Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1945: The Scarlet WidowReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: September 26, 1945-October 10, 1945
"The Scarlet Widow"
Clark Kent has been revealing the origin of Superman to Lois Lane and Perry White in an effort to help to eliminate the Kryptonite that was found by the late Doctor John Whistler. Without revealing his secret identity, Clark tells his friends how Sarah and Eben Kent raised baby Kal-El as their own. They both passed away, but their adopted son Clark would later grow into Earth's greatest hero, Superman.
Clark is now at the point where he must ask Lois and Perry to help him destroy the Kryptonite in order to save Superman in the same way he has assisted millions over the years. Perry promises to help get rid of the deadly meteorite with his influence as a member of the Metropolis Museum's board of directors. Lois, however, seems distracted. Clark later finds out why when he hears a newsboy saying the words, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Superman In Danger!" Lois has written the story about the Kryptonite in the Daily Planet despite promising to keep it a secret.
A shocked Clark calls Lois. He tells her that printing the Kryptonite story was a mistake. Superman's enemies could know about the poisonous rock. Lois tells Clark not to worry. Nothing will happen. Clark has his doubts, and how right he is to have them. A woman named the Scarlet Widow and her Cockney henchman Sniggers are planning to steal the Kryptonite from the Metropolis Museum tonight to rid themselves of the Man of Steel.
After midnight, Clark is speaking with Metropolis Police Inspector Henderson. He has convinced him to send fifty policemen to guard to Metropolis Museum until tomorrow morning. The Scarlet Widow and Sniggers notice the guards. The Widow gets an idea. The villainess' car will catch on fire, and Sniggers will sneak into the museum while the police put out the flames. Clark and forty-nine of the fifty policemen go to put out the fire of the burning car. Sniggers enters the museum through the delivery entrance and holds the remaining officer at knifepoint.
With the automobile fire put out, Clark uses Superman's X-ray vision to see that Sniggers, with his policeman hostage, has taken the Kryptonite from the museum vault in the basement. Sergeant Molrooney and museum night-watchman Svenson go with Clark to the basement. Clark starts to feel the effects of the Kryptonite as Sniggers examines the contents of its lead box and forces the police to let him leave the museum. Saying that he'll take responsibility with Inspector Henderson should anything go wrong, Clark promises that he will follow Sniggers and get everything the Cockney had stolen.
In his true red and blue garb, Superman does as Clark Kent promised. He finds the sneaky Sniggers with the lead box containing the Kryptonite. However, in the Man of Steel's effort to get the meteor, the box falls opened. The deadly radiation of the Kryptonite has weakened Superman. The inert Man of Steel is now being dragged by Sniggers, who intends to give our hero to his mistress the Scarlet Widow. Seeing a policeman nearby, Sniggers decides to leave Superman on the sidewalk and only take the Kryptonite to the Widow.
Superman has regained consciousness thanks to the policeman that Sniggers had seen. The officer believes that the Man of Steel is a drunk that passed out on the street after drinking too much at a costume party. Despite being weakened by the Kryptonite, Superman searches desperately for Sniggers. He flies through Metropolis, but he finds no sign of the Cockney and the poisonous meteorite. Our hero then heads for Metropolis Police Headquarters to seek aid.
We now go to the luxury apartment of the Scarlet Widow. She discusses her plans for the Kryptonite with Sniggers just as her four mysterious guests arrive. The Laugher, Papa Rouche, the Vulture and Der Teufel have paid a visit to the Widow. The quartet of men have all had various schemes foiled by Superman during the war, and the Scarlet Widow has helped them get out of prison. She plans to sell a piece of the glowing green meteor to each of the villains for one million dollars a person. However, the four evil doers, particularly Der Teufel, whose name means "The Devil" in German, require proof that Kryptonite can render Superman weak or kill him.
Clark Kent is in police headquarters having a difficult time convincing Captain Donovan that Superman is in danger, especially since the Vulture, the Laugher, Papa Rouche and Der Teufel have escaped. He receives a call from Burrows at the Daily Planet. The Scarlet Widow has sent a message to Superman. He is to be above the Metropolis Bank Spire at midnight. He will see three red, white and blue lights in the east. The Man of Steel is to follow the lights in five seconds if he wants a chance to get the Kryptonite. Frightened, Clark tells Donovan that after midnight Superman will return with the deadly meteor, or he'll die trying to get it.
Superman follows the instructions to find the Kryptonite. Sniggers has flashed the lights. The Scarlet Widow has placed tiny pieces of the lethal meteorite in various plants within her lavish apartment. Superman believes that little fragments will not harm him. He soon learns that he's made a fatal mistake. The Kryptonite weakens the Man of Tomorrow before he can fly away.
In the chaos of Superman's downfall, Der Teufel has stolen a piece of the Kryptonite meteor at gunpoint and makes his way to a neighboring rooftop. Papa Rouche, the Laugher and the Vulture are ordered by the Scarlet Widow to find the German scientist. They will get their share of the Kryptonite once Der Teufel is brought to the Widow.
As the three criminals leave to search for the former Nazi, the Scarlet Widow tells the dormant figure of Superman that she has further plans for him. She will attempt to kill the Man of Steel by placing the remaining Kryptonite near his head and heart. If Superman is killed, he cannot pursue the Scarlet Widow and Sniggers. The Widow has no intention of telling the Vulture, the Laugher and Papa Rouche that Superman is dead in order to get money from the criminals. She and Sniggers then plan to take Superman on a one way car trip with the deadly Kryptonite.
The Vulture has just called the Scarlet Widow. Der Teufel was seen at a drug store. The pharmacist treated a burn the German had gotten on his hand from the Kryptonite. Der Teufel then made a call to the police from a phone booth. He revealed the Widow's location to them.
