Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1940: The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel RobberyReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: October 07, 1940-November 08, 1940
"The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery"
While Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen are taking a train back to Metropolis, the Yellow Mask is speaking with his henchman Paul about meeting a car for a transfer of something. On the train, Clark reads in a newspaper about five million dollars in crown jewels that had been stolen from a national exposition recently. Shortly afterwards, Jimmy sees two cars in a high speed chase on a road not far from the railroad tracks. A woman in the next compartment then screams shortly before the window breaks. Clark, Jimmy and several others check to make sure the woman is okay. Clark then takes the object that was thrown through the window while nobody is looking. Taking Jimmy back to their train compartment, Clark reveals that it is a cloth package that is about the size of a bag of marbles. The mild mannered reporter opens the package and finds millions of dollars worth of precious jewels and stones inside it.
After leaving Jimmy in their cabin, Clark exits from the train as Superman to find the two speeding cars. He believes their chase is connected to the package of jewels smashing the train window. At the same time, the Yellow Mask is angry because Paul failed to get the jewels from the car he was following. Fortunately, Paul remembers what window of the train had been broken by the package. The Mask decides to board the train in the disguise of a railroad detective in order to find the jewels. His interrogation of the mysterious woman tells the villain two things. First, she didn't see the package of jewels anywhere after the window was broken, and Second, Clark Kent is aboard the train. The Yellow Mask has wanted revenge on Kent ever since his previous schemes were foiled by the Daily Planet reporter.
In the meantime, Superman finds one of cars that was in the earlier high speed chase. It is on fire. Before the fire department arrives, the dying driver tells Superman that the Yellow Mask wants the jewels. It was Paul that followed him in the other car. The driver then threw the package of jewels through the train window. The jewels were intended for the woman in the broken window's compartment. The driver's last words to Superman indicate that the mysterious woman that was in the train car is possibly more clever than even the Yellow Mask himself.
Knowing he hasn't a moment to lose, Superman speeds back to the train, where the Yellow Mask has just introduced himself to Jimmy. He wants Jimmy to give him the jewels. However, the young copy boy refuses until the Mask threatens to kill Clark Kent. Jimmy has given the Yellow Mask the package, but the villain doesn't have it for very long. The mystery woman whose train car window was broken has a gun pointed at the Yellow Mask's back. She takes the package from the Mask just before pistol whipping him into unconsciousness.
Shortly afterwards, Superman returns to the train and resumes his guise of Clark Kent after he hears the Yellow Mask's voice. He has escaped the train to pursue the mystery woman while Jimmy tells Clark of the events that just occurred. One thing he does reveal to Clark is that the woman has the package, but she'll find it empty when she opens it. Jimmy placed the jewels in his pocket.
Meanwhile, Paul and the Yellow Mask are following the mystery woman's car. Her car has suddenly stopped. Thinking the woman wants to surrender, the Yellow Mask is shocked to learn that the package that contained the jewels is now empty. The Mask then does something he normally doesn't do. He makes a deal with the mystery woman. If she helps him get revenge on Clark Kent, the Yellow Mask will give her half of the jewels. The mystery woman agrees to this and begins to devise a plan against Clark.
Later, on the train, Clark receives a telegram from Perry White. The telegram, strangely enough, does not mention Jimmy. However, Clark assumes that what's written in the message is meant for the young copy boy as well as Kent. They are to get off the train at Minerville and stay at the Minerville Grand Hotel. They are to wait for a call from Mister White about a big story in Minerville. Utmost secrecy is important for this story. They arrive at Minerville and check into the Grand Hotel, but no phonecall has come from Perry. Clark is wondering why Mister White hasn't called while he and Jimmy put the jewels in the safe in their hotel room. What they don't know is the telegram is a fake sent by the Yellow Mask and the mystery woman.
Speaking of the mystery woman and the Yellow Mask, they're discussing their plans to get the jewels back. Things have gotten a little more complicated. The police are guarding every floor of the hotel because an important ambassador is visiting. This does not hinder the mystery woman's plans, however. With the help of some of the Yellow Mask's men, she'll pose as a paralized woman waiting for the hospital to have a room for her. She does this and opens the safe in Jimmy and Clark's room while they sleep.
The next morning, Clark and Jimmy find the safe wide open, and the jewels are missing. They are about to report the theft to the desk clerk when Clark gets a phonecall from Perry White. He wants Clark and Jimmy to return to Metropolis for a big story. Clark then asks about the telegram and discovers Perry never sent the message. That's not all Clark learns. According to Jimmy, the whole hotel is talking about the fact that the paralized woman was really a thief. When someone went to her room to see if she needed anything, they found the room was completely emopty except for some burglar's tools. Jimmy believes the paralized woman was really the mystery woman they met on the train. Clark then believes she'll be heading for Metropolis.
