Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1940: The Five Million Dollar Gold HeistReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: November 25, 1940-December 11, 1940
"The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist"
As we learned last time, a freight train's specially armored car carrying five million dollars in gold for the Metropolis National Bank had vanished. It was sandwiched between two other cars. The train's last stop was a city called Bolton. Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who were at the Metropolis Train Station covering the gold's arrival for the Daily Planet, are investigating the armored car's disappearance. The engineer on the train says the locomotive never made any stops between Bolton and Metropolis.
While Lois and Clark are talking to the rest of the train's crew, two thugs named Crumb and Lefty plan to get rid of the two reporters. Crumb calls their boss to explain the situation, and Lefty follows Lois and Clark. He tails Lois with no problem, but he's lost Clark, who has changed into Superman and flown to the Bolton Train Station.
In Bolton, Superman finds two other thugs threatening the station master. They want him to tell the police that the car full of gold was gone when it got to Bolton. However, the gold car was in Bolton, and the station master saw it. He refuses to lie despite the thugs' threats and beatings. Superman makes short work of the crooks and thanks the station master for telling him about the gold car. The Man of Steel then flies away to continue the investigation. He is about to give up when he finds a large emerald that seems to have fallen out of someone's ring.
Meanwhile, Lois is in danger at the Metropolis Train Station. While Crumb distracts her on platform six by telling her what he claims to know about the missing armored car, Lefty pushes her into the path of the 9:41 train. Their plan would have succeeded had Superman not pulled the train to an abrupt halt.
Later, Perry White has sent Lois and Clark to the Metropolis National Bank to cover a meeting between Police Inspector Neally and Bank President Reginald Van Doren. Van Doren is scared that he will have to use the bank's two million dollar reserve to help cover the cost of the missing gold if it is not found. Van Doren's secretary Mr. Fortune gives Neally the amount of gold bars and the numbers on each bar from the missing shipment.
Fortune has been a valued employee of the bank and Mr. Van Doren for a long time. Van Doren gave Fortune a ring as a token of appreciation. The ring has a large emerald stone in it. This sparks Clark's curiosity. Van Doren offers to have Fortune show the ring to Clark, but the ring isn't on Fortune's hand. Fortune admits that he removed the ring because he had lost the emerald, which Clark later gives to him after saying he found it at the Metropolis Railroad Terminal, where Fortune claims to have been that morning. This makes both Clark and Fortune suspicious of each other.
Later, a frantic Fortune needs to desperately see the same boss for whom Crumb and Lefty work. He knows that Clark suspects him of having a hand in the gold's disappearance. Lefty tells Fortune about what happened with him and Crumb at the train station earlier today. Just then, the boss talks to Fortune through a loudspeaker. Fortune is sure he lost the emerald while doing something to the railroad for the boss, and he believes Clark Kent suspects this. The boss then devises a plan. Fortune must follow Lois and Clark. He is to let the boss know when the two reporters are someplace for more than thirty minutes. Fortune does this when Lois and Clark have dinner at Dernetto's Restaurant, and the boss' plan is then set into motion. Ten seconds after Clark and Lois leave Dernetto's Restaurant, all of Fortune's problems will be solved.
The ten seconds have passed as Lois and Clark cross the street to go to a movie. A truck is about to run them down, but Clark grabs Lois and moves her in the nick of time. The driver of the truck tells a policeman that the steering column had broken, and he lost control of the vehicle. However, Clark notices nothing wrong with the truck when he examines it. He also knows Fortune had been following Lois and him. Believing the truck driver is only a pawn, Clark suggests to go after Fortune and make him talk. Fortune could lead Lois and Clark to the mastermind behind the gold's disappearance. If they can find the boss, maybe they can find the missing gold. However, Clark seems to think only bank President Van Doren can get Fortune to talk. To do that, Lois and Clark will have to wait until the bank opens in the morning.
Clark isn't the only one that noticed things tonight. Lois had noted that Clark is stronger than he looks. When he pulled her out of the path of the speeding truck, his grip was like iron. Could Lois be figuring out that Clark Kent is Superman, or does she still see him as a spineless coward?
A few hours later, the boss is meeting with the truck driver to fire him. Firing in this case means that the boss will eliminate the driver. Now that the attempt to get rid of Lois and Clark has failed, something else will have to be done. Instead of killing Clark and Lois, the boss has something else in mind.
The next day, Lois and Clark are at the bank waiting to see President Van Doren. Clark tells Lois that he suspects Fortune because he found the emerald from his ring on the train tracks between Bolton and Metropolis. Clark says he took a hand car out to the tracks. Despite his saying this, Lois feels Clark isn't telling her everything, but before she can continue to say what she believes, Van Doren calls her and Clark into his office. Clark then tells the bank president of his suspicions about Fortune. Van Doren goes to Fortune's office to question him. However, Fortune is nowhere to be seen, and President Van Doren saw him go into his office not long before Lois and Clark had arrived. The only way out of Fortune's office is through the bank president's office, and Van Doren had not left his office at all today.
