Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1946: The Phony Housing RacketReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: December 16, 1946-December 26, 1946
"The Phony Housing Racket"
In an effort to help Daily Planet editor Perry White's fat, rhyming chef Poco, cub reporter Jimmy Olsen and head copy boy Beany Martin secretly went undercover to bring down a song publishing company that has taken hefty sums of money while promising fame and fortune to hapless songwriters, including Poco. Unfortunately, the boys' plan was discovered by Professor L.C. Blessing and his henchman Froggy, the con men behind the swindle. Now, both Jimmy and Beany are trapped in the burning building that once housed the Metropolis Song Publishing Company. As the two criminals leave town, both boys have been overcome by the smoke. However, Jimmy was able to contact Clark Kent, who is now in his true identity of Superman rushing to save his friends. He arrives just in time to fly Beany and Jimmy out of harm's way.
Jimmy and Beany have been chided by Perry for going after Professor Blessing without asking for help. Saying that the boys have learned their lesson, Clark gets an idea. The Daily Planet will run a series of articles asking people to report suspected con men. Then, the newspaper will investigate the racketeers and bring them to justice if they are dishonest. Perry approves of Kent's plan. Hopefully, more crooks will be put in prison before more innocent people get swindled like poor Poco.
Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson has just called Clark Kent. There is still no word on the whereabouts of Professor Blessing and Froggy. However, he wants to speak about something more serious. Since the post-war housing shortage, many con men have been taking huge sums of money from unsuspecting people. One such group has been selling land to G.I.s and showing plans for various kinds of homes. Once the soldiers pay for everything, they discover that the people selling the property do not even own it. The racketeers then leave town after being discovered. Henderson had sent a man to get proof about the criminal ring, but he and a war veteran who suspected a scheme were shot and killed. Perry and Clark agree to help Henderson in every way possible to keep these crooks from bilking innocent people of their savings despite the possible danger to their lives.
Perry has just ordered Clark to write the first racket-busting story despite the mild mannered reporter suggesting to wait. Kent feels that there will be trouble if articles about the confidence gang are published before anyone is arrested. Clark, in reality, thinks he should take care of the criminals as Superman. However, Perry insists that Clark write about everything that Henderson had told them. This later proves that Clark's prediction was correct. Someone has called ordering that the Planet stop printing anything about the housing scheme. Otherwise, White will regret everything said in the newspaper. Not one to give in to threats, Perry refuses and declares that the next piece will make the last one look like a Valentine's Day card. Has the editor signed is own death warrant?
Two men named Brock Neilson and Brownie are discussing the former's recent conversation with Perry White. Brownie is ordered to place a bomb - or even two or three - in the Daily Planet building. If both Perry and the newspaper are gone for good, nobody can interfere with Neilson's plans. Clark Kent's warnings to Perry may yet become reality.
It's 2:30 AM in the darkened printing room of the Daily Planet. Brownie and a man named Ed are planting explosives when the night watchman Tom Steadman makes his rounds. Ed knocks him out from behind while Brownie makes it look like Steadman was drunk on the job. George, the elevator operator, calls Perry because Tom has not returned from his patrol. Perry fires Tom for drinking on duty, but Clark believes the security guard was attacked because of a bump on the back of his head. Kent tells Perry this the next morning, and the mild mannered reporter feels the incident is connected to the phone call the editor received from the racketeers. In the meantime, his superhuman senses are alert to every danger in the building as it gets closer to time to print the latest edition of the newspaper.
Perry is quite sure of himself as it nears the hour of 11:00 AM. In a short time, the new edition of the Daily Planet will be ready to go out on the streets of Metropolis. Seconds before the printing presses start, however, Clark's X-Ray Vision picks up the bomb planted by Brownie. He has Perry leave the office while he races to stop the explosive as Superman. Using his own body as a shield, the Man of Steel prevents the destruction of the great metropolitan newspaper. Resuming his guise of Clark Kent, he then tries to convince Perry that Tom Steadman was not drunk, and the racketeers are just beginning with their dangerous attacks on the chief and The Planet. Perry, despite he risks to his life, still has no intention to stop his crusade against the confidence men.
Neilson does not understand how Brownie had not done his job correctly, but there are other ways to deal with Perry White. Neilson proves this later that night as Brownie and some other men lurk in the shadows on the property of the editor's suburban home. Perry has just returned from a meeting with Inspector Henderson. Poco is preparing dinner in the kitchen as the chief parks his car in the garage. However, he may not get to eat it. A blackjack whistles through the air and strikes Perry. White is now unconscious. Will he be able to continue to write editorials busting the phony housing racket?
