Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1941: The Pan-Am Highway

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: November 14, 1941-December 17, 1941

"The Pan-Am Highway"

In an effort to build a Pan-American highway that will link North and South America, two expeditions of engineers have disappeared in the Andes Mountains. Perry White, Lois Lane and Clark Kent are taking an experimental, unregistered stratoplane to the mountains to investigate the unusual events. The new plane can fly at higher altitudes than any other ship ever created.

Meanwhile, in the Hemisphere Administration Building in Washington D.C., Administration Director John Ives is about to speak to the press. A third expedition has been sent to search for the other two that have gone missing. Unfortunately, the Hemisphere Administration has lost contact with the search party. It's assumed that it vanished in the same way as the other engineers' groups. Reporters are driving Ives mad with questions and theories for which he has no answers, and he feels that only one man can help solve this strange mystery - Clark Kent.

Speaking of Clark, he and the others have heard on the shortwave radio about the third party's disappearance. Despite protests from Bronson the pilot not do so, Perry contacts Washington on the radio. Bronson risks a lot of trouble because he and the airplane's designer Hendricks have not yet registered the craft with the proper authorities. However, Perry promises to help Bronson should there be any problems. Once it's known that Perry is calling, the editor is ordered to bring Clark Kent to Washington as soon as possible.

In John Ives' office, the administration leader is explaining that he needs Clark as troubleshooter in Washington, even though the mild mannered reporter wants to go to the Andes Mountains to search for the three missing expeditions. Ives can't risk more people being lost in that untamed area.

Later, at the Daily Planet, Lois and Perry are preparing to leave for the Andes Mountains. An extra late edition of the newspaper about the third party's disappearance has been printed. Jimmy Olsen is helping to load Hendricks and Bronson's experimental stratoplane. Clark has just arrived to tell Perry that he's needed in Washington, and the editor reluctantly agrees to let him go. However, Perry promises to radio Clark if he and Lois get into trouble as long as Clark keeps what they learn a secret until he feel it's okay to reveal everything.

After Perry and Lois leave the office, a thunderstorm occurs. Jimmy also tells Clark that he saw a suspicious character near the airplane. This tall person wore a long coat and had his hat over his eyes. Clark tells him not to think too much about it. However, had both Jimmy and Clark listened to the copy boy's instincts, they would have later learned that something is wrong with the new aircraft. While flying over the storm, the controls become difficult to use and eventually jam. There is a flute-like noise coming from the mechanical bird. The ship also has run out of oxygen. Perry is now trying to radio for help.

In the radio room of the Hemisphere Administration, Clark Kent hears Perry White's distress call. Changing into Superman, he uses his tremendous speed and strength to catch the falling plane as its engines are cut. He finds what appears to be an Incan flute stuck in some cables and removes it. Lois believes that she saw Superman's face as the airplane descends safely. She later thinks nothing of it.

Back in John Ives' office, Doctor Coleson, curator of the National Museum, is examining the flute that Superman had found. Coleson theorizes that the Inca civilization could not have possibly died off as originally documented because the wooden instrument is less than four hundred years-old. Ives then reveals that the missing expeditions said that they heard a flute-like noise before losing radio contact. Clark refuses to say where he got the flute, and Doctor Coleson leaves to examine it further. As a result of his lack of cooperation and the fact Ives believes that the flute is a waste of time, Clark is ordered to go back to Metropolis.

Suddenly, however, Ives gets a telephone call from Doctor Coleson. He wants the administration leader to get Clark back into the office. The Incan flute appears to be authentic. The Incan civilization may still exist somewhere in the Andes Mountains. John Ives is now desperately trying to search for Clark Kent. He even calls Captain Watson of the Washington Police Department. The police are now searching all over the city for Clark Kent.

