Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1942: The Headless IndianReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: October 27, 1942-November 20, 1942
"The Headless Indian"
Daily Planet editor Perry White has received a letter from his friend Sebastian Bolvet who owns a hunting lodge in the Hudson Bay region of Canada. Bolvet has only written that he is in trouble and that Perry must come at once. Clark Kent, who is really Superman, and Lois Lane decide to accompany the chief on his trip. Unbeknownst to the group at this time, Bolvet has been hearing the howl of a werewolf-like creature and seeing the vision of a glowing Headless Indian riding on a flying horse. Perry has just received a package just before everyone leaves the office. A rifle bullet is inside along with a letter threatening White. At first, he's a bit shaken, but he refuses to let anything scare him out of helping Sebastian.
Perry and the others are currently at a sporting goods store buying some winter clothes for their voyage to the frozen north. Clark has reluctantly convinced White to let copyboy Jimmy Olsen come to Canada with the team of reporters. As everyone tries on parkas, boots and other things, there is a man examining various hunting rifles. He repeatedly keeps pointing one of the weapons at Perry despite the editor's protests. Suddenly, a bullet is fired, and it's heading straight for the chief's heart. Perry may never make it to Canada to help his friend.
Clark is now in a tight spot. He has grabbed the deadly projectile before it even hits Perry. Lois and the chief are suspicious. They are accusing Kent of being Superman. After crushing the bullet into dust, the mild mannered reporter shows his empty hands to prove otherwise. Believing that the shooting was an accident, Perry allows the gunman to go free. Clark, on the other hand, follows him in a taxi. Kent is taken to an apartment building, where he assumes his true identity of Superman. However, the assassin named Mister Killrein is more afraid of his roommate than the Man of Steel. The other person has awakened from his nap. There is the sound of maniacal laughter coming from the next room. Superman is about to meet a new adversary.
A large, portly man in extravagant clothing and jewels is approaching Superman. He is called the Laugher. He has given himself this name because he finds everything funny and amusing. The Laugher sees in the Man of Tomorrow an enemy worthy of his intelligence and cunning. The Laugher admits that he tried to kill Perry White and intends to prevent him and his friends from ever reaching Canada. Superman promises to stop at nothing to make sure that the overweight villain does not succeed with his evil plans, but the Laugher will not let anyone, even the mighty Superman, interfere with his nefarious schemes.
The Laugher is continuing his efforts to prevent Perry White from reaching Canada. He has instructed his man Sleepy to drive the taxi taking the editor and his friends to the airport. Sleepy is to stop the car in order to pretend to buy cigarettes while a time-bomb hidden in the front seat under his coat explodes eliminating the group from the Daily Planet. Everything going according to the Laugher's plan, and even the speed and strength of Superman may not prevent Perry's demise.
Searching for an airline schedule in the cab driver's jacket, Clark notices the time bomb. He takes the explosive in his hands to prevent it from killing Perry and Lois while the pair is not looking. His hands are now black as the mild mannered reporter leaves to search for another taxi to the airport. Sleepy later reports his failure to the Laugher. Despite this setback, the fat criminal is enjoying the challenge that Superman is providing. Meanwhile, Clark, Lois and Perry prepare to board the airplane for Hudson Bay, Canada. Suddenly, something shocks White, and it that makes him think that he may not get to his destination.
The sight Jimmy Olsen is the cause Perry's fears. He feels that the copy boy is irritating. The group from the Daily Planet is going to the private plane that will go to Canada. The machine is in a sorry state. Despite this, the pilot reassures them that they will make the trip without any troubles. Unfortunately, he is wrong. The craft's engine is on fire. The Man of Steel's friends will certainly perish if he doesn't do something soon.
Lois, Perry, Jimmy and the pilot are all unconscious. This gives Clark Kent a chance to save them as Superman. The Man of Steel lands the ship, but his friends must find another way to get them to Sebastian Bolvet's hunting lodge. Meanwhile, the Laugher has another plan to make certain that Perry White and the others make it to their destination. Three days later, in Ottawa, Canada, Clark Kent has found Shepard, a pilot friend of Perry's that is taking a Niles Graham to the exact same place where Perry needs to be. Everyone is introduced to Graham, but only Kent knows who the man actually is. Niles Graham is in reality the Laugher. The portly criminal's plot seems to be going better than he had expected.
