Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1949: Mystery of the Mechanical MonsterReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Date: December 10, 1949
"Mystery of the Mechanical Monster"
It is the lunch hour in the city of Metropolis. Streets are crowded with citizens as a manhole cover is tossed aside like a rag doll. The gigantic head and shoulders of what's been called the Mechanical Monster emerge from the sewers, and panic strikes the people as it begins its rampage. Editor Perry White and reporter Clark Kent are in the offices of the Daily Planet debating the validity of the early afternoon's events. White thinks mass hysteria created the large automaton. Kent, on the other hand, believes that there is something newsworthy in the eyewitness accounts. As if to prove Clark right, copy boy Beany Martin enters Perry's office with news from the police teletype. The robotic beast has been cornered in Pine's Bridge Park.
Police Inspector Bill Henderson has his hands full when Clark arrives in Pine's Bridge Park. The manhunt for the Mechanical Monster has become more complicated. A girl has bypassed the barricades. Feeling that there's danger, Kent changes into Superman. The Man of Steel is about to battle the large robot when he sees that the woman is in the Mechanical Monster's gargantuan hand. She urges him and the authorities not to attack. The great machine won't do anything to harm her. The young lady will give further details to Clark Kent soon. This mystery has just gotten more strange for both Kent and Superman.
Metropolis is in a panic, and Perry has been flooded with telephone calls from nearly every state and city official. Carol Marghette, the girl whom had been taken by the Mechanical Monster, has just entered the chief's office to confidentially explain the situation to him and Clark. What she says shocks the two men. The Mechanical Monster is actually Carol's father.
Carol explains further by saying that her father created the Mechanical Monster. Unfortunately, she says nothing more than this. Clark goes to follow her with Perry not far behind him. They find that her heel prints lead them to an old sewer duct that actually takes them to the basement of the Marghette home. Doctor Marghette is clearly mad as he sends the Mechanical Monster after Clark and Perry. Clark then smashes the rooms only light. This leaves Superman free to fight and destroy the gigantic robot. Now, Doctor Marghette has been placed in a hospital where he will receive the best mental health treatments. Back at the Daily Planet offices, Perry is congratulating Clark for his bravery by claiming that even Superman wouldn't have faced the great automaton. If only Perry knew the truth.
"Mystery of the Mechanical Monster" reminded me a lot of the first of Fleischer animated shorts, and it's an equally fun tale for both fans of the radio show and the cartoons alike. From start to finish, I was totally delighted with this episode.
"Mystery of the Mechanical Monster" is perhaps the first time in the thirty minute series' existing episodes that Perry White has done anything besides yell at Lois, Clark, Jimmy and Beany. Julian Noa is a fine actor and does a splendid job as the chief. In my opinion, however, he should have been more active in The Adventures of Superman. He does get his time in the spotlight, but compared to Lois and Jimmy, there just aren't that many stories centering around Mister White.
The wink has returned. Now, before you lock me up in the nut house, let me explain what I mean. In some of the animated cartoons and early television episodes starring George Reeves, there are scenes at the end of the stories where Clark Kent faces the camera and winks at the audience as if to say, "You know I'm Superman, but nobody else does." I feel like "Mystery of the Mechanical Monster" had that gesture in its conclusion. My mind's eye saw Clark do this as Bud Collyer delivered his closing lines. This provided something magical to an already wonderful episode.
While it's never revealed what drove him off the deep end, Doctor Marghette provides "Mystery of the Mechanical Monster" with a stereotypical villain, but he works well in the story. Earlier, I had compared this episode to the first Fleischer animated film. Well, Doctor Marghette is the reason for this. His character is quite similar to nemesis in that cartoon. One can't help but wonder if the writers did that on purpose. In every case, Marghette was the Frankenstein of Metropolis, and he helped make the show more entertaining.
Overall, "Mystery of the Mechanical Monster" is an episode of The Adventures of Superman that I'd recommend for anyone feeling nostalgic for the animation of the 1940s and curious about the radio years of the the Man of Steel. This episode was a joy for the ears. Let's hope that the same is true when "The Diamond of Death" is in Metropolis in seven days or so, Superfans. Until next week, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky. Now, go read the other wonderful articles and reviews on the Superman Homepage. You'll be glad you did.
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