message reads, "Dead Man's Isl Help." Isl is the abbreviation for the word "Island." Thinking there's a story on Dead Man's Island, Clark says his goodbyes to Professor Thorpe and the crew of the Juanita. He then reluctantly takes Jimmy with him to Dead Man's Island.

Because no guide with a fishing boat will take him to the island, Clark must buy an old heap for fifty dollars. Apparently, the natives of Maneo believe that there is a curse on Dead Man's Island. Any boat that gets within five hundred yards of the island smashes up on the rocks. The water around the island is called the Sailor's Graveyard because so many men have lost their lives there.

Suddenly, the engine of the boat stops. Nearby, Jimmy sees the aforementioned rocks. When the engine restarts, the boat is going toward the rocks. Clark tries to steer the boat away from the rocks, but it doesn't respond to anything Clark does. At first, Clark thinks this is caused by a riptide, but later, he notices that there was no tide at all. Before the ship crashes into the rocks, Clark and Jimmy jump free. Clark sees Jimmy unconscious in the water. He becomes Superman and brings the boy to the island shore. He resumes his guise of Clark Kent and wakes up Jimmy. Once Jimmy confirms that he's okay, Clark and he begin exploring Dead Man's Island.

While going through the woods, they notice a path and fresh footprints. Someone is on Dead Man's Island.

Suddenly, Jimmy and Clark hear something crying. They hide behind a bush as it approaches them. It's a woman with a trained falcon on her shoulder. The falcon was the source of the cries. Clark and Jimmy learn this when they see the woman walking down the path to the beach. When the woman gets to the shore, she sets the the falcon free to fly over the waters of Dead Man's Island. Once the bird returns to her shoulder, the woman takes the path back from where she came. Clark then decides that he and Jimmy should introduce themselves when she approaches their hiding place. At first, they scare the woman, whose name is Ilana, but she later offers to give them food, a room and some dry clothes after Clark and Jimmy tell her of their boat crashing.

Ilana lives alone with her brother in a large stone castle that is hidden by the forest's high trees on Dead Man's Island. She tells Clark this after he says that he and Jimmy were turtle fishing before their boat was destroyed on the rocks. According to Ilana, her brother is not well.

Beyond this, Ilana does not say anything and seems intentionally evasive when Clark and Jimmy ask about things like why her falcon flew over the water, This makes Clark and Jimmy suspicious. Clark is especially puzzled by the reasons for the castle being hidden on Dead Man's Island. Whatever is going on, Clark and Jimmy are in the middle of it all. However, their investigation will have to wait. Ilana is coming to their room with some dry clothes.

After giving Clark and Jimmy the clothes, Ilana says that she'll bring food up to them when it is ready. According to Clark, this means she doesn't want him or Jimmy to leave their room. Even more suspicious now, Clark is about to go investigate the other areas of the castle. At first, he wants to explore the mysterious castle as Superman, but the fact that Jimmy is frightened to be alone in the room convinces Clark to take the young copy boy with him on his secret tour.

While sneaking down the corridor, Jimmy and Clark hear a hum that seems to be coming from a dynamo or an electric motor. They also hear Ilana speaking with her brother. Ilana believes that Clark and Jimmy are harmless and wants to get them off Dead Man's Island with a motorboat that she and her brother have hidden. Her brother, however, wants to make certain that Clark and Jimmy do not leave the island alive.

Once they hear Ilana about to leave the room, Jimmy and Clark rush back to their quarters, where they later hear Ilana knocking on the door. The woman is frightened and orders Clark and Jimmy to do everything she says if they value their lives. They are to return to the beach from the same path they took to the castle. Once on the beach, Jimmy and Clark will find a motorboat hidden inside some brush. A lighthouse's light will guide them back onto the path to Maneo Harbor.

After explaining this to Clark and Jimmy, Ilana leads them out of the castle. Suddenly, just after the trio exits the room, a scream is heard. Ilana says it's her falcon Balto, but the screams are clearly coming from a human being that is calling for help. Despite Ilana's protests, Clark and Jimmy run to the cellar from where the scream is coming.

While going down to the cellar, Jimmy and Clark notice that the hum they had heard before is growing louder. They discover a dynamo in the corner of the room at the bottom of the stairs. Clark begins to wonder what the electric current from the dynamo is used for because the castle itself is lit with oil lamps.

Just then, Jimmy and Clark hear the sound of water gurgling. In the darkness, Clark searches for a secret door in the cellar's stone walls. He finds it and uses Superman's strength to open it. Behind the door is a tunnel. Jimmy notices some turtlles in the tunnel going into some nearby water. As Jimmy and Clark continue to explore the tunnel, they go through a wooden door. Clark breaks the door's lock. Jimmy believes the lock is old, and Clark lets him believe this. A little further along the tunnel, Jimmy and Clark find the source of the screams. It's a man who has been chained to a wall. While Jimmy gets some water, Clark frees the man from the chains.