In order to get to the city before the mystery woman does, Clark and Jimmy rent an airplane. On the foggy flight home, they spot the tower of the Parkway Buliding, a recently constructed abandoned building that is thirty stories high. This means that Clark and Jimmy have arrived near Metropolis. Just then, Clark has trouble steering the plane as they nearly crash into the tower. Clark thinks a crosswind is causing the problem. After the engine dies, Clark must make a forced landing. He and Jimmy are unhurt and head for the train station to find the mystery woman. They find her and follow her through the subway tunnels. They then see her on a train. The train stops to wait for a signal to let the crew know that the tracks are clear. When the train restarts, the mystery woman is gone, and Clark knows why. She was going through the subway tunnel that leads into the Parkway Building.
Later, in Perry White's office at the Daily Planet, Clark tells Perry what happened to the airplane that he and Jimmy flew. Perry becomes white as a ghost because he was just about to tell Clark a similar story. For the past month, airplanes carrying precious jewels have mysteriously crashed without survivors on foggy nights. One moment planes are in constant radio contact, the next, there's silence. Bill Wentworth is covering the plane disappearances after his recovery in Maneo and is flying into Eastern Airport to give the newspaper what he's learned. Wentworth is coming in a half hour from the Southeast. Clark and Jimmy then decide to go meet Wentworth at the airport.
Meanwhile, one of the Yellow Mask's men sends a secret radio message. The Mask has received a report. All preliminaries have been successfully carried out. The weather station reports rain, fog and poor visibility. Conditions are now perfect. The reception station reports that an airplane is coming in at nine thousand feet. The Yellow Mask orders that all posts stand by for action.
At Eastern Airport, Clark and Jimmy are in the control tower waiting for Bill Wentworth to arrive on flight number nine. Suddenly, a wild radio beam that seems to come from nowhere apears on the control tower's instruments. According to the control tower's chief operator Mack, the wild radio beam has appeared every night there has been a mysterious plane crash. It appears before a crash happens. The control tower has tried to trace the radio beam with no luck. Shortly after the beam reappears and disappears, Eastern airport loses contact with flight nine. The plane's pilot reported fog mere seconds earlier. However, neither the airplane nor Bill Wentworth have made contact anytime afterwards. Flight nine is gone just like the other planes.
Later, Clark takes the grieving Jimmy on a walk to the Parkway Building and tells him why the building was abandoned. Many companies and people fought for controlling interest in the building and eventually gave up their battle for various reasons. Clark then tells Jimmy that whenever an airplane crashed like theirs and the one carrying Bill Wentworth had, the Parkway Tower was in its path. The secret of the plane crashes, jewel thefts and the Yellow Mask's headquarters is inside the Parkway Building.
Inside the Parkway Building, The mystery woman is meeting the Yellow Mask. She merely wants her half of the jewels so she can go away. The Yellow Mask, however, does not want her to leave. He seems quite smitten with her and admires her abilities. He even tells her that with the exception of one security guard and a radio operator in the tower, he and the mystery woman are alone. The Mask then proceeds to tell her why the Parkway Building was abandoned. In front of the building, there is a large area of quicksand that is so deep that anything that falls into it disappears forever. The Yellow Mask uses the Parkway Tower to broadcast a radio signal that causes the airplanes with the jewels to crash into the quicksand. Once a plane is in the quicksand, the Yellow Mask's men must work fast to retrieve the jewels before the plane wreckage goes completely into the quagmire. With the jewels, the Yellow Mask believes he can have wealth and power over the entire human race, and he wants the mystery woman to share that power with him.
Suddenly, the mystery woman points a gun at the Yellow Mask. She wants no part of his mad plans. She only wants her jewels. For her, being a thief is one thing, but being a murderer is something else entirely. The woman orders the Mask to tell the security guard to let her leave the building. He does so before he vows to avenge the humilatiion she's caused. Before leaving, the mystery woman says that she doesn't want even the Yellow Mask's murderous blood on her hands, but she does want him to remember that a woman made him look foolish.