At the Daily Planet, Jimmy Olsen is trying to get someone out of a locked office. The copy boy learns that Clark is inside the office once the mild mannered reporter opens the door. Jimmy tells Clark that John Ives has been searching for him, and Jimmy is to call the Hemisphere Administration if he hears from Clark. Kent had been studying some maps in the office since last night. Jimmy was worried that Clark's disappearance was connected to the war against the Japanese. The young man is also concerned for Lois and Perry's safety. Clark tries to reassure Jimmy. However, the boy wants to do everything he can to aid the war effort. He even attempted to enlist in the United States Navy despite his being too young to be a solder. Clark shows pride in the lad and tells Jimmy to buy war stamps and war bonds in order to aid the American military.

After returning to Washington D.C., Clark tells John Ives that he believes that an Incan had placed the flute in Perry's private plane that went on a search for the lost American engineers, whom Clark thinks were also captured by the Incas. Clark then wants to go to South America to investigate the situation. Ives orders Clark to go there in an airplane with a pilot named Lt. Elliot.

While Ives calls the airfield, Clark calls Jimmy to ask him to bring the maps in which he had left in the newspaper office. Jimmy brings them, but he isn't around to say goodbye to Clark before the airplane takes off. Clark jokingly brushes this off as he and Lt. Elliot prepare to leave for the Andes Mountains.

On the flight to South America, the aircraft's windshield becomes covered with ice. Elliot goes in the rear compartment to get some glycerine to clear the glass. Suddenly, he sees someone stowed away in the back. He's about to use his gun when Jimmy comes out of hiding. Clark chides the boy for sneaking on board the plane during such a dangerous time of war, but he is eventually convinced to allow Jimmy to tag along with him.

Meanwhile, Lois and Perry's experimental private stratoplane has landed on a plateau near Tupangato in the Andes Mountains. While the plane could fly over the peak of the mountains, the clouds would make it impossible to see. Bronson fires two flares in case the missing expeditions of engineers are stranded there and happen to see the light. Lois then suddenly hears the same flute-like noise that nearly caused their aircraft to crash, and the sound is coming closer and closer.

At sunrise, Jimmy has just awakened. The plane has just flown over the Panama Canal. Jimmy goes back to the rear compartment to get a jacket once the temperature drops from the plane reaching eighteen thousand feet. Thinking he's pulled the lever to the portal to see where the winter gear is located, Jimmy falls out of the airplane. The switch actually opened the emergency drop hatch, and as Lt. Elliot goes to aid the lad, Clark Kent jumps out of the airplane.

While Elliot takes the airplane to San Diego to report what had happened to mild mannered reporter and his young friend, Superman uses his great speed and abilities to save Jimmy Olsen before the copy boy can fall to his death. He resumes his guise of Clark Kent after carrying Jimmy to a cave in Tupangato.

After awakening in the dark cave, Jimmy hears the sound of giant condors nearby. The large birds are about to attack, but Clark uses Superman's strength to deal with them after Jimmy turns off his flashlight. He and Clark fear that the light will attract the great birds.

After the condors have been dealt with, Clark and Jimmy are surprised to see an amazing discovery. A group of Incan warriors is approaching the cave. The lost ancient tribe has now been found.

Using an unconscious giant condor as camouflage, Clark knocks out two of the warriors while the others are frightened away by the bird. He and Jimmy take the knocked out Incas' ornate clothing and color their skin with a special herb dye. This is done in order for them to be passed off for members of the Incan civilization. Their disguises are about to be put to the test near the plateau where the stratoplane has landed as a group of Inca warriors surrounds Bronson, Perry White and Lois Lane.

Using the flute he had taken from the stratoplane as Superman, Clark acts as a tribe leader for the Inca warriors and runs up to the plateau. Perry shoots a tommy gun taken from the plane at Clark. As he nears White and the others speak, he claims to know about the Daily Planet and jokes about Lois being the paper's second best reporter. Clark reveals himself to Bronson, Perry and Lois. He then discusses his plan. The trio must pretend to be captured by Clark. Clark wants to take them with him and the Incas in order to learn the location of the three expeditions of American engineers.

