Superman on Television

Adventures of Superman: Episode Reviews

Season 2 - Episode 25: "The Whistling Bird"

Reviewed by: James Lantz

Original Broadcast Date: March 01, 1954

Writer: David Chantler

Director: Thomas Carr

Guest Cast:
Sterling Holloway as Professor "Uncle Oscar" Quinn
Joseph Vitale as Spike the Chief Foreign Agent
Otto Waldis as the Foreign Scientist
Toni Carroll as Roma "Dorothy" Manners
Allene Roberts as Nancy Quinn
Marshall Reed as the Security Agent

"The Whistling Bird"

It's a quiet day in the offices of the Daily Planet. Clark Kent is even taking a nap at his desk… that is until cub reporter Jimmy Olsen screams to awaken him. Nancy Quinn has come to see him about something of great importance. Her Uncle Oscar, who had created the computer named Mister Kelso some time back, has come out of retirement to invent something that could benefit mankind greatly. Only his assistant Skylar knows anything about it. Kent and Jimmy have gone with Nancy to talk with Oscar and Skylar about their work. They are surprised to learn that Skylar is a parakeet that Uncle Oscar had taught to say an important piece of his formula at the sound of a bell. Oscar did this in case his notes were stolen, and it's a good thing the absent-minded scientist did this. Someone had taken them last night when Oscar didn't close the door. However, the papers are useless without the part Skylar knows. It looks like Uncle Oscar's forgetfulness worked to his advantage this time.

Uncle Oscar's experiment is ready. He has created a glue for postage stamps that tastes like home cooked meals. Clark has tried the beef stew flavor and placed it on an envelope. The result is quite literally explosive when Uncle Oscar's laboratory blows up. Uncle Oscar has accidentally created a new weapon, and Clark must tell the United States government about it. Otherwise, it could possibly fall into the wrong hands.

The Federal Security Commission now knows about Uncle Oscar's exploding glue. However, Lois Lane does not believe Clark when he answers her question about his call to them. She isn't convinced until Jimmy shows her and Clark something in the picture he took of Oscar, Nancy and Clark together in the laboratory. A man and a woman were spying on the experiment. It's possible that foreign agents know of Uncle Oscar's new weapon. Should it fall into their hands, the world could be on the brink of another war.

Uncle Oscar has gone to the park with Skylar, where he encounters the beautiful Dorothy Manners after the parakeet whistles at her. She fawns over both Skylar and Oscar when Clark arrives. He takes the eccentric scientist aside while the woman is still with Skylar. Kent warns Uncle Oscar that Ms. Manners was the lady seen watching the experiment in Jimmy's photograph. The inventor assures Clark that he'll be careful, but what he and the mild mannered reporter don't realize is that Dorothy has switched birds. It looks like the foreign agents will get their hands on Uncle Oscar's secret formula before Clark has heard any news from the Federal Security Commission.

The foreign scientist working with Manners and her boyfriend Spike is having no luck getting the remainder of the formula from Skylar. He does not have the bell that Uncle Oscar uses. Speaking of which, Professor Quinn has come to understand that the bird with him is not Skylar because the bird did not respond to the ringing. Now, the spies are going to Uncle Oscar's lab. If he doesn't make Skylar talk, he and Nancy could pay the ultimate price with their lives.

Oscar has called Clark to tell him Ms. Manners took Skylar. However, before he can say more, the gang of foreign agents enters and disconnects the telephone line. Clark knows that Uncle Oscar is in danger. Can he rescue the absent-minded inventor in time as Superman?

Superman has arrived at Uncle Oscar's lab only to find Lois. Both of them leave believing that there really was no danger. In truth, the spies had gone with Oscar, Nancy and Jimmy into a secret room lined with lead. They want Uncle Oscar to use Skylar to help make another batch of explosive glue. Otherwise, both Nancy and Jimmy will be eliminated. With Superman gone, it looks like nobody can rescue them from the evil foreign agents.

Clark Kent has just remembered that, according to Uncle Oscar, Ms Manners dropped her handkerchief in the park. He and Lois go there to find it with the initials R.M. Meanwhile, Skylar has given the remainder of the explosive formula to the foreign spies thanks to Uncle Oscar's bell. It looks like these enemy agents are one step closer in their plans for world domination.

The foreign agents have taken the explosive and have locked Uncle Oscar, Nancy and Jimmy in the lead lined room without turning on the ventilation fans. The trio could die of suffocation, as Uncle Oscar understands the mistake he made with the stamp glue. However, unless they can get out before all the air is gone, the eccentric professor may never get a chance to fix his error.