A short time later, Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen see the mystery women exit from the Parkway Building. She pulls a gun on them and tells them not to move. However, Clark follows her after she goes away. He makes Jimmy promise to not move before going after the woman. He changes into Superman and catches up with her. Out of fear, she shoots the Man of Tomorrow and runs away. When Superman tries to catch up to her, he cannot find her. It's as if she vanished into thin air. He suddenly hears her cry for help. The mystery woman has fallen into the quicksand. She faints just before Superman pulls her out of the trap. Superman then hears Jimmy approach and instantly resumes his guise of Clark Kent.
After the woman regains consciousness, she is shocked that Clark saved after she threatened him and Jimmy. She then tells Clark that her name is Vicki Lorimar. She continues by revealing what the Yellow Mask told her inside the Parkway Building. Grabbing the jewels she had dropped before running away from Superman, Clark and Jimmy discuss what Lorimar has said. They will need more solid evidence to put the Yellow Mask in prison. To do that, they need to set a trap for the villain when they return to the city.
Then, news travels all over radio and wire services about Vicki Lorimar and the jewels. The woman's been taken into custody and refuses to reveal the location of the jewels. The Metropolis police chief will not comment about anything to the public. He does, however, speak privately with Clark Kent. The chief doesn't beleive that Yellow Mask exists, but Clark reassures him that the Mask is very real. Ther only way to bring him ourt into the open is to bait him with the girl who had hurt his pride. The plan seems to be working. The Yellow Mask has sent some people to break Vicki Lorimar out of jail. What they don't realize is that Lorimar is not in the prison cell. Lois Lane has taken her place.
After breaking Lois out of prison, the Yellow Mask's men are trying to get the draw bridge to open so that any car following them will be blocked. They force the caretaker to make it so their car an go through. A light advises drivers if it's okay to cross the bridge. If the light is green, cars can cross with no problem, but they must wait for boat traffic to cross the water when the light is red. Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen are taking a car across the bridge to follow the Mask's men and see a green light. Both of them see the bridge opened for boats, but they cannot stop their car in time. The automobile crashes into the water.
In the meantime, the Yellow Mask's men bring Lois to him. He knows that she isn't Lorimar. Lois, who is using the name Helen Taylor, says she was Vicki Lorimar's cellmate. Vicki had later been moved. When Lois had told the Mask's men that she wasn't Vicki, they wouldn't listen. Vicki did, however, tell Lois/Helen where the jewels were hidden. Miss Lorimar hid them in a field near the Parkway Tower. Lois then says she wants to call her sister to let her know that she's out of prison.
While Lois is on the phone, Lefty, one of the Yellow Mask's henchemen, says it was very easy to get her out of jail. Nobody tried to stop the escape. Suspecting a trap, the Yellow Mask overhears Lois talking with the chief of police. He then realizes that he met Miss Lane when he tried to destroy the Daily Planet some time back. The police and the Daily Planet plan to capture the Yellow Mask, but the villain has other plans.
Much later, Clark and Jimmy have taken another car to find the Lois. Clark had used Supeman's abilities to free himself and Jimmy from their other car, but he tells Jimmy, who was unconscious when the car went under water, that the door flew opened. He had taken Jimmy out of the car and brought him to the surface. Now, Clark and Jimmy go to meet with Police Commissioner Malone. Malone has about fifty men in the field near Parkway Tower, where Lois will be with the Yellow Mask. He was heading for the field before Clark and Jimmy arrive. Jimmy and Clark then go with the commissioner to the field.
Less than an hour later, the commissioner and Clark are worried because they haven't seen Lois or the Yellow Mask. Jimmy, who's been watching the road for approaching cars, hears an airplane that sounds like it's about to come in for a landing. It is landing... in the same field occupied by the police, Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent. The plane barely misses the group, but it leaves behind a written message to Clark Kent from the Yellow Mask after it flies away. Not only does the Yellow Mask know about Clark's trap, he's giving the reporter until dawn to return the jewels. If they aren't given to him then, he will show what he's capable of once again like he did in Dyerville. When Clark has the jewels, he's to broadcast this to the Yellow Mask on the police radio frequency. Clark is then to have a messenger with jewels at the crossroads one mile beyond the Harley River Bridge. The messenger is to leave the jewels there and go away.
With five hours before dawn, Commissioner Malone begins a search for the Yellow Mask. Three hours later, the police have no luck finding the villain. Clark decides that best way to trap the Yellow Mask is to do what he wants. He plans to leave a suitcase full of stones in the place of jewels. Once Clark leaves the suitcase, he'll drive back, park the car in a hidden area, and he and Commissioner Malone can sneak up on the Yellow Mask's men.
