Superman on Television

Adventures of Superman: Episode Reviews

Season 1 - Episode 4: "Mystery of the Broken Statues"

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: October 10, 1952

Writer: William C. Joyce

Director: Tommy Carr

Guest Cast:
Tristram Coffin as Paul Martin
Michael Vallon as Mister Bonelli
Maurice Cass as the Owner of the Elite Gift Shop
Phillip Pine as Dorn, Martin's associate
Stephen Carr as Mister Edwards
Wade Crosby as Pete
Buddy Mason as the Cop
Joey Ray as the Newsman

"Mystery of the Broken Statues"

Paul Martin and his assistant Dorn have just entered Bonelli's Artcraft Shop. Martin is a tall, dapper man with a cane, while Dorn is on the short side. They approach a display counter with ten animal statues. Oddly enough, Dorn smashes all of the plaster figures while Martin pays Mister Bonelli for the entire lot. Dorn looks through the debris to search for something. However, the object is nowhere to be found. Shortly after the pair had left, Lois Lane enters the store to pick up a pitcher that Bonelli had repaired for her. She is surprised to learn of the unusual act of vandalism as she looks at the broken shards on the floor. Bonelli thinks nothing of it since he was compensated for the damage, but Lois later discovers something else while searching for China egg cups at Edwards' China and Ceramics. The pair of men had done the same thing there.

Since 3:00 PM, seven shops throughout Metropolis, including Bonelli's and Edwards', have fallen victim to Dorn and Martin's strange spree of destruction. Cheap plaster animal statues have all been broken by the pair of men. Seeing a story for the Daily Planet in this, Lois asks Clark Kent for assistance. Despite his initial belief that there is nothing to this, the mild mannered reporter, who is really Superman, goes to five of the businesses on Lois' list of possible targets while Lois herself checks out another six. They intend to buy all the figurines they can find before Martin and Dorn can break them. This could be the key to solving this bizarre mystery.

Two places on her list were already visited by Martin and Dorn, but Lois was able to purchase fifteen of the animal figures. She finds a small brass key inside the second one that she has broken. She and Clark are now speaking with each other on the telephone, not realizing that Martin and Dorn have followed Lois. The two reporters compare notes. This includes all the bizarre objects that the pair of vandals had found inside the statues. None of the things make much sense, but they could help Lois and Clark solve the case.

Martin and Dorn have just taken Lois in hopes of finding the key she has hidden in her lipstick case. Meanwhile, two men that work for Martin named Pete and Charlie are smashing statues in the Elite Gift Shop. Clark has telephoned the owner to warn him. However, he doesn't care what the thugs do as long as they pay for what they destroy. Using Superman's speed and power of flight, Kent enters just before Pete and Charlie leave with three cents. After Martin's henchmen put up a bit of a fight, Clark takes them to Metropolis Police Headquarters. Unfortunately, Inspector Bill Henderson cannot hold them on any charges. This is a major setback in our hero's investigation.

Lois Lane is missing, and her apartment has been ransacked. No fingerprints were found on the scene, but Clark believes that Paul Martin, one the top confidence men in all the world, has taken her. We learn that Kent is right as we go to the National Import Company, where Martin had unsuccessfully questioned Lois about the location of the key she had found. Martin is currently making preparations for an airplane to take Lois to the mountains as he finds that which he is searching in her lipstick case. Now, Martin is one step closer in seeing his plans succeed.

As Martin and Dorn drive away with a bound and gagged Lois, Clark and Inspector Henderson question Pete. He refuses to answer them until Henderson threatens him with a long prison sentence. Pete tells them of Martin's mountain hideaway in Rock Hollow. He usually gets there with an airplane he keeps at Ramsey Airport. This gives Clark an idea on where to find Lois. He rushes to the airfield as Superman, where Dorn and Lois are about to take off in Martin's ship. Dorn was ordered to keep Lois in Rock Hollow while Martin stays in Metropolis. However, the Man of Steel stops the craft before it can even begin its flight. Now, Dorn is in police custody, and Lois has just been saved by our hero.