Jimmy Olsen has just called Clark Kent. Poco had called the cub reporter because Perry has not come home, and the he was to entertain dinner guests. Clark had seen White when they had left Inspector Henderson's office, which was two hours ago. Kent questions Poco, but the fat, rhyming chef knows nothing. Poco and Clark find the chief''s car and a sign of a struggle. This prompts Superman to search further for the editor. Later, Jimmy and Sheriff Johnson are in White's home speaking with Clark when a phone call arrives from Brock Neilson. He delivers an ultimatum to the mild mannered reporter. Stop attacking Neilson's housing racket, or Perry White will die. The editor tells Kent to not give in to Neilson's demands. Suddenly, a gunshot is heard over the telephone receiver. Has Perry met the fate promised to him by Neilson?
It is now the next morning in the offices of the Daily Planet. Jimmy and Clark are worried about Perry. The latter, however, believes that the racketeers still have the editor alive. A phone call from Neilson confirms this. Unfortunately, there's no way to trace the confidence man's location. Jimmy and Clark seem to have reached a dead end in their search for White until an ex-G.I. named Art Duncan is found waiting in Kent's office. The young soldier and his wife were swindled into buying some land for a house in Bunker Heights by Frank Miller of the Bunker Heights Realty Corporation. However, according to Duncan's friend and evidence found by Clark, a James E. Mitchell in California owns the property, and he has no intention of selling.
Clark now has a clue to Perry White's whereabouts thanks to Art Duncan, who is going with Kent to Bunker Heights to speak with Frank Miller. Unfortunately, Miller has been ordered by Brock Neilson to leave town until the authorities and the Daily Planet stop going after his gang. However, Clark and Duncan eventually catch up with Miller thanks to a filling station owner's indicating that Miller was driving a new Chevy Coupe. Fearing the police, Miller lets it slip that Brock Neilson is the head of the housing racket, and his office and home are located at 713 Fargo Road in Metropolis. All Superman has to do is wait for Neilson to arrive to give the confidence man what he deserves.
While Neilson and Brownie are wondering if the Daily Planet will continue its anti-racketeering campaign, assistant editor Bill Burrows is asking publisher John Grayson if he should run the latest article against the confidence gang. Grayson gives approval to print the story unaware that he has just sentenced Perry White to death.
As Superman awaits Neilson, the racketeer has given an order to the men that are in a warehouse guarding Perry. At noon, the next edition of the Daily Planet will be on the street. Should there be another article against Neilson's confidence gang, Brownie will blow his car horn four times. This will be the signal for them to eliminate Perry and make their getaway. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Poco are anxious because there is still no word about the chief. Everyone involved is impatient to see what the great metropolitan newspaper will have written within its pages, and Perry White's life hangs in the balance.
Brock Neilson has given the order to Brownie to signal the thugs guarding Perry to kill the editor. The confidence man then enters his apartment. He is confronted by none other than Superman, who takes Neilson on a rollercoaster-style flight to get him to reveal White's location. However, the Man of Steel may be too late. Neilson's men are preparing to exterminate the editor. Can Superman save Perry in time? "The Phony Restaurant Racket" holds the answer to that question, boys and girls, and it will definitely put you on the edge of your seats. Tune in to The Adventures of Superman next week, same time, same station.
Once again, Mason Adams is in a Superman serial. This time, he's playing Brownie
While I expected a better resolution than "the crooks get out of town until the heat's off" to last week's story arc, there really is very little to complain about in "The Phony Housing Racket." Poco's singing "Dizzy Lizzie" was unnecessary, but Jimmy's response to it gave me a chuckle. He asked something to the nature of "Didn't that song get us into enough trouble the last time?" I found that to be very funny.
The Christmas scenes in "The Phony Housing Racket," while meaningful, do slow down the pace of an otherwise briskly moving story. They also feel rushed and forced into the serial to kill time. I've got nothing against messages of "Peace on Earth. Good Will Toward Men." However, it doesn't feel like the hearts of those working on The Adventures of Superman were in the right place this time around.
Beyond these two things, "The Phony Housing Racket" is an entertaining adventure. Perry is particularly more in the spotlight. He really shows the audience why he's the editor of a great metropolitan newspaper. He takes no crap from anyone and sticks to his guns no matter what dangers come about. Just remember, don't call him chief.
While part of me wished for a connection between Professor Blessing and Brock Neilson, the latter was a decent villain that worked well for "The Phony Housing Racket" serial. He may not be the Yellow Mask or the Atom Man, but not every nemesis of the Man of Steel can be a would-be conqueror or powered by Kryptonite. It's sometimes good to see Superman fight the normal criminals to help the average Joe or Jane of Metropolis.
Some really tense moments in "The Phony Housing Racket" help the story become more exciting. The one that really sticks out in my mind is when everyone from Brock Neilson and Brownie to Jimmy Olsen and Poco are waiting as the clock is about to strike noon while Perry White's fate is decided. While Superman is searching for the editor, everyone around him is wondering if Perry will be killed or not. Scenes like this can be real nail biters if they are done well, and this serial did an excellent job of portraying the chief's peril. Will Perry be safe, or will he be another of Brock Neilson's victims? We'll find out in seven days or so, Superfans, when "The Phony Restaurant Racket" comes to Metropolis. Until next week, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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