Suddenly, something happens that Clark had not counted on. Another Inca leader's flute is now being played. The real chief of the tribe calls to Clark in the Incan language, but the reporter doesn't respond. Clark says that he wasn't listening to the real leader. The Inca Chief Kuba, however, knows that Clark is lying. The orange jewel on Clark's necklace is sensitive to the fluctuations of the human heart. It changes to a yellow color when one is not telling the truth, and the chief saw that Clark's gem was not orange. Clark takes advantage of the knowledge of the orange jewel by asking the whereabouts of the engineers. The chief claims to know nothing about the three expeditions that came to the Andes Mountains, but Clark knows that the Incan leader is lying. Unfortunately, Clark cannot learn anything further. Jimmy Olsen has been unmasked, and the Incas have captured the copy boy along with Perry, Lois, Bronson and Kent.

After Clark and the others trek through the Andes Mountains as prisoners of the Incas, they see something wondrous. A boulder hiding a tunnel is moved. The pathway leads to the Lost Nation of the Incas. Unfortunately, no outsider has ever been permitted to see this kingdom of lush green valleys, white stone pyramids and great gleaming palaces. His Excellency Neru, leader of the Inca nation will want Lois, Clark, Perry, Jimmy and Bronson to be imprisoned in the Incan dungeons until sentence has been passed.

Much later, in the dungeon, everyone except Clark is asleep. This gives him a chance to remove a loose stone in the prison wall and look around the Lost Nation of the Incas as Superman. However, Perry suddenly awakens. Our hero must remain in his guise of Clark Kent. Perry goes with the reporter to check things out despite Clark's wanting him to stay behind for his own safety. They overhear Kuba talking with Neru and three other chieftains.

Neru wants to kill all the white intruders, including the nine American engineers, because he feels that the Pan-American highway will destroy the Incan civilization. Kuba pleas with his leader not to kill Clark and the others if they come in peace, but his words fall on deaf ears. The guards must now bring Perry, Bronson, Jimmy, Lois and Clark so that their death sentence may be carried out. Clark and Perry run back their cell. However, before they can return, Perry twists his ankle as the Incan guards close in on him and Clark.

Carrying Perry. Clark runs through a corridor. He learns that he and his editor have taken a wrong turn. They hear a noise coming from a nearby cell. One of the nine engineers - a man named John Craig - is trying to scrape away the stone of his prison. For some strange reason, Craig was singled out to see the miraculous engineering feats of the Lost Nation of the Incas. The rest of the engineers are imprisoned in mountainside tunnels throughout the hidden civilization. Perry and Clark let Craig out of his prison, and the engineer helps them find their cell so they can free Lois, Jimmy and Bronson. However, when they get to that part of the dungeon, Clark, Perry and Craig find that Lois and the others are missing.

Speaking of Lois, she is being questioned by Neru. He wants to know how Clark and Perry had managed to escape the dungeon. Lois knows nothing, but the Inca nation's leader doesn't believe her. Neru, however, is willing to make a compromise. Lois has until the moon reaches its zenith in an hour to give the Incan Council of Chieftains the location of Perry and Clark. Should she fail to do this, she, Jimmy and Bronson will be executed.

Meanwhile, Clark, Perry and Craig are wondering about the whereabouts of Lois, Jimmy and Bronson. They notice the cell door is opened. This means some guards have taken Lois and the others, and they know that Perry and Clark have escaped.

Suddenly, three Inca warriors approach the dungeon. Clark knocks them out before he, Perry and Craig take the Incas' clothes as disguises.

In the meantime, Lois and Jimmy are in a small anteroom outside of the Incan council chambers. Bronson is being questioned by the chieftains about the stratoplane. Because of the Incas' curiosity about the experimental aircraft, Bronson will not die with Lois and Jimmy. Lois tries to convince Kuba not to kill her or the young copy boy. They were asleep when Clark and Perry escaped. Kuba tells her that no outsider must leave the Lost Nation of the Incas. The tribe does not want to be a part of the outside world because of war and hatred. Lois makes a plea for the Pan-American highway because she is of the opinion that it can help unite humanity in friendship. Lois believes that the one of the main reasons for war is because many people just don't know or understand one another. Kuba comprehends what Lois means. However, he is just one of five members of the Incan council, and it has been decided that Jimmy and Lois must be executed in the Valley of the Shadows.