After the commissioner has rested a little, he and Jimmy go with Clark to make the delivery. Jimmy and Malone are ducked down in the back seat so they are not seen, and everything seems to be going according to plan. Jimmy, Commissioner Malone and Clark spread out to have better chance to find the Yellow Mask's men. This gives Clark a chance to change into Superman. The Man of Steel is about to give up the search when he meets two of the Mask's henchmen. One of the men gets away, but the other is knocked out by Superman. He then resumes his guise of Clark Kent.
When Malone and Jimmy meet up with Clark, they take the henchaman named Joe to a police station out of town to interrogate him. The trio learns that the Yellow Mask is hiiding out in a secluded house with Lois Lane as his prisoner. Clark is controlling the back of the house when they arrive. At the same time, Commissioner Malone and Jimmy enter the front door, which is unlocked. However, an unexpected trap awaits the policeman and copy boy. There is a trap door that will drop them into a concrete tank that is three feet thick on all sides and rising eight feet from the basement floor. Once Jimmy and the police commissioner are in the tank, the Yellow Mask will throw a switch from the second floor that will place iron bars over the top of the concrete tank. They fall into the trap as the Yellow Mask had planned, and Commissioner Malone has an injured ankle. Jimmy then calls to Clark, but the Yellow Mask threatens to kill both Malone and Jimmy if Clark Kent's name is mentioned again.
Speaking of Clark, he's searching for Jimmy and Commissioner Malone when he's confronted by the Yellow Mask. The Mask forces Clark into making a deal with him. He's to give the villain back the jewels, or Jimmy, Lois and Commissioner Malone will die. If Clark gives the Yellow Mask the jewels and allows the villain to get away, everybody can leave the Mask's hideout alive. Clark doesn't trust the Mask, but the villain allows him to see Lois. After seeing that Lois is safe, Clark tells the Mask the jewels are in the car. He had brought them with him in case something like this were to happen. The Yellow Mask then has Lois and Clark follow him to the living room so they can go to the car through the front door. However, as the pair of reporters enter the room, the Mask yet again springs his trap. Lois and Clark have now joined Jimmy and Commissioner Malone in the concrete tank.
With our heroes trapped, the Yellow Mask issues an ultimatum. Commissioner Malone is to have the jewels, which are really in a safe at police headquarters, delivered by one of his policemen. If the jewels are not given to the Mask, all four people trapped in the tank will meet certain death. Malone protests at first, but Clark, who cannot change into Superman, seems to have a plan. The commissioner later accepts the Yellow Mask's terms. The Mask's henchman Lefty lowers the telephone into the concrete tank, and Malone calls one of his men to give the instructions on the delivery of the jewels.
In the meantime, the Yellow Mask's men Lefty and Joe are supposed to stop the police car with the jewels at the crossroads. They are hidden in the darkness and suddenly leap into the center of the road waving flashlights. They knock out the policeman named Sullivan and take the jewels, but they don't intend to give the valuable baubles to the Mask. Lefty knows a fence that will pay a bunch of money for them. Lefty and Joe then throw the unconscious policeman in the bushes and make their getaway in his car with the bag of precious stones.
At the Yellow Mask's hideout, Clark explains to Commissioner Malone that the only way to convict the Yellow Mask is to catch him with the jewels. However, it's been over an hour since Malone called Sullivan about the jewels. He should be a the crossroads very soon, and, according to Clark, the Yellow Mask is in for the biggest surprise of his life. The Mask then threatens Clark and Malone if the jewels do not arrive soon.
At the same time, someone has found Captain Sullivan and taken him to a telephone. He calls police headquarters and tells them about the theft of the jewels and his car, which is speeding away with the jewels. Lefty and Joe hear on the car's police radio that an intense state wide search for the car is in progress. The two thieves push the car down an incline and prepare to take another car from the next driver they see. The car doesn't stop, and as a result, Joe shoots at it. Lefty tells him that the shots could bring the police. The traitorous henchman of the Yellow Mask then decides that he and Joe should hike through the woods to avoid detection. They find a farmhouse and steal the old farmer's car.
Meanwhile, in the Yellow Mask's concrete tank, Lois and Jimmy have fallen asleep while Clark is setting Commissioner Malone's broken ankle. Malone then loses consciousness. This finally gives Clark a chance to become Superman. The Man of Steel knocks a hole into the concrete wall. When Malone suddenly wakes up, Superman must quickly change back into Clark Kent. Clark is about to tell the commissioner of the new means of escape, but he is interrupted by the Yellow Mask. The maniacal villain has a double barrelled shotgun, and he will use it to kill everyone in the concrete tank if they move one inch. The Mask believes that Lefty and Joe's treachery is the result of trickery on the part of Malone and Clark. However, the madman is giving Kent ten extra minutes to tell him what happened to the jewels.