The man's name is Carl Edwards, and he had carved the message on the turtle's shell. He was an electician aboard the private yacht Merrimar. It was clear day with a calm sea when the Merrimar had approached Dead Man's Island. The Merrimar's compass was spinning around madly, and the ship had been pulled toward the rocks. Edwards was the crew's only survivor after the ship had crashed. The rest of them either drowned or were killed on the rocks Edwards washed up onto the island's shore just before losing consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he had seen the madman Boris, Ilana's brother, going through his papers.

The fact that Edwards is an electrician saved his life, but it also condemned him to a sort of living death. Boris needs Edwards to repair the dynamo. The madman frees him once a day to inspect the machine. Hidden within the rocks around Dead Man's Island are large electromagnets in which the dynamo controls. Any boat with metal on it that comes within a thousand yards of Dead Man's Island is drawn to the rocks and certain destruction. Edwards believes Boris destroys the boats because he's afraid that the crews will discover something the madman does not wish to be found by outsiders.

After hearing Edwards' story, Clark leaves the Merrimar's electrician and Jimmy to go destroy the dynamo. Jimmy and Edwards begin talking about Clark when they hear footsteps. However, they do not belong to Clark Kent. Carl Edwards has heard the same footsteps ever since he had been imprisoned in the castle. The madman Boris is coming.

Meanwhile, Clark is about to change into Superman and destroy the dynamo, but Ilana interrupts him. She says that Boris is enraged and urges Clark to take Jimmy and leave Dead Man's Island. Clark, however, needs to be convinced to go away because he knows about Carl Edwards, the dynamo and the electromagnets. Ilana then proceeds to tell Clark what he wants to know.

Many years ago, a very rich man had built the castle on Dead Man's Island. He had been suffered from a disfiguring disease and had become ashamed of his appearance. In order to hide from the ouside world, the man had moved himself and his large family into the castle. Boris was the man's caretaker. The man died a year later, and his family had left the island soon afterwards. Boris, however, had stayed there.

Some time later, Boris had sent a message to Ilana asking her to come to Dead Man's Island. He had found untold riches and wanted his sister's help. When Ilana arrived on Dead Man's Island, she had found Boris had become mad with greed. As Carl Edwards had theorized, Boris had used the electromagnets and dynamo because he was afraid that others would discover the riches he had found.

Ilana is about to tell Clark what the riches are when Jimmy Olsen calls for help. Clark runs back to the tunnels, where he had left Jimmy and Edwards, as Superman, but he finds that they are not where he had last seen them. Unknown to Superman, Boris has taken them to a dungeon in one of the high towers in the castle.

While Boris is away, Jimmy and Carl are talking. Young Olsen believes Clark Kent will do everything he can to free them, but Edwards has his doubts. The walls of the dungeon are one foot thick, and even if Jimmy and Edwards could break through the iron bars of the window, there's a nearly one hundred foot drop down to the ground. There are some vines around the tower walls, but they're set into the concrete, making it so nobody could climb them. Escape seems impossible.

Afterwards, Jimmy mentions the elevator that went from the tunnels to tower. Without this elevator, Boris could not have gotten Jimmy and Carl into the dungeon so quickly. Carl then scolds himself for alllowing Clark to leave them and go destroy the dynamo. Jimmy says that Clark isn't much of a fighter, but he's extremely intelligent. The young copy boy then proceeds to tell Carl Edwards about Superman.

Suddenly, Jimmy and Carl hear someone coming. Carl is preparing to attack the oncoming person so Jimmy can escape and find Clark, but Edwards stops when he sees that it is Ilana. She's come to help Jimmy and him escape. She gives them a bolt to cut the bars and a rope to climb down. Jimmy doesn't want leave without Clark, but Ilana says that she will find him and let him know that Jimmy and Carl are on the motorboat. They're to anchor offshore and wait for Clark to come to them.

Carl cuts the bars and climbs down the rope first. After Jimmy climbs down, Ilana says to herelf that she didn't want to lie to Jimmy, but it was the only way to make sure that he escaped. At least two of the three prisoners of her mad brother will be safe. Ilana believes Clark is in danger, and there's no hope of saving the Daily Planet's star reporter.

Suddenly, the arrival of Boris interupts Ilana's thoughts. He is about to crush his sister with his bare hands when she tells him that Jimmy and Carl have gone to the motorboat. Confident that they will escape, Ilana believes that the dynamo was turned off. However, the insane Boris has revealed that he has reactivated the machine. If Jimmy and Carl go near the rocks in the motorboat, they will face certain death.

Meanwhile, Jimmy and Carl have found the motorboat and are making their escape. However, before they can weigh anchor, the boat is nearing the reactivated electromagnets. The boat crashes as Carl and Jimmy swim away to a sandbar. Once there, they rest on the bar. Carl believes Ilana is behind the boat's destruction. He and Jimmy now must swim to shore, but there are some giant clams surrounding them. One of the clams has just grabbed one of Carl Edwards' legs.