While Van Doren, Lois and Clark discuss the whereabouts of Fortune, Clark is searching the closet for secret doors and finds none. Just then, the receptionist Miss Bailey enters the president's office. However, she doesn't get a chance to say anything because she faints shortly aftrwards. When she awakens she says she saw Fortune outside her office door. Clark and Van Doren find Fortune where Miss Bailey had said, but he's dead. Fortune has been murdered.
After Police Inspector Neally arrives, he orders that the Metropolis National Bank be closed for the day while the bank's entire staff stays to answer some questions. The medical examiner tells Neally that Fortune apprently died from stab wounds to the heart less than an hour ago. Van Doren tells Neally about what happened up until Miss Bailey had fainted. Miss Bailey then says that she heard a knock. She had told the knocker to come in, but she got no response. When she saw Mr. Fortune on the floor, she immediately ran to Mr. Van Doren's office to tell him about Fortune. It was then that she had fainted. Clark continues recounting how he and Van Doren had found Fortune.
Neally follows Clark and Van Doren to Miss Bailey's office to get an idea of how they discovered Fortune dead. He returns to ask Miss Bailey if she saw Mr. Fortune leave the office. However, when he, Van Doren and Clark return to the president's office, they find no trace of either Miss Bailey or Lois Lane. Both women have disappeared like the gold and Mr. Fortune had earlier.
In the frantic search for Miss Bailey and Lois, Clark disappears. He has actually gone up onto the bank's roof to see if the two women are there. Sure enough, Clark sees Miss Bailey. Three men are with her, and they're carrying Lois, who is unconscious. Seeing this, Clark changes into Superman. Our hero knocks out the three men and captures a trigger happy Miss Bailey before she can jump to the next roof.
Later, Lois is in the hospital recovering from shock and the bump on her head given to her by Miss Bailey, who is now being interrogated by the police. She knows nothing about the boss, who the three men talked about when they were questioned, except for the fact that nobody ever saw him. He only spoke to his people through a loudspeaker or telephone. Miss Bailey knew that Lois and Clark were going to question Mr. Fortune. The boss had had Fortune killed before he could talk to the reporters, but Miss Bailey doesn't know how. When she heard a knock on her door, she was to answer it and go to Van Doren's office to faint, then, she was to make sure Mr. Van Doren and Clark were away while she dealt with Lois.
Just then, some policemen return from searching the hideout of the boss. It was empty if you exclude a loudspeaker that was wired to a microphone in another room. The boss evidently knew the police were coming. There was a note pinned to the door that read, "Better luck next time. - The Boss."
Meanwhile, the boss has called a meeting of his people in his new hideout. He's planning another robbery. The Metropolis National Bank is having another armored train car deliver more gold from the city of Hawthorne. This time, it will be only two million dollars worth of the precious metal to cover the expenses of the previous five million, and the boss won't make the car disappear. He plans to blow up Rainbow Bridge so the train can fall into the deep ravine below it. The boss believes Clark Kent will be on the train. If the train falls into the ravine, Clark Kent is sure to perish with the rest of the passengers.
At the Daily Planet, Clark Kent receives orders from Perry White. He and Jimmy Olsen are to take an airplane to Hawthorne. When in Hawthorne, Clark and Jimmy are to take the train with the two million dollars in gold back to Metropolis to make sure nothing goes wrong with this shipment. However, Clark thinks Superman should look over the train tracks going from Hawthorne to Metropolis to be more secure. When at the airport, the pilot gives Jimmy a message from Clark saying that the reporter will meet the copy boy on the train later.
At the same time, Superman is inspecting the the train tracks from Hawthorne to Metropolis. He then sees a man come out of a hidden hole in the mountain. He asks the man what's inside the mountain, and the man takes him to see what the secret cave holds. Inside is a group of men with a shortwave radio and the missing car with the five million dollars in gold from the first train shipment.
Later, Jimmy arrives in Hawthorne and boards the train to Metropolis. Clark Kent, however, is nowhere to found, and the train is leaving at five o'clock instead of six o'clock as it was originally scheduled. Neither Jimmy nor Superman knows that the boss is planning on blowing up the bridge to make the train fall in the ravine.
Meanwhile, Superman beats a confession out of the men in the secret cave. The boss had some men disguised as freightmen on the train carrying the five million dollars in gold. They uncoupled the armored car when the train went up a hill slowly. Once the train had climbed the hill, everything was put back together without the armored car full of gold. The armored car was then taken down some emergency tracks into the secret cave. Once the car was inside the cave, the tracks were removed. All the gold is still in the armored car, but the guards in the car are locked in a prison somewhere.
After the confession, Superman makes one of the men call the boss. His job is to send a message for the boss to come to the cave by making the criminal mastermind worry that something's happened to the gold. Superman's plan works. It seems like the boss will be coming to the cave. However, there is also the problem of Rainbow Bridge, which Superman learned about from the message sent to the boss. The bridge will explode once the train reaches it, and Superman doesn't know about the schedule change.
