Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1949: Death Rides the Roller CoasterReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Date: December 03, 1949
"Death Rides the Roller Coaster"
Midway Martin is speaking with Nancy Bartlett in the offices of the Happyland Amusement Park. Martin's Carnival Town is the only competition to Bartlett's Happyland. When Nancy refuses to give in to Martin's offers to buy Happyland, he uses drastic measures to make Bartlett's attractions seem dangerous through articles in the Daily Blade. With only a few days before the grand opening, Nancy is desperate. Daily Planet reporters Clark Kent and Lois Lane have promised to help Ms. Bartlett in every way they can. Superman will even ride on the Sky Chaser, Happyland's new roller coaster, to assure the public that it is safe. News of this and Lois' being part of the Opening Day Parade is all over Metropolis.
The ceremony for Happyland's Grand Opening has begun. Lois and Nancy have mounted their white horses to begin the parade. Suddenly the animals buck and go wild. They are heading toward the shocked crowd. Leaving copy boy Beany Martin, Clark Kent assumes his true identity of Superman. The Man of Steel halts the horses and discovers that acid crystals were placed inside the saddles. Once Lois and Nancy began their ride, the creatures' hides would burn. Someone is clearly sabotaging Happyland.
All suspicion is pointed at Midway Martin. What Clark Kent later learns is that Fred Kelly, who works for Nancy, is really Martin's henchman. He was the one that placed the acid crystals on the saddles. Kelly has just warned his boss of Kent's knowledge of the events after knocking out the mild mannered reporter, but Martin has other sinister plans that could very well ruin the Happyland Amusement Park.
As Superman, Lois, Nancy and Beany announce that they will be riding the five mile Sky Chaser, Midway Martin and Fred Kelly are sabotaging the ride. They have removed a piece of the track. The group has gotten into the car unaware of the danger that is coming. As the roller coaster speeds closer to its doom, the Man of Steel makes sure that his friends arrive safely, but the Sky Chaser must be closed. Midway Martin is the prime suspect in the attempts on the riders' lives, but further proof is needed.
Clark Kent has a plan that involves Midway Martin buying Happyland. Now, Clark is forcing Martin to either ride the sabotaged roller coaster or confess his crimes to the people in the amusement park. Martin has revealed his actions to the public, and Nancy Bartlett is having the Sky Chaser repaired for tonight. Had it not been for Superman, death would have been on the biggest roller coaster in the state. Happyland is truly the happiest place in Metropolis thanks to the Man of Steel.
This episode is an abridged version of the serial "Happyland Amusement Park," which had originally aired on July 08, 1940-July 19, 1940. Another half hour show featuring this tale had been broadcast on February 25, 1949.
To my knowledge, this is the first half hour based on a 15 minute serial that I've reviewed. Besides one point, which I will get to in a moment, I honestly don't notice any significant differences in the 1940 story arc and this episode. I don't want to repeat myself too much as many of my views on "Death Rides the Roller Coaster" are pretty much the same as those on "Happyland Amusement Park." Both tell the tale in incredible ways. My only major problem is that Kelly sounds a little too sleepy to be in league with Midway Martin. Aside from that, it's a fairly perfect way to spend 1,800 seconds of your day.
I don't recall too much about the pacing of the "Happyland Amusement Park" serial. It's been roughly a year and a half since I listened to that story. However, I can say that "Death Rides the Roller Coaster" moves briskly and is as entertaining as the serialized version. I recommend both versions highly to anyone.
"Happyland Amusement Park" does have one difference from its thirty minute counterpart. Superman's existence was debated in the 1940 serial, whereas "Death Rides the Roller Coaster" shows him as a celebrated hero that is in the public eye. Both versions work for their respective times and help each story nicely. It's just interesting to see how things can change in nearly a decade.
I mentioned earlier that Kelly seemed too sleepy to be a villain's henchman, but aside from that, he and Midway Martin are pretty much the same way they were in 1940. The still provide some nail-biting action to "Death Rides the Roller Coaster."
So, is "Death Rides the Roller Coaster" better, or does "Happyland Amusement Park" blow it out of the water? Well, both work perfectly for their respective formats. Feel free to let me know what you think. In the meantime, Superman and friends have to deal with the "Mystery of the Mechanical Monster" in seven days or so. Until next week, Superfans, 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.
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