As a government security agent tells Lois and Clark that there's nothing on Ms. Manners, Jimmy has used a match to start a flame that activates the sprinkler system. This could start a fire alarm and bring help. Unfortunately, nobody, even Superman, knows of the secret room's existence. Worse yet, the lab is flooded with water. If Uncle Oscar, Jimmy and Nancy do not asphyxiate first, they could drown before anyone arrives.

Having heard the alarms and water rushing into the lead lined laboratory, Superman has rescued Nancy, Uncle Oscar and Jimmy. In addition to that, Skylar, who was taken by Ms. Manners, has returned home. In the meantime, Oscar understands that the chemicals in his formula will bubble before an explosion occurs. A small beaker of the fluid is doing so now. Superman drinks it, allowing the force of the mixture's power to stay in his invulnerable body. The Man of Steel has saved Metropolis, but the foreign agents have a large quantity of Uncle Oscar's glue. Should it get agitated, everyone and everything around it for miles will be obliterated. Superman must find the spies before it is too late.

"El Dorado." This is the new phrase Skylar said when he returned to Uncle Oscar. El Dorado is a ghost town upstate, and the spies have gone there to wait on an airplane to take them to their superiors. The foreign scientist starts to notice that Uncle Oscar's solution is bubbling. Just then, Superman arrives to rescue them. He takes them out of their shack to a ditch, but he cannot save them from the law. Federal agents will take them into custody for their crimes. Uncle Oscar's formula is safe, and the enemies of freedom have been brought to justice thanks to Superman.

Uncle Oscar, Lois and Skylar have entered Clark Kent's office to tell him of the day's events. Skylar suddenly calls Clark Superman, making Lois doubt the bird's intelligence. At that moment, the parakeet whistles at Lois.

"He just whistled at you, Lois," Clark says. "What do you think of his mind now?"

With that, Lois cannot help but smile.

3Rating - 3 (out of 5): Sterling Holloway will make his final appearance in The Adventures of Superman as Professor Twiddle in season three's opener "Through The Time Barrier", making it the third time he's played an eccentric inventor in the series. Holloway also is greatly connected to Alice in Wonderland. In addition to the voice of the Cheshire Cat in Disney's 1951 animated version, he played Frog in the 1933 live action version, which also starred W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty.

This marks Joseph Vitale's final appearance in The Adventures of Superman. However, you can see him as Wampum in the comedy Fancy Pants starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball.

Have you seen any giant women? If so, maybe you also saw Otto Waldis as Doctor Heinrich Von Loeb in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

The striking Toni Carroll had very few roles in her filmography. In fact, this was her only episode of The Adventures of Superman. You could probably catch Ms. Carroll in Herschell Gordon Lewis' film The Adventures of Lucky Pierre.

You'll most likely recall Allene Roberts from season one's "The Haunted Lighthouse" and "The Monkey Mystery". You can see her as Emma in Knock on Any Door starring Humphrey Bogart.

Marshall Reed was Inspector Hill in season one's "The Human Bomb". He also played Aller in the movie serial Blackhawk, which was the third DC Comics adaptation to star former Superman Kirk Alyn in the title role.

In the original script, Jimmy was to put the stamp on the envelope and say the following after the explosion: "Instead of a boon to humanity - we got boom! And you know something? My hand's still ringing." It's a pity that dialogue wasn't kept in the episode.

While it is never mentioned in the filmed version of this episode, Dorothy Manners' real name is Roma in the script for "The Whistling Bird". This why her handkerchief has the initials R.M. on it.

As much as I enjoyed Sterling Holloway's performance and character in "The Whistling Bird", the show itself just isn't as good as the previous outing with Uncle Oscar. The story is weaker than the Jackson Gillis penned "The Machine That Could Plot Crimes", and I was not completely convinced by some actor’s performances in "Bird".

Let's talk about the villains for a moment. Both Toni Carroll and Otto Waldis did well in their parts, but Joseph Vitale came across more like a cheap thug than someone working for a foreign power. His portrayal of Spike would have been perfect for a gangster, but he wasn't suited for being a spy. This is what really brings down the quality of "The Whistling Bird".

Another thing this episode lacks is chemistry. Allene Roberts and Jack Larson had it in abundance in "The Haunted Lighthouse". However, it's obviously missing in their scenes together this time. In fact, Larson seems like he'd rather be somewhere else throughout the entire show. I'll even go as far as to say that "The Whistling Bird" might have been better without Jimmy Olsen in some parts of it.

"The Whistling Bird", in spite of a merely average story and lackluster performances from some actors, does have its moments, particularly in scenes with Sterling Holloway and Skylar. Plus, George Reeves seems to be having fun with his part in this entry. Those elements don't make the viewer forget about the negative aspects of the piece, but they do help prevent "The Whistling Bird" from being completely bad. Watch it only if you're a fan of Sterling Holloway and/or George Reeves. They're the real diamonds in the rough in the entire episode.



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