1 acorn
1 small, dried up onion
1 safety pin
1 toy automobile
1 little plastic cow
1 dollar bill
3 pennies

This is a list of items Martin and his gang had found inside the broken statues. Each object was part of a rebus, a puzzle using images in the place of words to form a phrase. Once the code is cracked by Clark Kent, the solution turns out to be MPO97. Playing with it further gives Clark, Lois and Inspector Henderson PO97M. That means Post Office Box 97 at the main branch of the Metropolis Post Office. Now, all that Clark and the others must do is wait until Martin opens the box at the post office tomorrow morning with the key he had taken from Lois.

Paul Martin has taken his package from his post office box. He is then arrested shortly afterwards. We turn our attention to Inspector Henderson's office, where Lois and Clark wait for him to open the parcel. Inside, there is a cheap plaster figure of a pig. Clark smashes the statue to reveal the Renzolair Ruby, the largest ruby in the world that had been stolen from the London Museum three years ago.

"What a story!," exclaims Lois.

"Thanks to Kent here," Inspector Henderson says.

"And to Superman," Lois continues.

"Well, like I always say, two heads are better than one," Clark calmly comments to the confused pair.

5Rating - 5 (out of 5): Science fiction fans may recognize Maurice Cass from his roll of Professor Newton in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. He would later appear in season two's "The Defeat of Superman" as Meldini. Another shop owner from this episode, Michael Vallon, will also return to The Adventures of Superman, but we won't have long to wait to see him. Vallon will portray the organ grinder Tony Urmenti in "The Monkey Mystery," which is the episode following this one. Vallon also had some small, uncredited parts in The Atom Man Versus Superman.

I want all of you out there to do something just for fun. Get out your DVDs of The Adventures of Superman. If you don't have them, go buy them. Then, play the shows to see how many times you can spot Tristram Coffin, Stephen Carr and Philip Pine. Coffin and Pine, as of this writing, seem to work well as criminals or former convicts. Carr, on the other hand, is the perfect military officer, business owner or townsperson. Despite these different portrayals by this trio of actors, one tends to forget they have seen them in other episodes because their talent makes you believe that they are another person even though there are similarities to previous characters.

I mentioned last week that the cast of The Adventures of Superman has a unique chemistry like few television shows of the time had. This is particularly true of George Reeves and Phyllis Coates, especially in this episode. I always felt that the actors playing Lois, Clark and Superman must work well together in order to make the characters' relationship function perfectly, and "Mystery of the Broken Statues" does that a million times over. Reeves seems to genuinely love working with Coates, and there are moments where Clark is concerned for Lois' safety. Plus, there seems to be a hint of Clark's true feelings for Lois. There are moments when one can feel a bit of romance in their scenes even if Kellogg's, the show's sponsor, probably wouldn't permit that too much.

There are significant differences between George Reeves as Clark Kent and the Christopher Reeve version. Kent was portrayed in the Reeve films as a timid, bumbling buffoon, where Reeves' Kent wasn't afraid to take risks and face danger both as a reporter and as Superman. "Mystery of the Broken Statues" even shows Clark fight with Pete and Charlie in the Elite Gift Shop before taking them to Inspector Henderson. While Chris Reeve's Clark works well for the film series, George's showed a Clark Kent that was just as much of a hero as his caped alter ego.

Including watching it twice for this review, I've probably seen "Mystery of the Broken Statues" a total of five or six times, and it's still one of my all-time favorite episodes. The writing and performances are simply astounding. The story provides action, suspense and audience participation. The viewer is challenged by the cast and crew to solve the case while watching just to see if they come up with the solution when Superman and his friends do so. They aren't literally asked to, but the show is written in a way that feels like they are. It's a pity more television isn't like that today.

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