Clark and Graham are at odds. Both men seem to think they've met each other before, but Clark Kent and Niles Graham have never encountered each other. However, the Laugher is certain that he and Kent will cross paths again. The airplane has landed, and the party must take pack horses through the Canadian woods during a bad hail storm. The animals are nervous as the humans are camped out for the night. Clark wants to help the horses, while Graham only cares for his own safety. Kent goes out into the raging weather to build a shelter for the creatures as Superman. Our hero can rest easier until a tree crashes thorough the tent where he and the Laugher sleep. Superman may have to save his new foe very soon.
Superman has shielded the Laugher from the falling tree and put up the tent in which the fat villain and Clark Kent were sleeping. The next morning, Graham questions Perry, Clark, Lois and Jimmy about the Man of Steel. Kent notes the man's curiosity about the costumed hero, but there is no time to investigate. The party has arrived at Sebastian Bolvet's hunting lodge. Bolvet later explains that he has heard the wolf's howl and seen the glowing Headless Indian twice. Should the French Canadian witness it a third time, it will mean his death according to the legends. Suddenly, as if it had been called by Bolvet's words, the ghostly figure is outside moaning. Has the specter of death come for Bolvet?
Drastic measures have had to be taken to keep Bolvet from seeing the Headless Indian. Clark has been forced to knock out the lodge owner. Perry and Clark, after running into Graham, now go to search for the eerie phantasm. The Laugher follows them with the intent of killing the pair. Perry and Clark find some hoof-prints as they discuss the other guests in the mountain hotel. Clark feels that they're a surly bunch. However, his suspicions will have to wait, for the tracks seem to have disappeared as if the horse carrying the Headless Indian had flown away. As the two men examine Devil's Canyon, the Laugher has aimed his rifle, and the bullet fired has just hit Perry White. Even the speed of Superman may not save the editor.
The Laugher's bullet only grazed Perry's head, and Clark has gotten him back to the lodge in time for Sebastian to treat the injury. Hours have passed since the chief was taken to his room. The maniacal Laugher returns to find Superman waiting. The overweight man admits to attempting to kill Perry White and Clark Kent. Knowing that Man of Steel would need proof to tell the police of the Laugher's confession, the villain has many alibis prepared for every emergency. Superman might not be able to prevent the Laugher from hurting his friends, but he has every intention of stopping the criminal at every turn. All the Man of Tomorrow has to do is wait for the right moment.
Jimmy Olsen has been watching over Perry all night. With the chief out of danger now, Jimmy goes into the woods with him the next morning to take pictures of the wildlife. Suddenly, an angry grizzly bear attacks them. Perry points his rifle at the animal only to find that the weapon is not loaded. Perry and Jimmy are really in a tight spot this time.
As Perry defends Jimmy and himself against the bear with a hunting knife, Clark Kent has learned of their trip into the forest. Fearing the worst, he leaves the lodge as Superman unaware that Niles Graham is going to teach Lois Lane how to shoot with intention of killing the star reporter. There seems to be no end to the danger to the lives of Superman's friends.
Perry is now unconscious and severely injured in the snow. Jimmy faints as Superman fights the approaching grizzly. With the bear subdued, Superman takes Perry and Jimmy to the hunting lodge. Bolvet then contacts Lieutenant Bennett of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police via shortwave. Knowing that an airplane will take too long to take White to a hospital, Superman rushes Perry to Lake Mento, where the editor can get medical care sooner. Meanwhile, Lois has finished her gun lesson and wants to see the trail that Clark had followed to search for the Headless Indian. The Laugher has her in his sights. With Superman elsewhere, he may not be able to save Lois from certain doom.
The Laugher's rifle has exploded in his face leaving him blind. Lois must help him to get back to the hunting lodge in a deadly blizzard. The pair is lost, and the villain's great weight makes it difficult for Lois to carry him. As the darkness of night approaches, Niles Graham reveals himself to be the Laugher. He also admits to attempting to murder her and the rest of the group from the Daily Planet. He did everything in his power to prevent Perry and the others from coming to the aid of Sebastian Bolvet. Because the Laugher can go no further, Lois must go through the raging snowstorm alone as Superman gets Perry to the airplane that can fly him to a hospital in time. Now, the Man of Steel must return to Bolvet's to help his other friends. Will he get there in time to rescue Lois?
Clark Kent is trying to convince Bolvet and Jimmy that he had gotten lost in the snowstorm while Superman had taken Perry to Lake Mento. Now, everyone is wondering where Lois and Niles Graham are. Clark seems suspicious of the other guests being gangsters. They are really part of Graham's group. A short time later, Clark finds the rooms of both Graham and Lois empty. The latter is hopelessly lost in the blinding blizzard as the Laugher has been left behind. As Superman searches for the ace reporter, she hears an eerie sound in the howling wind. The Headless Indian has returned, and Lois has sighted him.
