Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1949: One Minute to Death

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: November 19, 1949

"One Minute to Death"

Johnny Webber has borrowed a car from Tony Donelli, who frequents the Turnpike Tavern. He's using the vehicle to elope with his girlfriend Laura Williams. On his way to Laura, Johnny is stopped by the police for speeding. Further examination of the automobile reveals that it actually belongs to Walter Silsby, and there are stolen portable radios in the trunk. The arresting officer takes Johnny to the Silsby residence to find Walter dead. A web of circumstantial evidence has been tightly woven around Johnny. Now, the young man has been sentenced to the death house on the charge of murder. The only ones that believe in his innocence are Laura and Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent.

In six days Johnny will die in the electric chair. This doesn't give Clark and Laura much time to clear his name before Tony Donelli returns to Metropolis. While undercover, Laura gains the friendship of Donelli's girlfriend Chickie. It is currently the day before Johnny is to be sentenced. Laura has found letters and pictures Donelli has sent Chickie from the mining town of Maugank, Pennsylvania. She is to leave what she found for Clark at the drug store where she telephones the mild mannered reporter. She does so, but Chickie later learns of Laura's calling Clark, and she has the envelope containing the items. Chickie is interrogating her with no luck. Now, Chickie and a man named Bobo are taking her for a ride that could mean her death.

It is almost dusk as a green Sedan pulls off a deserted road. Chickie and Bobo are about to kill Laura when Superman swoops down from the sky. The Man of Steel forces a confession from Donelli's girlfriend. Now, with a mere thirty minutes to spare, Superman is confronting the murderer. Using his great speed, the Last Son of Krypton brings Donelli to the state prison. Unfortunately, Johnny Webber has been strapped into the electric chair, and there is no time to contact the governor. Desperate, Superman rips the cables that provide power for the penitentiary.

We now turn our attention to Clark Kent's office in the Daily Planet. Johnny Webber has been pardoned and has just married Laura. The couple has stopped by to thank Kent and Superman. The former says that the latter is with them now in spirit, and Tony Donelli is getting what he deserves in the death house. Justice has once again prevailed thanks to Superman.


While it didn't have the atmosphere of last week's episode, "One Minute to Death" has once again reminded me of The Shadow, particularly an episode starring Orson Welles entitled "Death House Rescue." There was a lot of excitement in that tale as both Lamont Cranston and his alter ego the Shadow try to prove a man's innocence before he is sentenced to the electric chair. Clark Kent and Superman are in a similar situation in an amazing episode that provides nail biting tension and intense action.

There is a slight change of pace in "One Minute to Death" as Lois, Jimmy and Perry are nowhere to be seen in the story. However, Laura Williams going undercover to clear Johnny's name makes the absence of the main supporting cast go unnoticed. I was thrown too deeply into the episode to realize that they were gone when I listened the first time around. Now that I think about it, maybe Lois and the others would distract the audience too much from what's happening in the show.

I've said at least a billion times that Bud Collyer is the quintessential voice of the Man of Steel. However, "One Minute to Death" really shows how well he can play both parts of Clark Kent and Superman. Something in his performance really stands out to help make this episode more fun to hear.

We don't actually see him until late into "One Minute to Death," but Tony Donelli was the perfect type of bad guy for a story like this one. His framing Johnny and skipping town help give "One Minute to Death" some pretty tense moments to make the audience wonder if Superman will actually save he day this time. This helps make the episode to be one of the best of the half hour series.

"One Minute to Death" was a wonderful episode of The Adventures of Superman. In seven days or so, we'll see how Superman solves the "Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate." Until next week, Superfans, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now, go read some of the other incredible articles and reviews on the Superman Homepage. You'll be glad you did.

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