Not long afterwards, Clark, Perry and Craig have gone about in their Incan disguises without incident. Clark and Perry follow a group of Incas to the Valley of Shadows while Craig keeps watch in the distance. The mild mannered reporter then suddenly sees something with his superhuman eyes - blonde hair belonging to Jimmy Olsen. Convinced by Perry that he is mistaken, Clark goes with his editor to the Inca palace. They pretend to be guards as they see a smiling Bronson. They follow the Incas taking him to the mountainside tunnel prison where the other eight engineers are imprisoned. The Incan guards place Bronson in one of the cells inside the corridor.

While Perry goes back to Craig's cell, Clark enters Bronson's cell. Bronson tells him that the reporter has blood on his hands. Because he and Perry escaped, Lois and Jimmy will be sacrificed in the Valley of Shadows. Bronson saved his own skin by agreeing to teach the Incas how to fly the stratoplane. Clark opens the prison door with his superhuman muscles and later leaves Bronson locked in the dungeon. Now, he's about to use Superman's strength to burst through the mountainside's rock.

At that moment, an old Incan named Ziba opens the secret door to the dungeon. Superman, still in the Inca garb, tells Ziba that he is a tribal chief from a distant land who is searching for the Valley of the Shadows. Ziba reveals the Vanishing Sacred River is in the Valley of Shadows. To the Incas, the water of the river goes down into a hole that possibly takes the liquid to the center of the Earth. Lois, Jimmy, the engineers and Bronson are to be sacrificed to the River Gods in the Valley of the Shadows. Ziba is about to reveal more, but he sees that Superman's truth stone has become yellow. The Man of Steel has lied to the elderly Incan. Ziba now refuses to help Superman find the Valley of the Shadows. Our hero may be too late to save Lois and Jimmy.

In the Valley of Shadows, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are about to be sacrificed to the River Gods soon. The copy boy finds a police whistle, which was a gift from Clark Kent. He takes it out of his pocket and blows it. The sound of the whistle reaches Superman's super sensitive ears. The Man of Tomorrow leaps off a cliff and flies at tremendous speeds to the Valley of the Shadows and its Sacred River, where he swims to grab the unconscious Lois and Jimmy just seconds after the Incas had thrown them into the cold, churning waters. Superman uses CPR to revive both Lois and Jimmy.

Later, in an area of the mountains far from the Lost City of the Incas, Clark Kent is building a fire with Jimmy and Lois. Fortunately, the Incas believe that the water goes into a hole created by a whirlpool. They do not know that it travels further up Tupangato. This means that the Incas believe that Jimmy and Lois are dead. According to Jimmy, this should make it easier to investigate the Lost City of the Incas and possibly free the highway engineers. Clark expands on Jimmy's idea by suggesting that they let the Incan people think that Perry White and John Craig are also dead. The Incas are under the impression that Clark, like Jimmy and Lois, is dead. The elderly Incan Ziba saw him leap off a cliff when he flew to save Jimmy and Lois as Superman.

Leaving Jimmy and Lois, Clark flies back to the Inca palace as Superman. He sneaks back into the dungeon as Clark Kent. Kent finds Perry in Craig's cell with the engineer. Both men are still disguised as Inca guards. Clark then tells them that they should take their normal clothes and fill the unworn garments with straw. They do so before opening the door to their the cell. Perry and Craig can now make their escape while carrying their own dummies and follow Clark. They launch themselves and the dummies over a wall with Clark's help.

After walking for some time, Clark explains his plan. By now, the Incas most likely know Perry and Craig have escaped, and they'll send a group of warriors to capture them. The dummies will pretend to be Craig and White while the real men use their voices to act out what will later be their own deaths. Inca warriors then surround the dummies and use their golden hatchets to "kill" them.

