Superman on Television

Adventures of Superman: Episode Reviews

Season 1 - Episode 22: "Czar of the Underworld"

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: February 13, 1953

Writer: Eugene Solow

Director: Tommy Carr

Guest Cast:
Anthony Caruso as Luigi Dinelli
Paul Fix as Ollie
John Maxwell as the Studio Police Chief/Frank Dinelli
Roy Gordon as Tommy
Stephen Carr as Director Carr
Joe Kirk as the Gangster with Binoculars
Sidney Clute as Shorty

"Czar of the Underworld"

Clark Kent's articles in the Daily Planet exposing crime boss Luigi Dinelli are being made into a movie entitled Czar of the Underworld produced by National Studios in Hollywood, California. Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson and Kent himself will serve as advisors during the filming. While Henderson is in Kent's office waiting for the mild mannered reporter to prepare to leave for their airplane flight, Dinelli calls. However, this is merely to distract Clark while a hitman finally tries to shoot him after being unable to see the target with a jammed gun. The bullet misses, but it makes both Clark and Henderson more determined to get Czar of the Underworld made no matter how risky it is for them.

Clark and Henderson have arrived in Hollywood. They just may not get to National Studios. Two of Dinell's men have knocked out the driver that is to meet them, and one is following in another car while the other drives Kent and Henderson to a place where they can be dealt with. The automobile is locked in a dark garage as Clark changes into Superman. The Man of Steel knocks the thugs' heads together, leaving them for the police. Now resuming his reporter's guise, our hero and Henderson make their way to National Studio to be certain that Czar of the Underworld can put Luigi Dinelli behind bars forever.

Luigi Dinelli's war with National Studios is heating up. Film is burned, and property is damaged. To make matters worse, actor Allen Dexter was shot dead on the set. A live bullet was mixed in with the blanks normally fired from guns during filming. Word of the murder has reached Daily Planet editor Perry White thanks to a teletyped news flash given to him by cub reporter Jimmy Olsen. White is angry that Clark didn't give him a firsthand account of the events at National Studios. However, Kent has his hands full, and he'll need all the strength at his disposal to stop Luigi Dinelli and his gang as Superman.

Henderson and Clark have met with the studio police chief and have examined Allen Dexter's trailer on stage thirteen. The peculiar thing is that Kent wants to spend the night there while Henderson is in the complimentary suite in the Mark Stevens Hotel. With Henderson there, Clark is more free to confront Dinelli's mob as Superman. Meanwhile, Dinelli himself has learned of Clark's sleeping at National Studios. The crime boss intends to eliminate the mild mannered reporter with the aid of the same person he has working inside the motion picture production company. Superman definitely has his work cut out for him with this adventure.

The studio police chief has let Clark look at the Los Angeles Police Department's file on Dinelli. Now, Superman knows where to find the gang lord. He knocks out Dinelli's henchmen before doing the same thing to Dinelli himself. The Man of Tomorrow then flies with Dinelli to National Studios. According to what Superman tells Inspector Henderson, he'd rather have Dinelli in Dexter's trailer in Clark's place should the killer show up on stage thirteen tonight. With Henderson following, the Last Son of Krypton goes to National Studios. Their objective is to bring down Luigi Dinelli's criminal empire forever.

A man whose face is hidden by a hat and trenchcoat has entered studio thirteen. He has attached a hose to a car's tailpipe and Allen Dexter's trailer. The engine is started, causing carbon monoxide to enter the small living quarters. Superman and Henderson arrive in time to shut off the automobile, the unconscious Dinelli is safe, but the person who had thought to murder Clark Kent is still on the loose.

A bullet has just missed Inspector Henderson. Now, Superman is pursuing the person who had fired the gun. In his panic, the killer falls from the rafters. The man is then revealed to be the studio police chief, who tells Henderson that he is in reality Frank Dinelli, Luigi's brother. Frank had had plastic surgery done to hide his face and had assumed the role of studio police chief to be his brother's inside man. It was Frank who Luigi had ordered to put live ammunition in the gun that killed Allen Dexter. However, before Frank can talk further, Luigi regains consciousness and shoots him to death. Now, crime boss Luigi Dinelli is in handcuffs and will not be able to get himself out of trouble. Superman and Inspector Henderson will make sure he remains in prison for life.

"Kent would get a big kick out of this," Inspector Henderson says, "The Czar of the Underworld in bracelets. Too bad he isn't here."

"Oh, he's here, in a way," Superman replies wryly.

5Rating - 5 (out of 5): Two actors in "Czar of the Underworld" were in episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. Paul Fix was Doctor Mark Piper in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", and Anthony Caruso played Bela Oxmyx in "A Piece Of The Action". Fix was also in Night of the Lepus, which also starred DeForest Kelley, who is best known as Trek's Doctor Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy.

Sidney Clute and Anthony Caruso would later make guest appearances in other television series based on comic books. Clute played Inspector DeCarlo in part one of "The Deadly Dust" in The Amazing Spider-Man live action television series, and Caruso was Danny Romero in The Incredible Hulk episode "Goodbye, Eddie Cain".

Abbott and Costello fans will recognize Joe Kirk. In addition to various roles in their films, Kirk played Mister Bacciagalupe in their television show.

Look and listen closely as the scene in Perry's office begins. After writing on some papers, John Hamilton looks up after hearing something that sounds like a knock. However, he yells at Jimmy Olsen for entering the room without knocking. Jimmy apologizes anyway and gives the editor the news flash. Could this be a blooper, or is it just a case of Perry getting too caught up in his work?

Speaking of bloopers, watch the lamp on Clark Kent's desk in the opening scenes. It falls before the hitman's bullet strikes it.

Notice that the National Studios sign is missing from the car that picks up Clark and Henderson after the gangster replaces the original driver. While many consider this an error, the actual script called for the logo's removal at that point in the episode. While it isn't shown directly, we can assume that Dinelli's men took it off.

Luigi and Frank Dinelli's last name was originally written to be Postello, which was similar to Costello. Frank Costello was a mobster that was the central figure in Senator Estes Kefuver's organized crime hearings. Costello was also supposedly a friend of Harry Donenfeld, publisher of DC Comics at the time.

There are moments in "Czar of the Underworld" in which Clark and Superman nearly give away their double identity to Inspector Henderson. In fact, Henderson even says that he suspects that Clark really is Superman. Some time ago, someone who had e-mailed me got me thinking about Lois, Jimmy, Perry and Henderson's knowing the Metropolis Marvel's greatest secret. They all seem to have some sort of inkling, but they either don't care, wait until Clark trusts them enough to tell the truth or end up getting into trouble trying to figure everything out. While Clark never reveals that he is Superman, some of the fun of The Adventures of Superman on radio and television is seeing those closest to him put the puzzle pieces together.

Like "The Stolen Costume", "Czar of the Underworld" happens to be one of my favorite season one episodes. This may have colored my rating a bit, but this one is incredible. The cast and crew really delivered the goods with this one. I particularly love how the scene in which Superman confronts Dinelli turned out, but the entire effort was executed well. If you want a story in The Adventures of Superman with lots of action that shows the Man of Steel really giving it to the bad guys, this one is most certainly for you.

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