As for the train, it's fifteen minutes away from Rainbow Bridge. Jimmy Olsen is enjoying seeing the engine of the train, but he's worried about Clark Kent. Clark thought the train would be leaving at six o'clock. The engineer tells Jimmy not to worry too much and enjoy the ride. Jimmy and the engineer enjoy the scenery as the train is five minutes away from Rainbow Bridge.
In the meantime, the boss' men don't believe the criminal mastermind will come to the cave. Superman, on the other hand, is confident that the boss will show up. Just then, there is a secret knock on a hidden door to the cave. The boss has arrived, and he's none other than Reginald Van Doren, president of the Metropolis National Bank. Desperate to keep his identity secret, Van Doren fires his gun at a box of dynamite, but Superman stops the bullet before it hits the explosives. Our hero then barricades Van Doren and his men inside the cave until the police can come get them.
At 5:55, Clark Kent learns about the schedule change for the train from Hawthorne to Metropolis. He only has five minutes to save the train. Changing to Superman, he flies at great speeds to get to the train. Suddenly, the explosions start, and Superman uses his tremendous strength to hold up the bridge. The train crosses the bridge without incident, and the gold has arrived without problems. The police have arrested Van Doren and his men and recovered the missing gold.
Later, in the offices of the Daily Planet, Jimmy is telling Perry White about what has happened. However, White does not believe that Superman exists. He thinks Jimmy and Van Doren's men imagined the caped hero despite having seen him when the Invisible Man was causing trouble. Just then, Clark Kent arrives. Perry yells at Clark for not getting the story of the train and Van Doren, but Clark says he took a later flight to Hawthorne not knowing of the train's schedule change. Jimmy vouches for Clark as they follow Perry into his office.
In Perry's office, the trio notices some stones on the editor's desk. The stones are in the formation of an Indian death symbol. when Perry sees this, he asks Jimmy to get him some water from a pitcher to relax his nerves. When Jimmy grabs the pitcher, it shatters into many pieces. An arrow had broken the pitcher as it seemed to come out of nowhere, and it's now on the floor of Perry's office. What do the stones and arrow mean? Is somebody trying to kill Perry White? Only "The Howling Coyote" has the answers to those questions when we return for The Adventures of Superman. Be sure to tune in next week, boys and girls.
While it is not a direct adaptation of this serial, there are elements in the plot of the TV episode with George Reeves "The Case of The Talkative Dummy" that are indeed very similar to "The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist."
Much like last week's serial, "The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist" was delightlfully fun. It had all the great elements that every Superman story should have. There was action, a fast paced story and - while I was able figure out his identity halfway through the story - a good villain. By that, I mean that there wasn't anything that left me asking for more backstory into the character. My only complaint is that the writers could have picked a better name than "the boss" for our main bad guy.
There's also quite a bit of Superman in this one. In fact, I'll go out out on a limb and say that both he and Clark Kent get equal time in this story. There are some of you out there that prefer more Superman in the radio serials. I personally tend to look more at the writing, if characters are in character and how the actors portray their parts. If it works well for the story, I don't care if Superman is disguised as Donald Trump with a better toupe. Just have the story make sense to me, and "The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist" makes sense to me as far as Superman stories go.
I do have a theory about why we've seen more of Clark in earlier serials. Superman was just a little less than two years old when the radio show began. Much of the Superman mythos had not yet been established, and perhaps DC Comics wanted the radio serials to be different from the comic books. Now, while this part isn't mentioned, I get the feeling Clark wanted Superman to keep a low profile to avoid the paranoia of the human race and to avoid mob scenes similar to the one in John Byrne's first issue The Man of Steel. That's just my theory. You're welcomed to believe or not as Jack Palance and Dean Cain once said.
As I said, I was able to figure out the identity of the boss, but one thing that did keep me guessing was how the armored car with the five million dollars in gold disappeared. I don't really know exactly what I was expecting, but I kept thinking the solution was a more supernatural one, which could work in a Superman story. However, the more down to earth answer also functions well in "The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist."
Another thing I've noticed is that Superman has become less cold blooded in the serials since he revealed himself to Jimmy Olsen. Perhaps he doesn't want to disappoint his young friend? I can't say for sure, but I see instead of throwing people up in the air, Superman is coming closer to being like the character we've all come to know over the years. In every case, it's good to see Superman's evolution through each story in every medium.
"The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist" also has some great cliffhangers in each chapter. The problem of misplaced cliffhanger in the last Yellow Mask story seems to be resolved for now. The endings of each episode in "The Five Million Dollar Gold Heist" work well to keep the listeners on the edge of their seats. I especially found the cliffhanger in the final chapter exciting. It made me think someone's trying to kill Perry White. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until next week to discover Perry's fate in "The Howling Coyote." Let's hope Superman can save his boss from certain doom in that serial. Until next week Superfans, remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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