Much later, after Craig and Perry meet up with Jimmy and Lois, Clark asks Craig if the Incas want something that can later be used as a bargaining chip to help convince the tribe that the trans-hemisphere highway means them no harm. Craig can think of nothing, and Clark, who is still dressed in the Inca costume, decides to go to the Incan palace to learn more. He tells the rest of the group that he's going to search for firewood.

In the palace, a hidden Superman hears Neru discussing the deaths of Perry White and John Craig with another member of the ruling chieftain council. Neru then tells of his next plan. The Incan leader now wants to sacrifice the remaining eight engineers in order to prevent the Pan-Am highway's construction from destroying his tribe and their lost city.

Desperate, Superman pretends to be a God of Peace. He's behind a balcony's curtain while using his tremendous voice to talk to Neru. He demands that the engineers be freed and allowed to build the Pan-American highway. Assuring Neru that the Incan civilization will go unmolested by the great road, Superman grants Neru one wish. Neru wishes for a river that flows near the Lost City of the Incas. The river's water can help turn great wheels that will provide much needed energy for the Incas. Superman has twenty-four hours to create this river. Once the Incas have this body of water, the engineers can go free, and construction on the highway can begin.

Returning to the hidden camp as Clark Kent, our hero enlists the aid of engineer John Craig for the river. Clark knows that he could make the river as Superman, but he doesn't want to risk flooding the Inca city. Craig says that a miracle will have to be performed, and dynamite will be needed in the river's construction. Jimmy Olsen then remembers that the Incas had taken some boxes of the explosive that Perry White had brought with him in the experimental stratoplane, and the copy boy knows where the warriors put it - in the tunnels where they had imprisoned the group from the Daily Planet not far from the galleries' exit. Jimmy takes Clark to find the dynamite.

Suddenly, the copy boy sees something that makes him lose hope. A group of of Incan warriors is in the tunnel's entryway. The elderly Ziba sees Clark's face, which is still colored like the natives' skin. Clark says that the River Gods have sent him back to get the boxes from the stratoplane as a sacrifice. Ziba and the rest of the warriors give Clark and Jimmy safe passage to get the explosives needed to create Neru's new river after Clark uses one hidden stick of dynamite to "create thunder".

Later at the underground river, Clark, Perry, Jimmy and Craig discuss the possibility of bringing water to the surface near the Lost City of the Incas. There are no charges to attach to the explosives. The dynamite only has normal fuses. The chances of giving Neru his river are very slim. However, while the rest of the camp sleeps, Superman plants the dynamite, lights the fuses and redirects the raging waters through the Valley of the Shadows to an area not far from the Lost City of the Incas before a flood can occur.

With a new river to help his people, Neru has agreed to free the engineers and aid them in constructing the Pan-American highway. Clark, Perry, Lois, Jimmy and Bronson fly back to Metropolis in the stratoplane.

On the flight back, Clark reports the mission's success via shortwave radio to the Hemisphere Administration in Washington D.C. The engineers have been found, the Inca civilization has been rediscovered, and they agreed to assist in creating the new Pan-Am highway. Superman has saved the day yet again. However, "The Mechanical Man" awaits the Man of Steel in next week's exciting serial in The Adventures of Superman. Be sure to tune in then, boys and girls.

Trivia:

Chapter eleven of "The Pan-Am Highway" was originally broadcast just one day after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.

Bud Collyer has a cold in the beginning of this serial. Since Superman doesn't catch colds, Collyer says that he was hoarse from dictating war news all day.

Once again, Jimmy mentions his friend Jackie Kelk, who is perhaps the more famous of the two radio actors to play Jimmy Olsen. Kelk also played Henry Aldrich's friend Homer Brown in The Aldrich Family radio program.

Jimmy has blonde hair in the radio serials. However, when he later appeared in the comic books he was given red hair. This could possibly be because of the popularity of the Archie comic books. The title character of Archie Andrews, who would also get his own radio show, is a teenager with red hair.