The Laugher has died from exposure, and Superman has taken Lois to Bolvet's lodge. Now, the Man of Steel is investigating the Headless Indian. The ghostly figure is actually a man in a glow-in-the-dark costume whose horse was carried on a block and tackle pulley to give the illusion of flight. The two men involved in the hoax work for the Laugher, who has been counterfeiting American and Canadian money. When Metropolis police got too close to his operation, the Laugher had moved it to Bolvet's establishment. His original intention was to kill the resort owner until it was learned that Bolvet plays chess with Lieutenant Bennett everyday via shortwave radio. Had Bolvet been murdered, Bennett would have searched for answers. Now, printing equipment has been found in Bolvet's basement, and Graham's men are locked in their rooms waiting for the police. Suddenly, Clark and the others are confronted by a shocking sight. The Laugher has returned!
The person that has entered the lodge is, in fact, the Laugher, but it is not Nile Graham. His name is Benson, a man who is a double for Graham. Benson had been hiding in the basement while Graham was out and about. The Laugher has a gun pointed at everyone. Clark pretends to faint, allowing Bolvet to knock the weapon out of Benson's hand. Now, the Laugher and his gang have been subdued and are ready for the Mounties to take them away. Superman and his friends have stopped yet another crime ring.
Some days have passed since the Hudson Bay adventure. Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are searching for a gift for Perry White, who has just returned home from the hospital. They buy a plaster cast of a statue called "The End of the Trail" and give it to chief at a dinner in his honor at his home. All is well for Superman and his friends. However, another mystery awaits them next week, boys and girls. Be sure not to miss a minute of The Adventures of Superman.
While the episode guide lists this as a nineteen chapter serial. It is actually eighteen as the story actually concludes with the November 19, 1942 episode and leads into "The Midnight Intruder." November 20's show is currently unavailable, but the November 23 broadcast has narration that implies that it is part two and not the beginning of the next serial as is written in the log.
I'll be totally honest. When I first compared the log with the available shows, I honestly thought there were not enough episodes in the August 31, 1942-September 03,1945 period to even review a completed serial. This is why I had skipped it and went on to "Doctor Blythe's Confidence Gang." Steve Younis and I had discussed it a couple of weeks ago, and this prompted me to listen to the aforementioned block of broadcasts. At the time Steve had written me, I had already finished "The Case of Double Trouble" the 30 minute tales. Upon further examination, I found that "The Headless Indian" could be reviewed with no problems. I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion this may have caused.
"The Headless Indian" was originally broadcasted during World War II. The announcer even tells children listening how their buying saving stamps can help American forces beat the Axis. In addition to that, the atmosphere of The Adventures of Superman, much like the first two seasons of its television counterpart in the 1950s, is more like film noir than something based upon a comic book. Still, despite it borrowing elements of "The Howling Coyote," it is a pretty good serial.
There are some plot holes in "The Headless Indian" that must be addressed. The first is Clark's taking a taxi to follow the gunman that nearly killed Perry. Would it not have made more sense if Superman had pursued the assassin by flying and using his superhuman eyes? The second is Lois saying that it was impossible for Superman to get her from the snowy woods to Bolvet's lodge in just a few seconds. I could understand if she said this to Clark Kent, but Superman was the one that had rescued her. She should be used to his abilities at this point in the radio show. George Lowther (the director and sometimes writer and producer) should have paid more attention to these details before the serial had aired.
The Laugher shows up for the first time in "The Headless Indian." He would later appear as one of the four villains that wish to buy Kryptonite from the Scarlet Widow in 1945. He seemed to be more of a threat in that period than he does in this serial, but in his defense, he is just starting out in Superman's radio show rogue's gallery. The Green Goblin seemed to be a minor villain in The Amazing Spider-Man #14, but he later evolved into a true menace in issue number forty. Not every bad guy can be a Lex Luthor or Yellow Mask. The Laugher will have his day.
The narration is well done, but nothing honestly compares to Jackson Beck's energetic delivery. Beck would not be a part of the show until 1943. Still, the announcer in "The Headless Indian" works well for the noir style of the serial. Perhaps Mister Beck's voice would not have worked for this type of story.
The overall serial of "The Headless Indian" was pretty solid and entertaining despite the plot holes mentioned. Let's hope that things stay that way when we return to the half hour shows with "The Mystery of the Walking Dead" next week, Superfans. Until we meet again in seven days or so, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now, go read some of the other fantastic reviews and articles on the Superman Homepage. You'll be glad you did.
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