Superman has been placed inside a cedar chest with a fragment of the Kryptonite. The Scarlet Widow and Sniggers have driven a station wagon with the chest to a sea cove. With a man named Turk, the Widow and Sniggers take a boat a couple of miles out into the sea. There are rocks in the box with Superman and the pebble-sized piece of Kryptonite. The cedar chest has now been thrown into the water and floats along into the sea's dark depths.
It is now the next morning in the office of Perry White at the Daily Planet. He, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are worried about Clark Kent. They believe that Der Teufel, Papa Rouche, the Laugher and the Vulture had captured Clark while he was searching for the Kryptonite. Kent had a hand in sending the four criminals to jail, and they swore to get revenge on both him and Superman.
Suddenly, Lois gets an idea. She will broadcast a message for Superman on the radio persuading him to find Clark. She had asked for help from the Man of the Steel in this way before, and it saved her on various occasions.
Lois' radio message for help is now being broadcast all over Metropolis. Nobody knows that the person for whom the message is intended is in a cedar box full of rocks with a chunk of Kryptonite on his chest. A farmer named Sam Hinkle and his daughter Abigail see the chest as a storm begins to churn the sea waters. Abigail thinks that there might be pretty dresses or nice things in it. Her father, on the other hand, believes that it contains nothing and goes into their house. He does not know that he's possibly condemned Superman to death in the choppy sea.
Abby later convinces her father to get the chest. Their boat crashes into some rocks while pulling it. Both father and daughter hold onto the box as a raging riptide comes from the storm-churned waters. The cedar chest is torn to shreds as Abby and her father see the unconscious Superman. The Kryptonite floats away, and Superman regains his tremendous strength just in time. Sam and Abby are about to drown, but the Man of Steel saves them in the nick of time.
Inside their home, Sam and Abby Hinkle listen to Superman tell of how he had gotten into the cedar chest. To repay their kindness, Superman promises to get Sam a new boat and some nice clothes for Abby.
Knowing that the Scarlet Widow still has the Kryptonite, Superman returns to Metropolis as Clark Kent. He gives Perry and the Metropolis police a description of the Widow and her Cockney henchman Sniggers. He and Jimmy then go with Captain Donovan and some police officers to her luxurious apartment. Nobody answers the door, but a ghostly white Clark tells Donovan not to open it. Clark begins to feel weak. Slivers of Kryptonite are still in the flower pots.
On Clark's orders, Jimmy takes one of the Kryptonite fragments to Doctor John Millican, head of the Physics Department at Metropolis University. Superman later asks the professor to find a way to neutralize the Kryptonite. Millican promises to do what can he to help Superman.
Elsewhere, Der Teufel is trying unsuccessfully to dissolve the Kryptonite that he had stolen from the Scarlet Widow. He needs help from his burly henchman Kraus to get a disguise and papers for him to return to Germany to enlist the aid of Professor Mirk. Once Mirk liquifies the Kryptonite, Der Teufel will use it to create an enemy that he hopes will bring about the end of the mighty Superman. "The Atom Man" is coming next week, boys and girls. Be sure to tune in to see if Superman can defeat a foe powered by the very substance that can weaken him.
"The Scarlet Widow" features my favorite villainess. Sure, she tends to stay on the sidelines while others do her dirty work for her, but Lex Luthor has done the same thing since his revamping in the John Byrne, Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway Post-Crisis comic books. It's too bad the Widow was never put in the comics. She still could make a lethal addition to Superman's rogues gallery to this very day in my opinion.
My only problem with "The Scarlet Widow" is minor. I'm kind of on the fence about the character of Sniggers, or rather, I question if he's really necessary to the story. The Widow does need someone she can more or less trust to steal the Kryptonite without making use of it himself. Had Papa Rouche, the Laugher and the Vulture stolen it for her, I'm sure that they would have gotten the same idea as Der Teufel to take the meteor to use it against Superman. The Scarlet Widow needed Sniggers to open the safe, but she could have easily had someone else in her organization take the Kryptonite from the vault and test it on Superman. Instead, Sniggers beats Superman by dropping the lead box with the meteor in it. Can you all say, "Dumb Luck," boys and girls?
According to Jackson Beck's description of Sniggers, he is a little man. I find it hard to swallow that somebody like Sniggers can drag an unconscious Superman through the streets because of our hero's weight and muscle mass. A big, brawny fellow doing this would be easier to believe. Someone like Kraus - as Beck described him - could have easily carried or dragged the Man of Steel.
Aside from that small complaint, "The Scarlet Widow" is one of the best serials I've ever heard in The Adventures of Superman radio series. The writing and performances are perfect, and the emotional impact of each chapter is simply superb.
The way chapters end in a serial, in my opinion, is important to the enjoyment of the saga. Each episode's conclusion should make the listener curious about what will happen next, and some story arcs in the Superman radio show have suffered from what I like to call a misplaced cliffhanger. What I mean is basically a scene in the middle will feel like it's meant as a cliffhanger, and/or the actual cliffhanger feels like a pretty normal scene. "The Scarlet Widow" does not suffer from this problem. Every minute of this arc puts the audience members on the edge of their seats.
Two moments in particular made me impatient for "The Atom Man". The first is the disappearance of the Scarlet Widow after she and her men dumped the cedar chest containing Superman and a chunk of Kryptonite. Where did she go? The second is Der Teufel's plan to create the Atom Man. Will his plan succeed? How will Superman do against a villain powered by the lethal Kryptonite meteor? We'll have to wait in seven days or so for the answers to our questions, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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