Superman on Television

Adventures of Superman: Episode Reviews

Season 1 - Episode 2: "The Haunted Lighthouse"

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: September 26, 1952

Writer: Eugene Solow

Director: Tommy Carr

Guest Cast:
Maudie Prickett as Mrs. Carmody (credit only)
Sarah Padden as Mrs. Carmody
Allene Roberts as Alice
Jimmy Ogg as Chris
Stephen Carr as Coast Guard Lt. Harris
William Challee as Mack
Effie Laird as Aunt Louisa

"The Haunted Lighthouse"

Daily Planet cub reporter Jimmy Olsen is spending his vacation with his Aunt Louisa Horn, her son Chris and their deaf-mute housekeeper Alice at their home on Moose Island, which is off the coast of Maine. Jimmy had not seen his aunt since he was a baby and did not recall what she looked like. The old lighthouse on Moose Island had been shut down since Jimmy's uncle, Captain Horn, had drowned during a bad storm twenty years ago. However, many from the mainland believe that they have seen its light shining in the night sky. As far as Jimmy knew, Aunt Louisa, Chris and Alice are the only people living there.

Jimmy is trying to make the most of his time with his relatives. Unfortunately, Chris has been extremely rude, and Aunt Louisa, while friendly, seems to have an air of anxiety and uneasiness about her. Young Olsen has continued to notice something out of place on Moose Island. He has heard a voice cry for help, he has encountered a shady acquaintance of Chris named Mack, and he has seen the lighthouse's bright beacon cut through the night's eerie shadows. Even poor Alice has been trying to tell Jimmy that something is not quite right. However, when Jimmy's investigation takes him a little too close to everything, Chris threatens to kill him.

Jimmy has just called Clark Kent for help in this mystery. While speaking on the telephone with Kent, the young man hears a woman's voice once again scream, "Help! Help! I'm drowning!"

Jimmy's urgent summons and the sudden disconnection of the call has prompted Clark to fly to Moose Island as Superman. While Aunt Louisa and Chris are on the mainland, Jimmy explains the unusual events to the mild mannered reporter. Clark becomes even more suspicious as they look around the island. Kent then examines a note that Louisa had written asking Jimmy for help. He then compares it to the letter inviting Jimmy to visit. The penmanship is the same, but Clark needs a more current handwriting sample from Aunt Louisa. It may be the only clue to solving this strange mystery.

As Superman contacts the Coast Guard, Jimmy is examining the recipe written by Aunt Louisa. It does not match the message he had gotten on the previous night. Shortly afterwards, Alice gives the cub reporter another warning note from Aunt Louisa. He then sneaks out of the house to look for Clark Kent. Jimmy actually finds Chris and Mack in the grotto on the other side of the island. The two men lock the cub reporter inside a cage within the tunnels' rocky walls. All they have to do is wait for the tide to role in. Once the water is inside the cave, Jimmy will most certainly meet his doom.

Chris and Mack are now with Aunt Louisa in the main house. They suddenly hear the siren of a Coast Guard cutter. Desperate, Chris takes a rifle and orders his mother to deal with things in the lighthouse. "But Chris, Alice is up there with her," she says. However, the impetuous young man does not seem to care. All that matters to him is making sure that no evidence of wrongdoing is found.

The Coast Guard ship, with Superman's incredible vision guiding it, is cutting through the dense fog in the murky night. As the boat approaches Moose Island, the Man of Steel sees that Jimmy is in trouble. His powerful arms then bend the bars of the prison that is holding young Olsen. Jimmy is free, but the danger has not passed. As Superman is carrying the unconscious Jimmy to safety, Mack pushes a boulder with a crowbar. The projectile misses its Kryptonian target. Undaunted, the Man of Steel goes after Mack. The panicked man then attacks Superman with a knife, only to discover that the blade has broken on our hero's chest. No options coming to mind, Mack has hurled himself along with a smaller rock at the caped crime-fighter, but he misses and falls. Now, Superman can finally make certain Jimmy is not injured.

Jimmy was not hurt by Mack and Chris, and Superman is explaining this unusual adventure to him. Mack and Chris used the caves' underground tunnels to smuggle things by boat into the old, abandoned lighthouse. Its beacon was used to guide fellow criminals to the site. As for Aunt Louisa, she is actually Mrs. Carmody, a former housekeeper of the real Aunt Louisa. Carmody and her son Chris are a part of Mack's gang of thieves. They were eventually forced to imprison Aunt Louisa in the lighthouse, where Alice had cared for her.

Superman has just freed Aunt Louisa. Now, she, Alice and Jimmy are making sure Mrs. Carmody does not escape while the Coast Guard gets Chris. With the smuggling operation halted, only one question remains. Who did Jimmy hear calling for help? It was none other than Aunt Louisa's parrot named Peter. He cried, "Help! Help! I'm drowning!" in order to be let into the house. Jimmy learns this when Aunt Louisa opens the door after another plea for aid is heard. With bird inside the house and speaking, everyone from Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen to Aunt Louisa and the Coast Guard officers laughs to celebrate victory over the smuggling ring.

5Rating - 5 (out of 5): Director Thomas Carr's brother Stephen makes one of his many cameos in The Adventures of Superman. He also served as script supervisor and dialogue director for various episodes in the series. Even though Steve Carr played Eddie in 1951's Superman and the Mole Men, that film was not his first time acting in something connected to the Man of Steel. He was also Morgan in chapters three and four of the 1948 serial Superman starring Kirk Alyn in the role of the Last Son of Krypton.

"The Haunted Lighthouse" is, in fact, based on the 1940 radio serial "Lighthouse Point Smugglers," which I reviewed roughly a couple of years ago. It was later redone in 1944 simply as "Lighthouse Point." The latter arc is currently unavailable at the present time. The audio version of this was different in that nobody had impersonated Aunt Louisa. She was, however, having trouble paying her mortgage, and the smugglers are also after the Horn family's hidden jade treasure found by Captain Horn in China many years ago. Despite the diversity in the two "Lighthouse" tales, it's always interesting to how the radio and television programs are similar yet unlike each other in many respects.

There is this film noir atmosphere in the first two seasons of The Adventures of Superman that begins for television viewers with "The Haunted Lighthouse." It actually started in the radio serials as many had some pretty heavy scenes for something labelled as a "children's show." By season three, when the color episodes begin, the TV series becomes more of a kid's program. Still, in spite of the darkness of this episode, there is a lighthearted moment when Jimmy learns that the voice he heard was just Aunt Louisa's parrot wanting to be let into the house. This eases tension and gives us another reason why this episode is so fantastic.

"The Haunted Lighthouse" is not Jack Larson's first appearance in The Adventures of Superman, but we really don't see him until the third act of "Superman On Earth." He doesn't do much beyond run into Perry White's office and drive Lois Lane to the airfield. Larson really gets a chance to shine in this episode, and his acting is superb. No wonder many consider him to be the quintessential Jimmy Olsen.

The Adventures of Superman provides the viewer with something rare in television. The first two episodes are extremely well done. Normally, a series doesn't really get going for me until some time around episode three or four. Star Trek: The Next Generation is a perfect example of that. However, this series has provided us with two beginning episodes that have fantastic writing and stupendous acting. "The Haunted Lighthouse" is thirty minutes of good, quality entertainment. TV shows in this day and age could learn a lot from the cast and crew.

Back to the "Adventures of Superman - Episode Reviews" Contents page.

Back to the main TELEVISION page.