Superman on Radio & Audio

Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews

1942: The Mystery Ship

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Dates: December 23, 1942-December 31, 1942

"The Mystery Ship"

Superman, in his guise of Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent, has gone with his colleagues Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and editor Perry White on an expedition in search of the lost continent of Atlantis in a submarine created by eccentric inventor Doctor Oleander Cameron. The group has faced many dangers, including a German U-boat and a giant octopus, from which Superman has saved them. The Man of Steel even rushed Jimmy to a Navy hospital after he was injured by the Nazis.

Now, a tanker is on a collision course with Cameron's vessel. The opposing boat's whistle blows, but it cuts through the hull of Cameron's bathysphere. Lois, Perry, Doctor Cameron and his crew have been knocked into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This forces Clark to return to his true identify of Superman. The caped hero leaves Lois and the others on the mysterious ship, only to discover something surprising as Clark Kent when he and his friends take a look around. The tanker, in spite of engines running and hot soup on the dinner table, seems to be completely deserted.

Further inspection of the mysterious boat shows that it is completely without a crew. Clark and the others split up to see what can be discovered. A shaving kit with warm water has been found in a crewman's quarters, and Clark has turned off the ship's engines. He, Lois and Perry are about to go to activate the tanker's foghorn when something shocks them. There is the sudden sound of someone screaming.

Jimmy Olsen has returned, and the intrepid group from Cameron's submarine and the Daily Planet have found the tanker's captain dead in the dining hall. Stranger yet, there seems to be someone sounding off the foghorn. It is an insane, laughing old man with long nails and dressed in seaweed from head to foot. According the captain's log, he is the Old Man of the Seaweed. It is believed the maniacal elder has killed the crew of the abandoned ship. The Old Man of the Seaweed can only give the answers, in Clarks opinion. However, when Clark and the others go to question him, they find seaweed in the place of the crazed senior citizen whom had been tied up earlier by Kent. This mystery has just become more unusual for Superman and his friends.

Clark, Lois and Perry are searching the tanker for the Old Man of the Seaweed. Having split up with Clark, Lois and Perry are the first to find the elderly madman. He misses Perry with the knife he had thrown, but a wrench has made contact with the chief's skull. The Old Man has just taken Lois to the engine room, where he intends to crush her with the re-activated motors' pistons. The timely arrival of Superman prevents this. With one punch, the Man of Steel knocks out the Old Man of the Seaweed. Resuming his guise of Clark Kent, he awakens Lois and turns off the vessel's power. Now, Lois and Clark are about to make sure that Perry is okay until they hear a voice.

"Stay where you are!," he commands. "Throw up your hands, and don't budge, or I'll shoot to kill!"

The gunman is Lt. Saunders of the United States Navy. He had received a radio message saying the Albatross, which is the very vessel on which our hero and his friends find themselves, was sinking. Having straightened things out with Saunders and given an account of events that had occurred aboard the Albatross, Clark and the others are on a clipper ship bound for Metropolis, and the Old Man of the Seaweed is in the Navy's custody. On the flight, Lois, Clark and Jimmy see a man mistreating a Great Dane. Lois confronts him and learns that he is Sir Alfred Kenneth Trucita, a famous dog breeder. However, Clark reveals something to Lois after Sir Alfred leaves. The person they had met is not really Sir Alfred.

Clark had met Sir Alfred some years ago when he was a cub reporter, and his dogs had obeyed and adored him. His animal feared the man on board. Another question is now raised in the mind of Superman. Who is the man impersonating Sir Alfred Kenneth Trucita, and how is he connected to what happened to the Albatross?

In spite of Clark's wanting to wait, Lois intends to confront the false Sir Alfred. Realizing that his ruse has failed, the impostor holds Lois at gunpoint in his stateroom. Before he can even fire a shot, Superman arrives. Lois is going back to Jimmy Olsen when the Man of Steel takes the enemy agent for a special flight to make him talk.

After nearly dropping the spy, Superman learns that the fake Sir Alfred is really Rudy Von Vicbaster, a German agent sent to impersonate an Englishman and sabotage Allied Merchant Marine ships, including the Albatross. Von Vicbaster's men had captured the crew and forced the radio operator to send a message that the tanker was sinking. The Old Man of the Seaweed was also a Nazi operative. He was ordered to put fear into the hearts of American Naval officers that came to investigate the derelict vessels, thereby damaging the psychological strength of the soldiers.

Von Vicbaster knew of Sir Alfred's coming to America and was ordered to aid his Axis partners. One thing that didn't factor into the Nazis' plans was the intervention of Clark Kent and Superman. The forces of Adolf Hitler have been thwarted thanks to the Man of Steel.

Trivia:

Chapter three, which aired on December 27, 1942, is missing from this serial.

In the first episode, Lois says Clark's name before exclaiming, "Mister Kent." Joan Alexander perhaps intended to say "Mister White".

Review:

Special thanks to Adam Graham for letting me know that I had overlooked this one.

It's been quite some time, and I've honestly missed hearing the radio adventures of the Man of Steel. Had Mr. Graham not pointed out my oversight, I probably would not have realized how much fun I had had listening to this series. Bud Collyer and the rest of the cast do their usual stupendous job performing in this serial, and writer/director/producer George Lowther, while not on par with Jackson Beck, does tremendously with the narration.

1942-1945 were the years of World War II in which America was actively involved. President Roosevelt had declared that the USA would do its part against the Axis powers after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As a result, programs like The Adventures of Superman offered public service announcements about buying war savings stamps. In addition to this, stories would center around Superman and his friends discovering and battling another threat created by the Nazis or their Japanese allies. In the case of "The Mystery Ship", we have two nasties working for Hitler: the Old Man of the Seaweed and the man whom he worked for, Rudy Von Vicbaster. Now, admittedly, I wish more had been done with the Old Man of the Seaweed. His departure from the serial feels rather sudden and anti-climatic. Von Vicbaster, on the other hand, worked perfectly into the story's last chapters.

As a whole, "The Mystery Ship" is a great mixture of creepy, film noir atmosphere and superhero action. As I said before, more needed to be done with the Old Man of the Seaweed. Perhaps an extra episode or two should have been devoted to him. The rest of the serial was entertaining and well done. It's a pity that more of the story arcs from this period are incomplete or unavailable at this time. It would be great to listen to them in their entirety.



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