As for Lefty and Joe, they're being chased by the police. They have become tired of running from them and decide to give the jewels back to Yellow Mask in an attempt to extort money from the villain.
Back in the concrete tank, the ten minutes have passed. Clark has just sneaked Commissioner Malone, Lois and Jimmy through the hole made by Superman. With the other three people gone, Clark can confront the Yellow Mask as Superman. The Mask is clearly afraid of Superman when he sees bullets from his shotgun bounce off our hero's chest. While Superman is fighting the Mask, Lefty and Joe return with the jewels. Superman then knocks all three nefarious characters out and calls the police as Clark Kent.
Later, with the Yellow Mask and his men in prison, Commissioner Malone in the hospital for his injury and the jewels returned, Lois, Clark and Jimmy are on the way back to the Daily Planet. Clark tells Jimmy and Lois that he grabbed Lefty's gun and used it to knock the three criminals out. He also mentions that he'd called Perry White. White said that there's a new story, and it will be one of the biggest that the Daily Planet ever covered. What will the story be, and will it be dangerous for Lois, Jimmy, Clark and Superman? Only the next story in The Adventures of Superman will answer that question for us.
Well, the Yellow Mask is back, and I honestly don't know how I feel about this story. On one hand, it's great to see the Mask back. On the other, there's a great deal wrong with "The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery."
Before I get to the major points that bothered me, I want to discuss the usage of the name Joe in this serial. There's a Joe that is interrogated by Commissioner Malone at one point. In another, a Joe is with Lefty when he takes the jewels from Captain Sullivan. Now until I'm convinced otherwise, I'm going to assume that these are two different Joes. Why? I find it hard to believe that the police would let the first Joe go after he talked. Plus, I think the Yellow Mask would most likely kill the poor guy after learning he had been questioned by the police. For this reason, I believe a second Joe helped Lefty steal the jewels and cars. Another reason can be that Joe is a rather common name. However, the writers shold have paid more attention to the names they used. This leads to my next point.
"The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery," while having some good points that I'll get to in a moment, suffers from sloppy writing that weighs down the good points. The bad writing shows in three areas:
First, the story seems to shift directions suddenly. For example, we get a femme fatale in the first half of the serial, but somewhere in the secand half, she's tossed aside and becomes a dangling plot thread. There are also various scenes that feel like the writers needed to kill a few minutes. This also cause unnerving changes in story direction. Many times, I felt like maybe the writers were tired of the story somewhere in various points in "The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery."
Second, the pacing of the serial changes continuously. Maybe if this story arc was twelve chapters instead of fifteen, it would have been better. Part of the pacing problem is also that fact that certain scenes that feel like they should be cliffhangers are placed somewhere in the middle of a chapter in the serial. It's kind of disorienting.
The third point is probably the most important one. The Yellow Mask is out of character in certain points. In the first two stories featuring the Mask, he comes out as maniac out to rule the world. However, in "The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery," he's made to look like an idiot. I find it hard to believe that the Yellow Mask would allow a woman and two of his henchmen get away with jewels and making him look like a fool, especially since he killed the Wolfe for trying to oppose him mere minutes into their confrontation I personally think the Yellow Mask would have left the corpses of those that wronged him dead in his hideout before they had a chance to leave. Maybe I'm bring too harsh, but I did expect more from the Yellow Mask since he is one of my favorite villains from the early years of the radio serials.
Despite the bad characterization of the Yellow Mask, it was great to see the evil maniac return, and while it wasn't the resolution I expected, it's good to finally see the whole "Superman Versus the Yellow Mask" story resolved. While I did say, "You wait this long to bring back the Yellow Mask, and this is what we get?" in many points throughout the story, at least we didn't get a "Where is the Yellow Mask?" plot thread in the last chapter. We know he's been taken care of for now, and it might be some time before he returns. Then again, I could be wrong. We'll wait and see.
Another thing that "The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery" has is something many of the recent comics could use - continuity. The previous appearances of the Yellow Mask are mentioned at least once throughout this serial. That, however, isn't enough to save it from the things I really wished the writers had controlled better. I am sorry to say I didn't like "The Yellow Mask and the Five Million Dollar Jewel Robbery" as much as I thought I would. It had some good moments and some great action scenes, but my standards are high when it comes to my favorite villains. Let's hope "The Invisible Man" is better than this serial. We'll find out next time. Until then, remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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