Review:

There are three plot holes in "The Pan-Am Highway." One of them can be easily explained by the fact that much of Superman's alien biology and nature had probably not been established much in the Golden Age comic books. I must admit that I am not very familiar with that era in the Superman comics. I was born in 1973 and discovered Superman and Action Comics about three years after I was brought into the world.

Anyway, the plot hole dealing with Superman himself is the fact the truth stone changed color when he was not telling the truth. However, I'll cut the writers some slack on it though because Siegel and Shuster probably never explored much about Kryptonian genetic structures beyond Superman's amazing feats while fighting evil doers. I'm only making a guess about this because, as I said before, I don't know much about the early stories in the comics.

The Incan costumes created the second plot hole. Clark dressed as an Inca warrior, while it works well in the story, really could create some suspicion on the part of Jimmy, Lois and Perry. Why? Well, I'm no expert on the Incas, but I'm willing to bet that they didn't wear glasses. Clark without his glasses just invites a "Hey Clark, you look exactly like Superman" type of comment from those closest to them. However, like Noel Neil and Jack Larson in "Panic in the Sky," the fact that Clark looks like our red cloaked hero without his horn rims is ignored for the sake of more important plot points in "The Pan-Am Highway."

Upon first listening to "The Pan-Am Highway," I felt Jimmy and Perry passing themselves off as Incas was a bit far fetched, but after listening a second time, the fact that Kuba had said that Jimmy was too short to be an Incan made that part of the story make more sense. Perry in disguise wasn't that crazy of an idea if you consider that the Inca gate-master Ziba is most likely older than Mister White.

The third hole in "The Pan-Am Highway" deals with Bud Collyer's voice in the beginning of the story arc. I understand that it would have probably been difficult to get another actor to play Clark Kent and Superman in Collyer's place, and nobody has a voice like his. However, it's hard to swallow the fact that Superman can get hoarse, especially if he can't catch a cold or the flu.

Despite these problems in the story, which were merely mentioned to get them out into the open, "The Pan-Am Highway" is a really exciting, action-packed serial, and Bud Collyer really shines in every chapter despite the cold creating havoc with his throat in the first third of the story. I have said many times that Collyer is the definitive voice for both Clark Kent and Superman. If you want proof of this, listen to his voice in the radio serials, Fleischer cartoons and The New Adventures of Superman animated series from 1966. You'll be glad you checked them out.

I honestly expected this adventure to be a sequel to "The Emerald of the Incas" once it was revealed that the Incan civilization was still alive. I'm happy to say that it isn't. "Emerald" is probably my least favorite of the Superman radio serials. I didn't want to go through another painful story arc like that once again. Fortunately, "The Pan-Am Highway" is much better than "The Emerald of the Incas." Then again, Joe Casey's run on the comic books was better than that badly written saga.

It was really great to have Lois back in the serials after a two story arc absence. While it's not touched upon as deeply as in episodes of Smallville, Lois & Clark, or even Superman: The Animated Series, the listener can feel a bit of romantic tension between Clark and Lois. At one point during "The Pan-Am Highway," she says that the mild mannered reporter will be missed. Lois' tone of voice speaks volumes over her actual words. It seems to say, at least to me, "Hey, I hate to admit it, but I'm going to miss you more than either of us will ever know."

Lois gives a speech about the reasons there are wars in "The Pan-Am Highway" that is very similar to the ones Captain Kirk would make in various episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. In addition to trying to help the children listening understand the horrors of such things as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I think that she, like James Tiberius Kirk, was trying to give the audience hope for the future. One cannot help but wonder if Gene Roddenberry and the other creative minds behind Star Trek might have been greatly affected by the hell that was World War II and inspired by serials like "The Pan-Am Highway" to get their messages across in their stories. I'd like to think shows like Superman helped pave the way for their writing.

Overall, despite some problems that I'm willing to overlook, "The Pan-Am Highway" is a serial that becomes an edge-of-your seat thrill ride from start to finish. Let's hope "The Mechanical Man" provides the same type of excitement when he arrives next week. Will he be friend or foe for Superman? We'll have to wait and find out together in seven days or so, Superfans. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.



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