Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1949: Puzzle of the Poison PomegranateReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Date: November 26, 1949
"Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate"
Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane is at the Chemical Institute in Metropolis waiting to interview Doctor Benson King. She is now speaking to King's secretary Helene Carter, who explains about the new antibiotic that he is creating. Should it function properly, the medicine could help those suffering from tuberculosis. Doctor Willis, King's assistant, is then introduced to Lois. Suddenly, there is a noise from the sterile laboratory in which Doctor King is working. Despite warnings to the contrary, Doctor Willis opens the door only to find that his associate is dead.
Lois has just called Clark Kent and Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson to the Chemical Institute. Doctor King's face has a red colored substance around the mouth that seems to be fruit juice. The lab is in a state of chaos, and the monkey is locked in its cage despite Doctor Willis saying that it had gotten loose. Doctor Willis claims that nobody placed the animal back inside. Carter last saw Doctor King alive at 9:00 AM when she gave him his lunch of an apple, a banana and a bottle of milk. Doctor Willis had heard from him last night when he had called about the new antibiotic's progress. Further investigation shows that Doctor King was poisoned by a red pulped pomegranate laced with arsenic.
The police have examined the laboratory and various poisons have been found all over the place, and arsenic was in the milk and the piece of pomegranate that King had chewed. Clark, using Superman's keen ears overhears Doctor Willis call Ms. Carter to meet him in Doctor King's office. While Lois gets Inspector Henderson, Clark heads for the Chemical Institute, where Doctor Willis has pushed Ms. Carter from a window. He later tells Kent that she killed King because he had refused to work with her boyfriend's drug company. However, Willis mentions the poisoned milk. Nobody but Henderson, Lois and Clark knew about that. The final nail in Willis' coffin is the fact that Ms. Carter is alive and standing in front of him.
With Doctor Willis on his way to prison, Helene Carter discusses the murder of Benson King further with Henderson, Lois and Clark. Superman had caught her before she could fall to her death. Doctor Willis' motive for homicide was a simple one. He was jealous of Doctor King. However, one piece of the puzzle is missing. Doctor King did not drink the tainted milk. The poison came from a piece of the pomegranate. Clark reveals through scientific tests that a hypodermic needle with arsenic was used on the fruit. Doctor King had been testing various poisons on the lab animals. A monkey had placed some of the arsenic into the fruit by imitating King's actions. The creature could also lock and unlock his cage with his tail. That's how he could be seen roaming free. The mystery of Doctor King's murder has been solved thanks to Superman and his friends.
While it's not as good as the previous two episodes reviewed, "Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate" is still a decent effort in the series. There is one major weak point in the story, which I'll get to in a moment. However, it is better than the worst of the fifteen minute serials.
My only problem with "Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate" is the fact that the audience does not see Superman. He is merely mentioned. Some would argue that "The Case of the Double Trouble" is like this, but the Man of Steel does actually show up for a few seconds. I guess I was expecting an actual scene in which Superman saves Ms. Carter instead of Clark saying that our hero had caught her. I felt like I did when I read Bruce Jones' first story arc in The Incredible Hulk. The Hulk showed up in only a couple of pages in those five issues, and I felt as cheated as I do with this episode. Still, this tale was better than Jones' Hulk run.
The writers of The Adventures of Superman were always ahead of their time with their stories, and "Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate" is the same in a sense. Many of the most innovative tales in the series dealt with racial and religious equality, and, probably without even realizing it, they made this episode about animal rights. When the culprit is revealed to be a lab monkey that was merely imitating what he saw, newer audiences to the radio show couldn't help but wonder if someone, with their words, was trying to save the creatures that could not defend themselves. That is the beauty of this series. It can entertain and make the listener think. This is, in my opinion, makes this version of the Man of Steel so special.
As far as motives for murder go, Doctor Willis' are predictable and basic. However, they work in "Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate." Jealousy has caused many deaths in every form of media from Shakespeare to science fiction. Willis' envy eventually drove him to madness, and this is something that helps the episode and is as timeless as the emotion itself.
Despite a lack of the red caped protagonist, which made the episode a bit weak, "Puzzle of the Poison Pomegranate" is a decent story. Hopefully the Man of Steel will be back in full form in seven days or so when "Death Rides the Roller Coaster." We'll buy our amusement park ticket next week to see what happens, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now, go read the other stupendous articles and reviews on the Superman Homepage. You'll be glad you did.
Back to the "Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews" Contents page.