At the same time, Superman is in the tunnels when he hears Jimmy calling for help. He lands on the sandbar, and Jimmy tells him that Carl needs help. The Man of Steel pries open the giant clam's shell and gets Edwards back up to the surface. He flies both Carl and Jimmy to the shore before Jimmy revives Edwards. Superman then says that Clark Kent should be coming soon. He sees the reporter running down the beach.

After our hero flies away and resumes his guise of the mild mannered reporter, he runs to Jimmy and Carl, who tell him of the events that have transpired for them. Clark then tells Jimmy and Edwards that he turned off the dynamo, but Boris turned it back on. Clark also believes that the giant clams are the reason Boris doesn't want anyone on Dead Man's Island.

After Clark, Jimmy and Carl go over their situatiion, Clark and Jimmy go back to tunnels under the castle while Carl, whose leg is still hurting from the clam incident, waits in the nearby woods. After entering the tunnels, Jimmy and Clark hear a scratching noise. Clark orders Jimmy to stay where he is while he goes on the investigate the scratching. After calling Jimmy to him, Clark discovers the scratching's source. Turtles are scratching against opened clam shells while they eat the meat of the gigantic sea creatures. Someone apparently brought the turtles to the clams. This seems to prove Clark's theory that something in the clams is actually what is making Boris use the dynamo on boats.

Suddenly, Jimmy and Clark hear the hum of the dynamo. Clark flips a switch and pulls out some wires to short circuit Boris' machine. When they make their way back into the castle, Ilana's falcon Balto scares Jimmy. Boris and Ilana both run into the room where the caged bird is located. When Boris opens the cage, Balto finds Jimmy hiding behind a sofa. Clark confronts Boris just as the madman is about to attack Jimmy. Boris points a gun at Clark and Jimmy, but Ilana struggles to get it away from her brother in an attempt to save them.

Then, a shot is fired. Boris falls to his death. Ilana then shows Clark and Jimmy a cabinet full of large pearls that were made by the giant clams. She wants nothing to do with the pearls and decides to leave Dead Man's Island. She goes with Clark and Jimmy to find Carl Edwards, and the quartet takes a sailboat to Maneo Harbor, where Carl and Ilana later take a ship to Bermuda.

After saying goodbye to Carl and Ilana, Clark and Jimmy read a cabled message from Perry White. The message reads, "Return at once. Big story breaking. Need you."

What is the big story? Will Superman be needed to save the day once again? Tune in to the next serial in The Adventures of Superman, and find out.


I don't know how many of you out there have seen the DVDs for The Adventures of Superman TV series starring George Reeves or Filmation's 1966 cartoon The New Adventures of Superman. If you haven't had a chance to buy them, do it as soon as possible. They're worth every penny you spend on them. Why did I bring up the George Reeves show and Filmation cartoon? Well, in both series, there are some episodes in which Clark Kent winks or delivers a line to the audience that kind of says, "Okay, you're in on the secret. You know I'm Superman, but the characters in the story don't know this." There are moments like this throughout "The Curse of Dead Man's Island." There are times when this happens in previous serials, but it seems more prominent in this one for some reason. The way Bud Collyer delivers certain lines makes the listener imagine Clark Kent is winking at them in various scenes.

Speaking of Bud Collyer, I've only said this a couple of times in reviews, but I can't stress this enough. Collyer has the absolutely most perfect voice for Clark Kent and Superman. His ability to change it so quickly from Clark to Superman really makes it easy to believe that they are two different people, and this really shows up well in "The Curse of Dead Man's Island," particularly in the scene when he's about to change into Superman to destroy the dynamo until Ilana's arrival interrupts him. It's simply amazing how Collyer could be two characters at once with just a change in his voice.

While I still stand by my opinion for the ending of last week's serial, the beginning of "The Curse of Dead Man's Island" continuing where "Professor Thorpe's Bathesphere" ended does sort of make up for the abruptness of "Thorpe's" ending. I still feel Jimmy could have been easily replaced with Lois in both serials, but Jimmy's appearance in "Dead Man's Island" is a little less irritating. Previous serials with Jimmy made me think of him as a typical kid wanting to look for adventure. However, when I heard him in last week's story, I wanted to toss him into the waters of Maneo Harbor for some reason. Jimmy didn't seem to test my patience so much in "The Curse of Dead Man's Island."

The story of "The Curse of Dead Man's Island" itself is really very good. It provides the kind of creepy, gothic atmosphere of the old Univeral Studios horror movies from the 1930s and 1940s, which is perfect for the upcoming Halloween holiday. The castle with secret tunnels, an island in the middle of nowhere and the guest villain could easily give the listener the creeps. Boris could have been easily played by Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff in a film or television show.

While many things that happen in "The Curse of Dead Man's Island" are predictable, it is still extremely fun to hear. The predictability does not ruin the story at all. The only surprise for me was how Boris had died. I had expected him to fall to his death while fighting Superman. Despite all that, "The Curse of Dead Man's Island" is an entertaining story. I liked how it didn't end suddenly like the previous serial. The ending was perfect and prepares the listener for the next story. If my episode list is correct, the Yellow Mask should return for that one to give Superman a run for his money. Tune in next time for "The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery" until then, remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.

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